I was eleven, and my mother knocked gently on my bedroom door. “Bill, I think it might be time we clean your room.” I looked over my shoulder at the landfill my room had become. It was as if I had taken the contents of my dresser and toy box and emptied them onto the floor. The only clear space were the stepping-stones of hardwood forming a path from bed, to desk, to door. Even I could not argue with these facts.
So I pushed myself from that day’s work – painting miniature soldiers – and joined my mother in what I felt was the end of childhood, and so the end of happiness. Now begins the inevitable and ceaseless business of staying alive, which, until such time as I was crowned king of my own country, would be my responsibility. As I stuffed shirts and socks into the hamper I could feel the coming dull flood of chores, of jobs, of bills, of shopping, of cleaning, of planning, of meeting, of life like one endless school day. Within this necessary tedium would shine those cracks of light called pleasure and adventure and love, but we must be real about how many we would see.
What made it worse, perhaps, was that leaving my room as it was – even for a stubborn non-cleaner like me – simply wasn’t an option. How insidious. Why, there was not even some crotchety schoolmarm on whom to blame my burden. There was only life, which left toys and undershirts wherever they were thrown.
Eventually the room was cleaned and I returned to my work, which was a good deal cheerier without the surrounding mess. This was no easy admission, but there it was. I made a habit of putting my clothes away in the laundry and my toys on their shelves after that. I observed that while life would not pick up my clothes for me, it would also not scatter them on the floor while my back was turned. This seemed like a fair arrangement, one I could reasonably live with for as long as life would have me.
Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion.
“A book to keep nearby whenever your writer’s spirit needs feeding.” Deb Caletti.