Tim caught me red-handed today. I thought he had left for work. He’d taken his cooler, his keys and his cup of coffee and headed out the door. I thought I was safe, but I should have known better. I didn’t get my kiss goodbye, which is always the last thing he does before he leaves. I was just so eager to get started that I overlooked that final step in his daily ritual. After setting some things in his car and messing around in the garage, he walked back in the front door and said, “Honey, what are you doing?”
Darn. He caught me sweeping. Again.
Could I hide the evidence behind my back? Could I kick away the incriminating pile of dirt, lying at my feet? No, not this time, so instead I blushed, gave him my sweetest smile and handed over the broom. He took it gently from my hands, held me close for a minute, and gave me the goodbye kiss I had missed. He then took my broom out to his truck and drove away with it to work.
Double darn. Now what was I going to do?
Contrary to how that story makes me sound, I am not insane. Nor do I have OCD, or some other disorder. I am not even anal retentive, or a particularly good housekeeper. What I do have, like everyone else I know if they would just admit it, is an addiction. And I don’t think it is even that unusual. I think it’s easy for many of us to turn up our noses at what we consider the bad addicts – the raging alcoholics, the druggies, the sex addicts, and the smokers. Individually, we might have more sympathy for the addicts whose temptations we can relate to – the overeaters, the anorexics, or bulimics, maybe even those who attend GA (Gambler’s Anonymous, as if you didn’t know).
Until recently, I was more likely to scoff at the concept of addiction than I was to see it at work in my own life. But I read something the other day that made me rethink my stereotypes. I read about process addictions, which we all suffer from. They are the little things we do that calm us down, that make us “feel normal,” whatever that means. These are the habits that make us feel as if everything is under control somehow. The writer suggested that one of the most common process addictions today is checking our cell phones, especially if they link us to email, Facebook and interactive games, like Words with Friends. If you’re honest, how many times a day do you look at your phone and why? But we do other things as well. Some people run; some cook; some people knit, and others bite their nails.
I happen to sweep. I didn’t even realize how I was using my broom until after I read the article. I thought I was just using it to clean my house. Five people (plus companions) traipse in and out of my house all day long. It gets dirty. I sweep it. It gets clean, for about 5 minutes. That means I can sweep again. It made perfect sense in my mind, until I thought about when and why I sweep and how it makes me feel.
Sweeping brings me great pleasure and deep satisfaction. When I recognized the warm sensation I got in the pit of my belly whenever I swept, I knew I had a problem. I use my broom and the rhythmic motion of sweeping to calm myself down, to give myself some illusion of control over my household and my life and to clear my head. I tend to want to sweep first thing in the morning, when everyone has left the house, and in the evenings after dinner, when everyone is done tracking in mud and creating crumbs at the dinner table. On a perfect day, I also get to sweep after homework time, when my kids’ liberal use of erasers has created rubber snowflakes all over the kitchen floor. On stressful days, I am tempted to sweep 5 times or more.
I realize that sweeping may not be that bad as far as addictions go, especially if I recognize it for what it is and treat it accordingly. I think that is where Tim’s kidnapping of my broom came from. It was an intervention of sorts, and a humorous one at that. I really didn’t need to be sweeping this morning. I would be okay without it and the floor was pretty clean anyway. He wasn’t trying to be mean; he was just trying to help me break the cycle. Like any addict in recovery, I want to reprogram my mind to handle stress in many ways, not just the one way I’ve come to rely on. A run in the mornings would be good for me, and so would sitting quietly for 5 minutes. I think Tim would love it if I developed a dish-washing addiction, but then again, maybe not. That would mean he’d have to come up with a new one for himself.