Vacuum Cleaners and Ex-Husbands: Life Lessons
Finding meaning in and reflecting about the mundane equals breathing for me. You can imagine that I might go a little crazy during the transition from one calendar year to the next. This year, instead of my ego forcing some kind of template for analyzing my experience of 2020 and setting goals for 2021, my psyche took over. I'm sharing this amusing experience with you in hopes that you are entertained and maybe find a little nugget of new perspective for your own life. Enjoy!
Part 1 – The Blue Fuzz Rebellion
One Day Before New Year’s Eve
I can’t really tell if this vacuum cleaner is working. I was more intrigued than annoyed.
I had been cleaning up after my adult children’s twelve-day stay over Christmas. It was my son’s first visit to the beach town where I took up residence eight months prior.
It was the well-worn areas of carpeting in my apartment that convinced me my vacuum cleaner was indeed still working. How else would those flattened areas be able to perk up? And the fact that there was hardly anything in the see-through plastic canister that collects the dust, food crumbs, and random tiny scraps of paper from the many spiral notebooks laying around. Maybe I just didn’t want to face the truth.
Just a few days earlier, I had asked my sister to bring over her nicer vacuum cleaner. I considered that my forty-dollar version purchased at the discount store might have already lived a full life. She forgot to bring it. Ug!
It felt like a game now, one that I was losing, one for which I didn’t have a strategy. The blue fuzz from the nine by seven foot turquoise mohair wool rug rebelled in a way that felt personal. The more I vacuumed, the more the blue fuzz multiplied. Ah! It’s spreading!
Where is it coming from? I was genuinely confused about whether the source of the reproducing bright blue fuzz was the vacuum cleaner or the rug.
I surrender! As you can see, I went to great lengths to avoid the inevitable. I took a big breath, picked up the three-pound cleaning tool and took it into the kitchen. A thick and dusty tube-shaped clump of something started falling out of the first piece of hose I detached.
That’s where you’re hiding. As I discovered more and more hiding places, I began to feel stressed about my ability to put the thing back to together again.
Success! And then a big laugh out loud as I went back to the location of the blue fuzz rebellion. They surrendered this time. Out of my unconscious popped a silly thought about my experience being a metaphor for how to reflect during these last days of 2020.
Do I need to unclog something?
Part 2 – The Seduction
New Year’s Eve
Hmm. That was interesting! It was the feeling from the dream that captured my attention more than the dream itself. I really tried to hang onto both as I jumped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom. I really had to pee. I closed my eyes.
My ex-husband and I were casually sitting on the bed,
in the home in which we lived for ten years,
the first ten years of my children’s lives.
It felt as if we were going to be living there again, together.
Suddenly, I panicked, and I said to my ex-husband,
“You’re going to have to do things differently.”
Even as a depth psychologist, it is still challenging to avoid thinking that when our exes show up in dreams, it is NOT about them. I spent half my life with my ex-husband, so I have accepted that when my psyche invites him into my dream world, it is for good reason.
My dream’s attention to detail was striking when it came to the luxury king-size bedroom set, which had been our most expensive furniture purchase at the time. Although our income had allowed for such a purchase, I continued to sweat when I added to the purchase some Ralph Lauren bedding. I loved that bedding. The massive Oak colored bedroom set was both masculine in stature and feminine in its intricately detailed edges.
For years, the bed served as a family gathering place. Watching Scooby Doo, taking naps, injuries from jumping, were all activities the four of us engaged in on this huge bed.
In the dream, our demeanor - my ex-husband's and mine - was casual, friendly. It wasn’t sexual. It was familiar. A bed is a place of intimacy of course. This is key for me. The familiar can seduce you to remaining in the past, as much as a new adventure can seduce you into being reckless. The energy of either can feel like that of a potential lover. It seems the only way to break from the familiar is by having courage to be vulnerable enough to not know how it’s going to play out.
What do I need to do differently this time?
Part 3 – Nothing Needs to be Unclogged
New Year’s Day
My New Year’s Eve celebration the night before had been attended by just me. While I nibbled on a grilled chicken salad, and sipped on a glass of house Cabernet at a sparsely occupied local pub – socially distanced of course – I decided to take stock of what had happened in my life over the twelve months of 2020.
No wonder I’m exhausted! I had hoped to magically wake up energized the first day of the New Year. Pure courage was what got me through that year. Letting go of my professional persona, dealing with the financial fallout of that, selling my house and everything in it, supporting my children during the emergence of COVID-19, and driving down to Florida with only what I could fit in my car, not knowing what the heck I was going to do next. I wanted to be excited, but I was scared. Learning how to feel secure in an insecure situation seemed to be the lesson I was to learn.
But that was only the first half of the year. Courage is also what allowed me to pull away from the familiar enough to get a tiny taste of the peace and joy that comes from finding new purpose.
No wonder I’m still exhausted! Securing my PhD one week after arriving in my new beach town, declaring myself as a professional writer, writing my first short story, and getting through the second draft of my memoir. These things were exciting, but I'm still scared. Learning how to embrace my emerging purpose seems to be the new lesson I am to learn.
On New Year’s Day, my ego was still chewing on the messages delivered by my psyche via a vacuum cleaner and a dream about my ex-husband.
And then . . .
“You don’t need to unclog anything,” was the message from inspirational speaker Esther Hicks, often referred to as Abraham Hicks. I laughed. She really said exactly that. I had been finding myself lured in by her multiple ten-minute YouTube videos over the prior two weeks.
What? I stopped in my tracks on my walk to the beach. I believe in the law of attraction. I’ve seen it work in my own life. But what happens when you don’t desire things that you used to desire? When you don’t really know what you desire? When you let go of what is familiar, but you don’t know what to replace it with?
Well, I love Eckhart Tolle, another spiritual teacher. He has taught me to focus on how I want to feel rather than on what I want. After all, we desire what we desire because of how those things or experiences make us feel. But it isn’t that thing or even that feeling or emotion that brings the most peace and joy. It is the simple act of being receptive to the creative energy that wants to flow through you. It’s those moments of being receptive that bring the most joy. When this hasn't been present generally in your life, it really stands out when it happens.
I don’t need to unclog anything.
I have gotten glimpses into what happens when I simply trust and open up to what seems to want to flow through me. Why do I continue to resist?
I think my mantra for 2021 might be I don’t need to unclog anything. It feels kind of freeing, just saying it. Rather, I will focus on being receptive to what wants to flow through me, and trusting that however it manifests is an indication of my true desires.
Have you ever had "a moment"? Try this.
A moment that made you stop and laugh. Or a moment where you could feel your heart beat faster. Or a moment that made you tilt your head, squint and wonder about something. These tiny moments are ways that your psyche, your unconscious, your soul, are trying to get your attention. We're more distracted than ever by the illusion of so-called life. For some, they've been squeezed so hard, that waking up feels dramatic. For others, it is these brief moments that when noticed, begin the process.
Next time you have one of these moments:
Try indulging yourself and stretch it out as long as possible. See what emotion is present but hasn't been able to break through the chatter of your mind.
Find the metaphor that the moment is gifting you.
Journal later about where the metaphor is present in your life. You might laugh out loud at the obviousness of what you weren't able to see before.
Thank You and Happy New Year!
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