A cautionary tale: Be a responsible steward.


“When we are stressed our emotions and thoughts becomes unhinged and we say things we don’t mean.”- A friend of mine said this recently and it stuck with me.

Of course we strive for the kind of inner peace that is unshakable in the face of all chaos.  We should exert similar effort to find sanctuary in our daily lives.

The reality is, we’re human and no one, certainly not life, is perfect.  I don’t bother feeling guilty about not being perfectly at peace or in a sanctuary all the time.  We have to be on the lookout for when we’re about to, (or just did) say something we didn’t mean, or allow chaos to develop around us.

This weekend began with a wonderful sunset view on the beach Friday evening.  That night, a foul smell crept over the house.  The search for the source was fruitless.  Saturday morning the origin was identified:  The neighbor’s cat had made its way into the basement.  Didn’t make its way out.

A no-show animal disposal appointment, wrinkled noses and several scented candles later, it was time to face the funk.  Literally.  Then began the 3-phased chaos of the day.

Phase I:

POG* and I donned shower caps, hoodies, jeans and tennis shoes, and makeshift gas masks: For him a t-shirt, for me a heavily-perfumed wrap.  Armed with prayer, multiple trash bags, fly spray, prayer, a shovel, bucket, broom, dustpan, bleach, prayer, and disinfecting spray, we descended into the pit of despair.  In prayer.

Phase II:

Let’s just say it was more disgusting than any zombie movie ever was or will be.

Ever.

Compounded by olfactory and visual assault, communication was a mess at best: Keeping our eyes on the prize and hands on the tools, we were limited to verbal communication through mufflers.  We sounded very much like I’d imagine an emergency medic unit would sound in the field.  All urgent, barking, instructional and cooperative at once.

Phase III:  

Several generous pours and sprays of bleach and aggravating scrubs with the broom later, we had effectively turned the basement into a toxic filth vapor bomb.  At one point,  as he swept the runoff toward the sump hole, creating a spatter-pattern only a detective could love, I urged him to aim carefully.  His response?

“My eyes are closed!!!”

Yep.  Bleach pouring in confined spaces.  It’s funny in retrospect but at the time…

Phase IV:  

On the final wash, things are looking cleaner… Until I saw my shiny clean red bucket in the middle of wet floor.  And picked it up and placed it on one of his storage boxes.  New filth entered, in the form of verbal sniping.

I called time-out immediately.  For once, we opted out of the hug-it-out remedy since I couldn’t fathom burying my face in his animal disposal costume.

After some deep breaths of fresh air and a game-plan adjustment, we had to laugh over how easily we dealt with wartime ugliness, thankful we could see it for what it was.

Too often though, what’s rotten isn’t sitting there for you to smell, find and cleanup in an hour with some handy household tools.  Too often, working together to purge filth feels bad, and can appear to be working against each other.  Too often something can be said that isn’t really meant, and offense will run high, hurt deep.

Had funkiness and sarcasm-laden comments been a regular part of home we wouldn’t have known anything was wrong.

We are the stewards of our physical lives, our bodies, our space.  We have to be responsible owners and take regular inventory not only to maintain order and health, but especially so we’ll know when something is out of order.

When we wait until something has become painful, infected, angry, foul or spoiled  we’ve neglected our responsibility far too long.  That neglect is a sign of imbalance and in some cases, can cause irreparable damage to our relationships, our person, or our property.

Physical neglect is both a symptom and cause of  mental and spiritual clutter.  Not a pretty cycle.

Remember to take care of what you’ve been given: Your body, your health, your home, possessions, relationships.  Be vigilant, and when you find yourself neglecting these things take a minute to figure out what’s pulling you from them and refocus.

Grody as it was, I’m thankful for the stark reminder.  Commence attic-to-basement physical and spiritual cleansing spree.

*POG stands for Powerful Man Of God, my love-nugget and best friend (the M is silent.)

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