My week has been uneventful, so I decided to clean the garage. Neat, clean, and organized improves my mental health.
Lou Holtz, when speaking of his marriage, said, “Opposites attract, and then they attack.” When it comes to tidy environments, my husband and I are opposites. On that thought, he seldom attacks the garage, and he is not a happy man when I roll up my sleeves and put on a dust mask. When he is gone, and I am bored, guess what?
When he gets home, I imagine (dream) he will be thrilled with the shiny workbench, all the paint on one shelf, the bug sprays on another, etc. He will give me a big hug and say, “Thank you, Dear. I so appreciate you cleaning the garage. I never have the time.”
In actuality, he will likely walk into the garage, furrowed his brow, lift his chin, press his lips together, and say nothing. His steps will be pronounced, doors will shut with enhanced enthusiasm, and silence will persist.
You might wonder how potential conflict can improve my mental wellness. It doesn’t. But, tackling something, and having it look and work better is a pleasure hard to explain. My husband won’t be upset for more than a day, and the garage will make me smile for months. I’ve done nothing to hurt him, and I put things where he can easily find them.
Sometimes we need to take care of ourselves. I could gripe and groan and try to get my sweetie to clean the garage, or I could be like the little red hen in the nursery rhyme, and do it myself. In reality, my husband and I both win; only he doesn’t see it, yet.
When I was young, my mother would bribe with ice cream, or threaten with grounding, trying to get me to clean my bedroom. I kept my room straightened, but it never satisfied her high standards.
One day, while I was at school, she cleaned every inch of my bedroom. It was beautiful; clothes folded in drawers, closet organized by color, knick-knacks sweetly arranged, and nothing strewn on the floor, stopped me in awe. I ran up the stairs and gave her a big hug. I was thrilled and thankful. I felt loved. I don’t know if I continually kept my room clean, but for my mother’s sake, I hope so.
Gary Chapman’s book, “The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts,” offers insight on how people differ in what helps them feel loved. Mine is acts of service, and I felt loved when my mother cleaned my room.
I didn’t show love to my husband by cleaning the garage; his love language is different than mine. I received love from myself, and it felt great.
Show love to yourself. It’s more than okay; it’s healthy.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
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