Updated: Aug 16, 2019
If you’re coming to learn about how to best stay on top of the vacuuming, how to make your windows sparkle, I’m about to disappoint you. My house is one of good intentions. Much like with people, I see the good in things. I can see the potential in a stray dresser on the side of the road. Scooping up the cast off as my own personal treasure I take it home where I admire its lines, knowing that with only the stripping of the paint it will return to a state of glory. But, well, life happens. I get busy. I set a grocery store bouquet of flowers on it and tell myself it’s beautiful in its current state. In the cold light of the morning, what may have looked romantic and lovingly timeworn now looks mistreated and broken. Mine is a house filled with projects, I am comfortable with that. One day I will get to my projects, but in the meantime I’m also comfortable telling it to you straight-- I am not the right person to tell you about the best furniture polish or the proper schedule on which to mop your floors. (Dirt is good for the immune system after all…) I have many talents, but among them? I am not Susie Homemaker. Stay with me here, I really am writing about housekeeping, but in a different way.
I read an article recently on self-care. It was geared specifically for clinicians and I found the writing thought provoking and a good reminder for myself. It is so important for those of us who are listening and processing emotions with people from deeply disturbing events, to really be tuned in to our own minds, bodies, and emotions. But we’re human. As I said above, daily life sometimes gets in the way. I was mulling over what I read and considering what my body was telling me. Have I been using the oils I know help keep me grounded? Have I done enough bodywork recently? My sleep has been off, in part because of the hot weather--I sleep better in a cool room so I’m regulating the A/C at the moment, but it’s also my mind. My brain is still working on my day, processing the experiences that I’ve been tuned into with clients. Sleep is usually one of the first areas that makes me notice that I haven’t been taking care of myself as I ought to. And yet, it can feel self-indulgent so it’s easy to spend the hours of the day doing other things that feel more immediate. But the reality is, it’s necessary. I want to keep showing up for all of you, being present, giving you the best version of me and the only way I can do that is if I’m rested, grounded, whole. So--I’m getting myself back on track.
The other piece I was thinking about? All of you. If you’re currently working with me you know we not only process things together but I give you work to do on your own. All of you--my special client base--are a unique group. You show up every day to help people muddle through some of their worst life experiences. You offer yourselves in dangerous circumstances and you deal with high levels of emotion. You and I work in different ways, but we’re similar in that we’re there for the troubled times and we help people pick up the pieces and move on. And I thought maybe this exercise would serve as a good check in for all of you. Especially those of you I’m not seeing routinely to ask in person: how are you coping? Are you sleeping okay? I wrote a blog a while back on fire wives, and how they are normally a litmus test of how their spouses are handling work stresses. Even if you think you’re handling things well, would your spouse or significant other agree?
Here’s where the housekeeping comes in. One of the points the author of the article made jumped out because of her terminology. You know I teach about the Four Rooms… She says, “Yes, we take our work home. But maybe we should block off some of the rooms in the house.” Intrigued, I read further. She discusses having a partner who’s interested and willing to hear about her day but goes on to say that there should be awareness of what actual rooms of the house these discussions take place in. Home should be a sanctuary for ourselves and anyone we share it with. If a routine is to discuss the day over a meal, use that room—the kitchen or dining room—as the space that work life gets to live. Once that room is left, leave the work behind and let the other rooms be a getaway. We often hear that clean sleep habits include not having an office space in the bedroom. Separating yourself from reading news headlines just before falling asleep. Training your brain to see the bed and think sleep and intimacy, not reading, TV watching or work. But I like her approach to this housekeeping of sorts. Evolving the clean sleep philosophy and keeping other areas of the house work free may make home life easier on each of us and our families.
Those of you who know me know that I do this work because it is my passion. I wake up and look forward to sitting around the table in firehouse kitchens with all of you. I know you chose the difficult work you do because you feel the same way, and you can’t imagine life any other way. But to keep doing what we’re doing, and keep having it light our spirits the way it does, means we need to do our best for ourselves. Let’s create healthy habits that allow us to rest and recharge, and one of those may be keeping an emotionally clean house.