An hour after rising, I open the back door to coax the dog outside. The yard stretches away from the house, towards the east. It lies under a blanket of frost.
Scott, half of the next-door-couple, rattles his kitchen door on the way out of his house. I turn and catch the smile which he’s lobbing in my direction. We exchange pleasantries, him in his work clothes, me in my leopard print pajamas and grey robe. Neither of us finds anything unusual about our morning chat across the fence at 7:22 a.m. The dog ignores us, trotting down the steps to sniff for nocturnal intruders.
Inside the kitchen, I gaze at the mess which I’ve made by tearing away the swathes of dry, dusty duct tape. We slapped the tape over an old cat door years ago to keep the air from drifting into the kitchen from the basement. It looked ugly. I had grown weary of grumbling about it; this morning, I sat down on my little bench and pulled it all away. I’m not sure that I’ve improved the situation but the experience invigorated me.
I get into these cleaning frenzies several times each year. I crave a neat and tidy nest. I need the smell of Pine-sol on my skin to prove that I’ve done the work myself. Though fatigue and disability pull me towards the occasional accumulation of clutter, a strong streak of obsessiveness dwells in my belly. I like clean cupboards, tidy shelves, and color-coordinated clothing all hung in the same direction.
The radio blares the time and startles me into activity. It’s the twenty-seventh day of the twenty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. I haven’t attained Nirvana, the perfect 10, my ideal weight, or a flawless state of joyful being. But in the immortal words of Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley, where there is life, there is room for improvement. And life continues.