I don’t feel like it by Heather Grover

Until recently, a frequent argument in my household started like this:

Bryan: “Babe, WHY won’t you just wash the sheets?!”

I say argument, but really what transpired was more of a minor cold war initiated by me exiting the room with an eye roll and waiting it out until, God bless him, my husband begrudgingly did it himself. I would usually concede to putting the clean, fluffy, freshly bleached sheets back on the bed, because hospital corners and perfect symmetry kinda make my heart sing, but don’t ask me to put on a pillow case. Not happening.

I like to have a clean home, and I recall that when I lived alone I washed my sheets with some regularity, but that was also when my entire living space could fit in the square footage of my garage and there were no small humans dependent on me for their daily survival. It’s hard to explain to someone else that when my brain has 873 tabs open and someone has to make dinner that’s not pizza and I’ve missed a deadline on a project again and the sun is out and I am starting to doubt if my FIVE YEAR OLD will ever ever learn to properly wipe his own butt, well, I just can’t be bothered. I don’t feel like it.

AND THEN.

My sister got bed bugs. If you didn’t just exclaim “Oh no!” out loud while reading that, then let me enlighten you to the reality of dealing with a bed bug infestation. These little demons not only feed on your children while they sleep WHICH IS HORRIFYING, they are also could-survive-the-apocalypse-level difficult to kill. They can endure extreme cold and extreme heat and can live without food (aka their human hosts…EW) for months! And despite what their name indicates, they will infest almost anything in your home including clothing and toys, electrical outlets and baseboards, books, and even KITCHEN APPLIANCES. Let it be known that if I ever find a bedbug in my Kitchen Aid I WILL have a nervous breakdown. And get this, they reproduce rapidly through a mating ritual known as “traumatic insemination” wherein without warning, the male pierces the female’s abdomen with his genitals and injects his sperm into the WOUND. Dude. Just, no.

Soooo I spent the summer watching my sister negotiate the special circle of hell that eliminating these miniscule monsters entails- moving herself and her 2 young kids out of their house, hauling 90% of their possessions to the dump, arranging treatment after treatment and calling to tell me, between hyperventilating sobs, that she was STILL finding live bugs on her walls months later. It’s important to note here that she did all of this while pregnant AND and while expertly performing the duties of Maid of Honor for my wedding. The woman is a freaking hero.

I write this now as I wait for the sheets to dry after stripping the beds like have every week for about two months without fail. Bryan is happily watching football and probably too afraid of jinxing it to ask what voodoo magic transformed my attitude about this particular chore. Effectively, I was scared straight. What that really means though, is that my priorities realigned because I was given a damn good reason for them to do so, and I had an emotional connection to that reason. (Thousands of nightmarish, blood-sucking parasites with no manners will do that to ya.)

In my years in the health and fitness industry, I’ve seen this kind of shift happen all the time. This is usually the point when I get a text or a Facebook message- “I just tried on bridesmaid dresses…” “I found out that I am pre-diabetic…” “I’m 50 pounds overweight and my best friend wants me to do a Spartan Race…” “I am watching my dad’s health fail and he’s only 65…” People come face to face with their circumstances and potential results if something doesn’t change and it’s a kick in the pants to do something different, even if they don’t feel like it. I’ve operated in the zone of this kind of motivation for most of my career. I’m proficient at catching someone in this moment and setting them on the path to success. Lately though, it hasn’t felt like enough, because here’s what I know.

I know that The Great Bed Bug Scare of 2018 will not keep me washing the sheets and obsessively vacuuming for the foreseeable future. Yes it got me started, yes it even helped me create an honest-to-goodness habit, and yes it will always stick in my memory as a reminder that I “should” keep it going. But will I? Maybe. Maybe I will continue to make these practices a priority, or maybe they will gradually downgrade to the list of “Things I know I should do that keep me up at night but rarely happen come daylight.” Maybe Bryan, who has now married me thinking that I have evolved into a Domestic Queen, will find himself washing the sheets all by his lonesome again.

I know that the outcome of this silly little saga does not come down to motivation, or inspiration, or guilt, or cold wars. Ultimately, it comes down to Identity and Alignment. I capitalize these words because they are just that important to me now, at the distinguished age of 30. Habits and motivation are trendy topics, and they are useful sometimes. I’m not one to knock down the blocks that have paved the road behind me. But Identity? Alignment? That’s sexy. That’s the good stuff. That’s where action is no longer born out of “what I should do” but “who I am.” That’s where anxiety mellows and creativity flourishes. That’s where I have the freedom to be flexible with my methods while being absolutely certain about my purpose.

I don’t expect that I will EVER “feel like” wrestling pillows into clean pillowcases. I cannot tell you why this grieves me so, it just does, OK? But because I am beginning to grasp the difference between what kind of work makes a human being start and start and start again, and what kind of work allows us to intentionally design a life that we relish, I expect that you will find me lounging on fresh sheets at 93 years old, laughing out loud over a good book before falling asleep contemplating plans for my next visit to Bali.

Shall we? Get up, wild thing.

Heather Grover
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