Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Basics: Sweeping the Front Porch, posted by Nancy L. Agneberg

I am not fond of vacuuming. To be honest, I hate  vacuuming, and lately, in anticipation of showings of our house, I have needed to vacuum frequently. Also, dust and keep surfaces clear of clutter and do laundry daily and, and, and ......  Along with meditating and writing in my journal, my current morning routine with its list of home tending tasks to complete often seems to extend into the afternoon.  I am more than willing to perform these tasks, for it is something I can do to welcome potential new owners to this home.
      Even if this house weren't for sale, however, I would still greet the freshness of the morning by sweeping the front porch, for there is something so basic, almost old-fashioned about sweeping, especially a front porch. 
     I imagine myself as a housewife of the 30's or 40's or even 50's, wearing a housedress and full apron, standing outside the front door with broom in hand. I survey this world in front of me and wonder who will come up the walk and cross this threshold today. Sweeping is convivial, for unlike washing windows, it is interruptible and encourages pausing for a casual conversation with the neighbor pushing a stroller or walking a dog. I listen to the birds chitter chattering, hoping for a piece of discarded thread or a fragment of lint for a nest in process.  I think ahead to the end of the day when my husband and I will have dinner on the porch, sharing our day's in's and out's and perhaps later will sit in quiet companionship reading until daylight disappears. 
     I remember the front porch on the house where we raised our children. That front porch had a swing.  The rhythm of the swing seemed to match the cadence of whatever I read to our young son.   Our daughter and her boyfriend, now husband, posed for prom pictures while sitting on that swing. This porch should have a swing and a young family, too. Maybe it will someday. 
     I begin to sweep and sense how the sweeping signals moving on, not clinging to anything, except the present moment. Sweeping clears the space.  Sweeping says, "This house is cared for." The Shakers believe that their daily work, even something as basic as sweeping the front porch, is a personal expression of worship. Gunilla Norris in her book of poetry, Being Home, says, "Prayer and housekeeping--they go together. They have always gone together. We simply know that our daily round is how we live. When we clean and order our homes, we are somehow also cleaning and ordering ourselves."
      In cleaning and ordering ourselves, we become more open to the extraordinary in the ordinary and the grace of everyday life.  Now, if I only felt this way about vacuuming!   

Thursday, May 17, 2012

House for Sale: Life on Hold?, posted by Nancy L. Agneberg

Show Time
Yesterday we had a showing, our 4th since the house went on the market the end of last week. Notice I said "the" house and not "our" house--a shift and a readiness. Anyway, I noticed how uptight I get before a showing. I don't sleep well, rehearsing what I need to do to prepare the house for potential buyers, as if it weren't picture perfect already.  (Click here to see the video of the house.) As I move through my showing checklist, washing the towels used that morning, emptying wastebaskets, wiping down sinks, packing up my laptop, sweeping the porch floor, vacuuming and dusting--in other words a high speed re-cleaning of the entire house, I panic about whether I will have enough time or will I still be turning on the lights, every light in every room, as the realtor and potential buyer arrive? I am a force to be reckoned with as I go through this process. Pity my husband as he sits drinking his morning coffee and reading the paper. I become a cartoon character with the words "GO TO WORK -- NOW!" in the balloon above my head. 
     Once the house is ready to do its own magic and I lock the door and leave, I am calm once again. I am clear. I have done what I can. I know the house looks wonderful, and what happens, happens. I relinquish control, and I am delighted someone is interested enough to imagine themselves living in this home. 
What Now?
      But then another issue takes precedence, an issue with immediate repercussions during showing times when I am an outcast from the house, but more importantly, an issue that pervades the in-between time of preparing to list the house and actually selling the house. What now? How do I use this time? What is this in-between time for? How can I best use this unknown amount of time? How do I continue to live fully and wholly as I wait to move forward into the next step? And even, how do I live in this house as I mentally detach from this house, but don't know how long this home will remain our home? 
     For the time being the hard work is done. True, there are other tasks I can continue doing in preparation for an actual move. There are many bins and drawers to sort through and many treasures, thanks to years of collecting antiques, to dispose of in order to move into a smaller space.  I will continue that process, but that is not exactly what I mean. 
     During another time of waiting to sell a house, I read, "Don't let the time do you. You do the time." (Holly W. Whitcomb in Seven Spiritual Gifts of Waiting) This is not a time to wait for my life to begin. I am 64 years old. My life began a long time ago! No, this is a time to continue living, even if it means living lightly in this house. My spiritual director reminded me recently, "Let life happen--all of it." Not only does that mean responding to what swirls around me, but also intentionally opening to the possibilities and opportunities of this time. What's the best way I can live during this time? 
Making a List and Checking it Twice
     And so I did what always works for me: I made a list. I have a special designated notebook, started when we were preparing to list the house, for this purpose. A notebook with a sketch of a wheelbarrow and the word "Unload" on the cover. How appropriate is that? I created a page for each room in the house with its own To Do list. Very helpful.  Recently, I added two pages. "Where to Go During Showings" and "How To Use This Time." One might not think it would be hard to decide where to go while someone is in the house and true, so far, I have used those times for errands, but in the flurry of disembarking, I don't always have a clear picture of where to land. My list helps me sort through the possibilities. 
     "How To Use This Time" is a broader, deeper list. An expanding list, which includes: 
             * Write more blog posts and read other blogs.
             * Contact friends here I haven't seen for awhile.
             * Start a new writing project.
             * Renew study of the enneagram.
             * Rework my manuscript on grief and loss.
             * Continue with massive project of putting pictures in archival albums.
             * Resume regular exercise routine and walk more. 
Active Waiting and No Regrets
     In other words this needs to be a time of "active waiting," to quote Whitcomb again. This is not a time to insure regrets. When the house is ultimately sold and packing and re-settling become the overriding activities, I do not want to regret wasting this time. I don't want to look back and see that I have not used this time well. 
     I don't mean to imply that I need to be 'busy" all the time. A degree of rest and rejuvenation is needed. I am thrilled to have more spaciousness to sit on the front porch or deck and read. No, I am not advocating doing for the sake of doing, doing to fill the time. Instead, I want to be intentional about the open space of this time. I want to live this time wholly and fully, calmly and clearly. Even on the days when there is a showing.