Sunday, 5 January 2014

Washing Windows -- Take Three

How many brains does it take to wash windows successfully? Apparently more than the resident sweetie and I have in our two heads put together.

We knew the windows needed washing – they had, over a few months, gotten embellished with little children’s handprints, big dogs’ paw prints, fly spots, and a few wing smudges from bird collisions. We usually love looking out at our back yard, but now its beauty was obscured.

The yard looks grey and smudgy through our dirty windows. 
Still, we procrastinated. Our track record with windows is not good. In our previous home, with old windows that had to be lifted out, by the end of the ordeal, your shoulders were sore, you had tennis elbow, and the windows were ... still dirty. We eventually hired someone to do it. In this home, window washing is easier, and we have been doing it ourselves, but the results have been mixed. We tell ourselves we are still learning.

But now, with Christmas on the horizon, we knew we’d be having people in. There is absolutely no better motivation for house-cleaning than knowing that you will be having guests. Besides, we’d heard of a secret weapon for easily cleaning windows: Jet Dry. Apparently, if you added dishwasher rinse aid to your final rinse water, then hosed it down, the windows would dry clean, streakless and spotless. At least, that was the theory.

This sounded too good to be true, but we’re suckers for a good story. We psyched ourselves up and launched a full frontal assault on the dirt. The result was disaster – all we’d done was rearrange the dirt. Maybe the resident sweetie hadn’t scrubbed hard enough? Maybe I’d used the wrong cloth for rinsing?  Fortunately our first guests were spared the sorry sight because they visited in the evening when it was dark.

A week later, after gathering up the remnants of our courage, it was time for Take Two. I mean, really, two competent adults with university degrees ... surely they could wash a few windows successfully? Apparently not. I began to feel like Winnie the Pooh, who said, “I am a Bear of very Little Brain ...  When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” In our case the “Thing” was clean windows; it was a good Thingish inside of me, but the end result was quite different when our daytime guests looked at it – or, more accurately, through it. They were polite, and never mentioned the streaks, spots, and smudges. But I was mortified.

A few days ago, we couldn’t take the dirt anymore. Out came the buckets, the soap, the sponges and cloths and everything else we thought might work, even a whole new bottle of rinse-aid. It was desperation time. And Hallelujah! Voila! Take Three: Clean windows. It’s amazing how clean windows can change your perspective on life. Nonchalantly we lead our guests over to the windows to check out the backyard view, no longer feeling the need to draw the curtains. Our windows are clean – we may even have enough brains between us to keep them that way.

Much better!
As you are reading this on the first Sunday in January, I’ll be busy doing “window washing” of a different type. It’s been my custom for the last ten years or so to take the first Sunday of the New Year as a personal silent retreat day. I hole up in my studio and take time to review the past year. I journal, pray, and ponder, trying to get a clear picture of what’s been happening in my life. Sometimes, I find a mess to clean up that’s preventing me from moving forward into the future. Sometimes I realize it’s my own attitudes that blind me to the good things I could be seeing and doing. Sometimes I find that I’ve been procrastinating – I could have been enjoying the view, instead of being annoyed by it, if only I’d tackled a problem much earlier. There could be sunshine and beauty on the other side of the glass if only I will deal with the dirt that obscures it.

Just like in real life, I have also learned that sometimes it takes quite a few tries before I get my interior life cleaned up. And just when I think it’s okay, new dirt shows up. Sigh.

That’s life. Cleaning is a never-ending story. But it’s definitely worth it.

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