I used to clean toilets for a living.
Okay, so I cleaned the rest of the house too. After my second divorce I was penniless and deeeeeepressed. I need to pay the bills and get myself up off the damn floor.
At the time I lived in a rural lake town. Think retirees and summer lake houses. So this line of work was literally perfect. It allowed me a flexible-ish schedule and to set my own hours. I was a newly single mom, overwhelmed, sad and relying on my parents to watch my tiny son while I worked.
I did a conscientious and thorough job for my clients. It was a slow start, but within six months the word of mouth spread and I had a pretty full roster. People saw I was trustworthy and good at what I did.
It wasn’t glamorous but it did allow me to get up off the floor, keep my head down and move forward.
Cleaning houses let me pay the bills and experience a little sense of accomplishment daily. I was putting other’s homes “in order” and I think some of that very slowly translated to my own soul. It was what I needed — and it paid.
Most of the time the clients weren’t home and I could listen to the podcasts that feed my soul. If a client was home, we’d converse on and off. Their story, their questions and their idle chat fed me.
There was Larry, “94 years young,” who had lived everywhere and been married five times. He’d follow me around with his walker regaling me of his exploits. He had something to say about everything. Hell, I already do and I’m just a third of his age!
-Thank you. May I be as committed to storytelling when I am 94.
There was Emogene who, bless her heart, suffered from dementia and though she didn’t know who I was or why I was there from room to room, she loved me every time. I didn’t charge for the frequent breaks I took to stop and give her a hug because she had “just noticed” me for the fourth time that afternoon and she was so happy to see me.
-Thank you. May I be as happy and as in love with people when I am aged and forgetting where I am.
After two years, I was stronger. I’d paid the bills, held it together, got a therapist, I wasn’t using my “me” time to lay in a coma on the floor. I was able to laugh again and I felt bits of myself coming back.
-Thank you. A thousand times thank you.
But the other side of that is the reality that I was made for more than cleaning toilets. And once I could breathe and think and feel again, I knew it. I had a burning inside of me: a desire for more. A need to be and do what I was made to be and do.
-Thank you. Thank you for the sweet gift of need. It is motivation and direction in the dark.
I didn’t know what it was yet. Just that it was something that didn’t involve bleach and that DID make me feel alive and contributing to the world. Any ability or gift that you do not open and use becomes an affliction. My interests became sadnesses because I felt like there was no time or way to dive into them. I developed a secret bitterness.
-Thank you. It’s part of the journey. Look where your deep bitter pain is. Something important is there.
Finally, a small voice inside me (or maybe it was a Rob Bell podcast!) said, “Hey! Wake up dummy!” I was being of service to others. What had helped me out of a deep hole of suicidal despair was still helping others, even though I was “in a better place.” I was permitted to come into these people’s homes. I was trusted with their house keys, their possessions, their treasures and valuables. I brought the beauty of cleanliness and order to their lives. I was allowed to do this!
-Thank you. I mean, really, thank you.
As soon as, and I mean months after reclaiming my appreciation for exactly where I was and making that adjustment within myself, I began to see my own value. After a lot of soul searching and working through the 6 step decision making process, I raised my prices a few dollars an hour. And you know what… I lost OVER HALF of my clients! (Not Larry or Emogene though! Don’t worry!)
-Thank you. Big change often starts with a big crash or a big fall.
Some clients left because they were moving or downsizing or retiring and some left because the few dollars an hour price increase wasn’t something they wanted to pay. That’s fine. It had to be. I did what I had to do to honor my expertise, effort and value. I did so from a place of love and faith. I had to stay in that love and smile and say “No problem! Thank you for everything!” I had to have faith that this “loss” was a step toward the next thing.
-Thank you for everything! Take care!
I also had even more gratitude to give to my remaining clients. It poured out of me.
-Thank you! You’re my real peeps!
Of course, I felt like I’d fallen off a cliff. A lot of hard choices had to be made. Money was super duper tight. Wads of cash I saved for certain important things, had to be used just to get by. I think I had a garage sale every few months, selling off more and more things so I could keep paying rent. I wondered and worried for sure. I got down on my knees and then I got down on my face and I was like, “Um, ok, listen. I am going to choose to be excited here. This is an opportunity. I am going to choose to say thank you and not freak the fuck out.”
Here’s the truth. The loss of house cleaning clients gave me the time to spend with you. It made space in the day to write. Writing became an idea which led to a course and here is this blog! Here, this, right now, you with me – right here and now – is what came from the day I filled myself with gratitude for RIGHT WHERE I WAS. Then I loved myself and stood in my devotion to love and gratitude.
Gratitude kept me moving when I was more like a sad zombie than a human. A renewed and deeper gratitude moved me forward when I didn’t know how. Devotion to my core values and to what gratitude created; set me free. Free from my blessed bleach and treasured toilets. It brought me here. Here with you. And I love you. So much.
-Thank you dear one.
I won’t say it wasn’t hard. It WAS. Look, sometimes it still is. But living bitter and small was way harder. It hurt more.
-Mmm! It’s that good hurt now baby! Thank you!!!
I love you.
P.s. What are you saying “thank you” for today? Let me know in the comments. Or write to me and tell me the WHOLE saga!