“In life, you will become known for doing what you do…”
- Jonathan Harris
9am the doorbell rings. Any other time of day I would assume it is the heroin addict on the first floor who forgot his keys, again, but this could be the postman. I owe him $25 administration fee for a birthday gift someone sent me yesterday. Smuggling heroin is less lucrative.
It’s my next door neighbour. She’s going out of town and wants to know if I’m around tomorrow. She gives me her keys. She asks me to let in a guy delivering a bed.
“Sure,” I say. “No problem…except how will I give you back your keys?”
“Just give them to Mrs. Youdontknowher.”
As I lead her into the kitchen I am suddenly aware of the 360 degree catastrophe she’s about to see. Dishes with bread crusts and congealed cottage cheese, dried up coffee filters, a large water stain on the table next to a sprawling pile of half-opened junk mail and a slight whiff of compost that should have been removed a few days ago. At least I’m wearing rose oil. I start waving my arms hoping she smells them instead. Red-faced, I thrust a pen forward and ask her to write Youdontknowher’s name down on an envelope, and then usher her out the door.
Anyone who knows me knows I generally keep a tidy home. Even two seconds away from full-blown cardiac arrest, I will scrub the toilet in case the paramedics need to use it. But lately I’ve let this slide. Suddenly, I don’t care if the bed is made, if a swirl of hair and dust is collecting in the corner or if I have to drink directly from the carton. It’s not depression; it’s not laziness or complacency. It’s a shift in priorities.
I don’t care to be known as a great housekeeper in lieu of author of several books. I don’t care about being fashionable if it means having a few extra dollars to travel with. I don’t care how my effort is judged, I can’t get better without making the effort. To be clear, I also prefer a clean toilet. A new standard has just been set.
Still it’s challenging to let the small things go. When you hoard your time and money in that manner you open yourself up to criticism by people who have different priorities. It turns out my neighbour doesn’t care about mine. She asks me to join her for a drink. Her place, naturally.