On a whim, I just unscrewed the shower drain.
I was actually enjoying an opportunity only a mom is likely to relish – being able to take my time cleaning the bathroom during the holiday break. It’s a rare window of time when a mom can start to take a shower, then notice again those grungy corners not often gotten by teen chores, and THEN – “By gum, I’ll do that RIGHT now!”
For the record, I don’t actually say “By gum!” But I’m pretty sure that Bert the Chimney sweep would, whom I love, and that’s exactly how it felt.
And so I did. It was marvelous to clean the tile, and rinse dust from the plants, and polish the fixtures. The metaphor for the New Year was growing…. Rinsing away the dust from the year before, even washing out the little, plastic, bathroom trashcan! Let us welcome in the New Year – RELEASED from the past, or at least, from our old trash!
Then… I polished the chrome tub drain cover. The tub drains really slowly. How long had it been? Ok, let’s go for the whole enchilada – let’s clean that drain! Metaphors galore! The GUNK that clogs our lives, our attitudes, our finances, our relationships – heck, even our guts!
It took a while to find the right Phillips screwdriver, PLENTY of metaphors there! How often are we impatient as we seek ‘the right tool for the job,’ or the most effective way to get the kids to sleep, or how to lose weight?
The screw moved smoothly, and then jammed, then utterly froze. Had to screw it back out a bit, “Oh dear, I want to go FORWARD! I do NOT want to go BACKWARDS!” I work it in, and out; this is the slow work that busy, everyday lives cannot, or do not, accommodate. It took minutes; the slimy wad of hair wasn’t the biggest or most disgusting I’ve plucked from a drain, but it was by far the tightest. In the end, I had to relent to getting yucky to pull it loose, with germy soap slime under my nails, and then gnaw at it with scissors. Slow work. Had to not get impatient. “It’s just the steady work of unclogging the drain,” I kept telling myself. It was wonderful to see it reassembled and working, flowing, sparkling.
We live with all sorts of drains – in our showers, and also in our minds, hearts, and bodies. I’m convinced that so very much of moving along in our lives requires the same sorts of elements. For us to be willing to get slimed up to get the job done, to be willing to take a few extra minutes to do the job right, to be willing to back up and go back at it.
As a midwife, I see this all the time. In labor, mama & baby sometimes get stuck for a while. Often the best way to get unstuck is to get her on her hands and knees, with her bottom in the air. This makes mamas anxious, “What do you mean we want gravity to move the baby back out of my pelvis, I’ve worked so hard to get it to come this far?!?!” And we explain, “But it seems like the baby needs to come down through you in a little different way, it will actually go FASTER if give him a chance to reposition himself.” And then it does.
I am past birthing my own babies, and I’m now parenting teens. The exact same challenge is right there in my face, “Am I willing to reconsider, back up, reposition, & try again?” Do you have a ‘drain’ in your life that needs to flow a little better in the coming year? A place where you might want to clear away some gunk, or reposition and try again? Is there an element of your life in which you’ve been unwilling to take a few minutes with the right tool, or get messy, to get the job done? What could you ‘unclog’, literally or figuratively, to help you fulfill more of you who long to be?
I challenge you to start with one messy drawer or one medicine cabinet, because that half hour is symbolic and energizing, from the outside in. And if your drawers are already tidy, you amazing person, what habit or relationship would benefit by 30 minutes of undivided attention? Because we all have gunked-up hair balls somewhere.
Let’s be brave together, and tackle one big little thing that stands in for how we’ve shied away from unclogging our lives. I look forward to hearing in the comments below what you unclog or tidy up, and maybe what metaphor it holds for you…