Does that place exist?
When at college in England pursuing a Liberal Arts degree, I was a janitor for a year. These were dark days. Cleaning was never a hobby of mine, so detecting and eliminating dirt for twenty hours a week blighted that period of my life. To keep my spirits up I sang.
While cleaning the library toilets in Memorial Hall, vacuuming long stretches of carpet, or rubbing cream into the green leather-topped tables in study areas, I sang my favourite song aloud when no one was around. ‘Somewhere over the rainbow,’ I crooned, slightly off key, ‘skies are blue.’ As the words fell from my lips, I imagined a time in the future when I’d be a graduate and would drift in a soft, cloudy place of dreams where nothing ever needed to be dusted, cleaned or polished.
Singing that song was a form of escapism. I didn’t want to be where I was, doing what I was doing.
I graduated, worked, married, and had five children. Then everything needed to be cleaned. Dirty dishes and dirty faces. Walls, windows, and wellingtons. Baths, benches, and bottoms. Everything screamed at me for attention. There was no over-the-rainbow world for me. Singing that song was a waste of time. It finally dawned on me that the whole world is a very dirty place and that cleaning oneself and everything else in sight is a prerequisite for sanity.
Whenever I hear that song now, I recall my past ignorance of what life was about. I was clinging to a false hope that one day I’d finally land in a place where there was no dirt and no difficulties, where everything flowed effortlessly and perfectly, happy birds flew in skies of blue and problems turned into lemon drops that melted away.
Now I know that’s never going to happen.
Dust, dirt, documents, disasters, disclosures, disillusions, and dire warnings pop up all over the place like impish chipmunks, daring me to deal with them.
Life isn’t about finding that sweet, secret spot on the other side of a rainbow. It’s about working with what’s right in front of me.
Okay. It’s time to vacuum behind the fridge, under the lounge suite, and in the narrow space between the stove and pantry. I get out my fancy new vacuum cleaner (a surprise gift from one of my sons), plug it in, and get to work. Halfway through the task I find I’m singing that song again. ‘Somewhere over the rainbow,’ I croon, still off key, ‘skies are blue.’ But the angst is gone. Unlike in my younger days, I’m not trying to transport myself elsewhere, I’m just enjoying singing while I work. And this time I realise that the last line I’m singing is asking me a question:
If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why can’t I?
It’s probably asking me why I can’t be happy like the bluebirds and live in a world of wonder.
Why do I make dirt an enemy to be conquered? Why can’t I happily vacuum the floor?
Why do I think I have to go somewhere else, like over the rainbow, before my life becomes wonderful?
Why don’t I marvel at the world I live in – this side of the rainbow?
These questions change everything.
Suddenly I am happy, here, now, sucking up dirt between the stove and pantry, caught up in the wonder of physical existence, and accepting this momentous moment.
I don’t need to be anywhere but here, joyfully sucking up dirt.
With love, Marlane