The habit wasn’t unhealthy because of any preoccupation with death. It was unhealthy because she was comparing her life to portraits that others chose to paint of their recently deceased loved ones.
One particular obituary really bothered her. “I’m afraid,” she said, “that when I die, my obituary will read she loved to vacuum.” That phrase was actually used in an obituary Vicki read.
I couldn’t relate to Vicki’s concern. I will never be accused of loving to vacuum – or clean, cook, sew or make crafts.
Being a domestic goddess isn’t in my nature, and it’s not how I want to spend my time. I’m incredibly fortunate that people who really know me recognize this and try to make appropriate accommodations.
Take, for example, Thanksgiving.
Due to a variety of circumstances, this will be the first year I’ll host the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. And even though my family has agreed my house is the best option, the decision wasn’t without comments such as “We don’t have to cook a traditional meal. Maybe Trina can pick up a prepared meal. And, “We can even just eat Subway. The holiday is really about family and spending time together.”
The hints weren’t lost on me, but for the record, they have nothing to do with my ability to cook. When I have to cook, I do. And, generally, people like what I prepare.
The issue had more to do with my family respecting who I am.
They know I’m starting a new job the week before Thanksgiving, and it will be demanding and time-consuming. They also know that I choose to spend my non-work time doing things that are important to me, and whenever possible, things I enjoy. That doesn’t mean I don’t clean my house or cook, but it does mean I have dust bunnies under my bed, dog nose prints on my windows and hand prints on my light switches.
My house may not be perfect, but it is a reflection of who I am: someone who loves to ride her bike and walk her dog; someone who loves to volunteer in the community and participate in activities that involve her children; and someone who loves to write and spend time with friends and neighbors.
Simply put, I love allowing myself to be who I am and not who society sometimes dictates I should be.
That’s not as easy as it sounds. I was raised in a house that was meticulous and spotless, and I used to feel guilty that I was a disappointment to my mother, who took hours teaching me the right way to fold sheets and clean windows.
But I’ve come to realize that my mother, like my friend Vicki, actually likes cleaning, and she enjoyed sharing her skills with me. In turn, she’s realized that my “chaotic life” (a label from one of my former interns) doesn’t mean I am turning my back on how I was raised. Instead, it means the exact opposite.
I am making use of the best lesson my parents taught me: be true to yourself.
And this self will never love to vacuum.