Okay, I'm not going to take up a lot of your valuable time with a string of excuses for why, exactly, I've neglected this blog for an undisclosed number of months. Suffice it to say a few keywords: "Baby". "Pesach". "Bat mitzvah for my daughter". "Life". "Overwhelmed". There. Short, sweet, and to the point.
And then there's always that perfectionism thing. Like, "Hmmmm....I'd really like to start up that blog again, but the first blogpost back after such an extended leave has to be really AMAZING! Ugh. I don't have anything that amazing to say. Oh well, I'll try again...tomorrow. Uh, make that a month from now. THEN I'll REALLY have amazing things to write!" :-) Sound familiar, perhaps? Well, guess what? Today I celebrate freedom from perfectionism. I don't have anything particularly amazing to write about, but I'm blogging anyway. Just because.
Actually, today I'd like to talk about my closet. Yeah, the overstuffed, underappreciated, cramped space in my home that I turn to in abject worship each and every morning, with the heartfelt prayer, "Dress me!" Well, something like that at least. Now, my closet features matching hangers. Yup, all matching. None of that motley collection of cheapo store hangers that you begged the saleslady for before she snatched them away, or those half-broken plastic things that your neighbor was throwing out. All MY hangers are a velvety beige, really quite pretty. For those of you who know me, you're already getting little sensations that I'm foreshadowing something here. I mean, my house is pretty rugged; my fashion sense is confined purely to my own attire and possibly a slight influence on my children's. If I had a top 100 list of priorities, Matching Hangers would probably be, like, number 19959, right below designer toilet paper.
My mother-in-law bought me those hangers. Yup, one visit she decided that wouldn't it be nice if all my hangers matched? I nodded my head and said thank you very much. And now all my hangers match. Thanks, Mom! Okay, Riva, what's your point? My point, my friends, is this: Raise your hand if you've heard your fair share of Wicked Mother-in-Law Takeovers. Y'know, the kind that always start with, "You'll never believe what SHE did this time." There's this acrid, nauseated, cynical, totally unmistakable emphasis on the "she" that there's no doubt in ANYONE'S mind about who, exactly, SHE is. She's that evil nemesis who comes into your home and begins, immediately, to, gasp!, CLEAN UP! SHE organizes the linen closet. SHE grooms the children and makes them wash their hands. SHE takes over your kitchen, your laundry room, your, eep, bathroom! Isn't it just horrible?
It's actually quite wonderful. Out of the Wicked, Critical Mother-in-Law Takeover, you get: a neat, organized linen closet, a surgically scrubbed bathroom, well-dressed, well-fed kids, and more tips and tricks than you've get reading Ann Landers for five decades. Even better, you get a happy, contented mother-in-law who feels so good to be able to help out! And, if you're me, you get matching hangers! :-)
The magic is in the perspective. It's the loud, rude voices clamoring in our heads and hearts that get in the way of us enjoying the perks of mother-in-lawship. It's not about THEM; it's about US! She thinks I'm a slob! She's just trying to show me what a bad housekeeper I am! Look at how she disapproves of my mothering! I'm such a neb! Those voices are all OURS. They seep out of our insecurities, fester and swell, until we project them onto others. They obliterate the good and turn everything sour. An offer to help becomes a point-blank rejection. A loving smile becomes a contemptuous, patronizing glare.
Methinks the key lies in challenging these negative voices. Maybe my mother-in-law is just trying to give me a well-deserved break. Maybe she's trying to keep herself from being bored. Maybe SHE'S trying to prove herself to ME by cleaning out my closets!
When my mother-in-law visits, I put my raging, self-deprecating thoughts on hold with this very powerful, very compelling thought: She's saving you a mint in cleaning help. Feel free to wallow in your miserable thoughts of being less-than and judged another time. For now, just shut up and enjoy. You have new HANGERS, for goodness sake! Adorable!
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.