Monday, September 23, 2013

Dirty Houses Make Good Friends

I genuinely enjoy doing nice things for people.

It's actually a bit selfish because I like the way it makes me feel to bless someone else.

Then I mess it all up by adding my ridiculous expectations. 

A friend of mine just had a baby, and I really wanted to take her a meal.  I kept putting it off because I didn't have a baby gift to give to her.

Not only did I want to take her a gift, but I wanted it to be a super meaningful gift.  Something homemade and personalized.  And unique.  And useful.

Is that even possible?

When I told Jared why I hadn't taken a dinner to my friend, he made fun of me (lovingly) and brought me back to reality.

So I picked a day and told her I'd be bringing a dinner.  I let go of my "what if they don't like these foods" thoughts and just picked a recipe.  I even tried a brand new recipe for their dessert (I generally try not to try a new recipe on other people; I like to give it a test drive at home first).  This is risky business, you know.

I planned, shopped, and prepared the meal and dessert.  Last Friday morning, Nora and I set out to go see my friend, deliver the prepared food, play with her toddler son, and smell snuggle meet her new baby.  I seriously didn't want my friend to tidy her house or put on makeup or do anything extra just because we were coming over.  Afterall, I was trying to lighten her load of daily chores, not add to it.  I nearly sent her a text threatening that if her house appeared clean or if I detected mascara on her tired eyes that I wouldn't leave her dessert.  I decided to just stick to the classic "We're on our way."

She claimed her house was unvacuumed, but all I noticed were great paint colors, eye-catching decorations, and fabulous organization.  She mumbled something about her clothes and her hair being up, but I just couldn't get over wondering if she had any baby weight to lose because I couldn't find it.  She also mentioned that they had all been up since one of those times that I don't like to see on the clock unless it's followed by a "pm."  Those are hard days. 

In fact, those are "I don't really want to see anyone today" days.  But she let us come over anyway.  And she didn't try to vacuum, even though it was bothering her.  She didn't try to style her hair in a way she thought would be more acceptable.  She didn't change her clothes.

When I left her house, I felt honored that she let us come into her imperfect world.  It felt like she trusted me with the real her.

What a gift.

Even while I was still processing my interaction with her and thinking how thankful I am to have a friend like that, I had to switch my focus to later that day.  We had asked a friend and her kids to come eat dinner and hang out with us for the evening.  I had prepped our dinner while I was making the meal to take to my friend with the new baby.  But now I was thinking about how I hadn't cleaned my house all week. 

The problem was that we were going to be hosting a big dinner at our house the following evening, and I knew I'd be cleaning all day leading up to that dinner.  Did I really want to clean my house Friday afternoon before my friend came for a casual visit and then clean again on Saturday before our fancy dinner?  Nope.  I really didn't want to do all that work.

So I decided to try out this newfangled idea of letting a friend come into my real world.  I sent a text to my friend just before she came over for the casual Friday night dinner.  I said, "My house is filthy and I'm cleaning tomorrow.  You've been properly warned."  I hoped I didn't sound offensive or give the impression that she wasn't important enough to clean for. 

Her response put me at ease:  "Aww, thank you for not caring.  You're a true friend."

Wow.  Who would have thought?  She felt the same way about coming into my real house as I felt about going into my other friend's real house. 

I guess I've had a double standard:  I don't want other people to clean before I come over, but I always feel the need to clean before anyone comes to my house.

I want to appear to have to have it all together.  I want to pretend that my house already looked spotless and I'm unrattled by an unexpected visitor or company in the midst of my sometimes difficult world.  I want to trick people into thinking that I can do it all, and with my hair and makeup done, too.  I don't want to let on that my reality includes a husband who is out of town, three kids who woke me up three different times during the night, breakfast remnants still on the table, lunch remnants still on the counter, and I don't even know if the dishwasher is full of clean or dirty dishes (but I know the sink is full of dirty ones).  It's a little too scary to see who still likes me on those days.  But I'm starting to think that letting a friend into my dirty house (or some other ugly part of my reality) is what makes a strong friendship.

It's not that I won't ever clean for company again (I wish!).  But if a friend wants to come over and I can't get my house clean, or I plain don't want to, I apparently don't have to fake it.  Some friends really do want to spend time with people, not compare houses or see who's doing better at their housewife duties.  Some friends have the ability to see past the clutter (or lack therof) to see the real person underneath. 

I want to be one of those friends.


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