Friday, June 26, 2009

This is love

This is what love looks like to me. A friend shows up ready to do battle with my crazy kitchen clutter. She hauls everything out of the cabinets, consolidates the half boxes of crackers, puts the tea and coffee supplies all in the same place (brilliant!), tosses out some very expired products, cleans and organizes every space, making sense and order out of the hodgepodge of containers, spices, and you name it. For some reason this kind of task makes my stomach queasy. I become disoriented. I want to run. As I sneak out of the kitchen I hear her say, "I could do this all day!" When we later find evidence of a mice invasion she doesn't go AWOL, but calmly continues to work, as the battle escalates into a vacuum and bleach war. At this point I am completely creeped out and need a break. She's fine, and sends me into the other room to do some computer work. When a stopping point is reached we share take-out Chinese food and watch a movie.

The next day she comes back ready to plug away, overcome more obstacles and get the job done, even to the point of single-handedly pulling the fridge out and cleaning behind it. What started out as organizing has ballooned into several larger projects. Turns out the bottom of the sink cabinet needs to be replaced and we can't put all the cleaning supplies back there. I need to buy some steel wool and lidded plastic bins and find out what to do about the cabinet floor. It's becoming a little overwhelming. For now, I go outside to plant my new agapanthus, grateful for a distraction from the kitchen, grateful to get my hands into the soil, grateful to see beauty. My friend is continuing to problem-solve how to reuse plastic and glass containers we've cleared out to house other things that were stashed in unlabeled plastic bags. She's enjoying the conquest over clutter and waste. This isn't the end of the story--only a slice. Just an example of what it looks and feels like to be loved when things ain't pretty. Having emotional and physical help in an area of need where most people wouldn't bother to take time for caused me to be very grateful. And wishing it for everyone.

Since then my husband has rebuilt the bottom of the sink cabinet and I have painted it. Soon the supplies go back under out of sight. Next in the long list of home projects is painting the exterior of the cabinets. Then comes the loft...oh my gosh, the loft. My friend is planning to come back over to go through all the books, art supplies, papers, and junk to help transform it into a place where I can work again. We will be boxing up piles of stuff to be able to see the floor and strategizing how to carve space for me to set up my easel again.

In our friendship we worked out a trade. It doesn't always have to be a trade. Sometimes you can help or be helped (i.e. loved) without a return. This time I spent a couple of days at her house redecorating and offering suggestions and ideas for further changes. We moved furniture around, hung pictures, and created nice spaces for work and conversation. She hasn't loved her house in years and when we were done she felt happy, excited, and grateful for her "new" house done on zero budget. We have more ideas to create a headboard and window treatments when I go back over. It was a pleasure for me to use my gifts in an area where she clearly felt a need. I enjoyed using my interior design skills to solve problems just as she enjoyed using her organizational skills to solve problems at my house.

It seems like a simple thing, but how often does it happen that we go beyond having a need or knowing about a need? What would love look like if it stepped in?