It’s time for either a cleansing rain or a sprinkling of snow here in Ottawa. The ground is no longer white, but covered instead with the little black flecks of air pollution that we all inhale on our daily rounds in our fair city – the grit of urban breath that clogs our lungs and environment. It reminds me of things that I would like to be rid of, things that I should clean up.
Like the Christmas wrappings, unacceptable gifts, old things that were replaced with new shiny ones. My apartment is full to the rooftops with books and magazines and papers and dog toys half chewed and clothing I no longer wear and appliances I no longer use. (And yet none of this suffices to hush the squeaky bedsprings of the overly and persistently amorous couple upstairs. Perhaps if I took that container of Jig-A Loo and wrapped it and left it outside their door, with clear instructions as to use in case of misunderstanding…)
It’s the time of year we tend to look around at our situations, our homes, our relationships, our bookshelves, and our pantries, and try to do some cleaning out. It’s time to start fresh, wash away the dirt or sprinkle some new shiny stuff on top of it to make it all look bright again. To that end we try to enhance our family closeness – sometimes that works and often it doesn’t. We give things away to charity that we no longer need, or can spare. And we gently purge unwanted things and perhaps people from our lives.
I’ve been so lucky. I’ve met wonderful people as I’ve moved here and there. I’ve been fortunate enough to be born into a large and loving extended family, and even luckier to have been enveloped into one by marriage that refuses to shut me out despite the end of the marriage, bless ’em. I’ve met a lovely man who cares about me. But over my travels I’ve also picked up some burrs – people who consistently exhaust me, who bring me down, who are distinctly NOT there when I need them, or who are there too often when they need me. How long do I keep these burrs attached? How long do I try to maintain relationships with people who are using me, while not providing anything in return? Is it time to put them, like the unwanted purple sweatsuit or silk flower arrangements or strange objects d’art, in the bag for the Goodwill, and shuffle them off to someone else’s embrace?
We all have some of these folks around – sometimes they are even family members, since blood relation doesn’t always mean good relations. Sometimes we are trying to be kind, or we are lonely ourselves, so we surround ourselves with people who really only want us to use us. Sometimes that even feels good, for awhile, feeling useful at least, needed, desired. The question is, how much is necessary for kindness, how much is too much for sanity? How much do we lose when giving to these people who take without giving, who neglect gratitude.
It’s easy to slip into neglectful patterns – and perhaps a great deal of the freshening needed is within ourselves, to make sure we aren’t the ones on the demanding side, that we keep things balanced, that we are grateful for the gifts of friends surrounding us. Maybe we need to be the ones to clear the dark shadowing in the snow, to sprinkle fresh brightness on those relationships we hold dear.
There’s only so much energy to go around. As with our homes, clutter of unwanted acquaintances is exhausting. It makes it impossible to spend the energy on the good in life, those things and people that give us joy.
So maybe this week, it’s time to take out our metaphorical brooms, sweep away the detritus, and focus instead on the sparkling of the things and people we love.