Hamster Wheels

by Rachel Creager Ireland

my kitchen

This is my kitchen. It is not worse than usual. I usually keep it hidden from public view. I haven’t invited someone into my home since last October, and it was ill-advised and won’t happen again. Why show you my kitchen? Why play so coy, when I could show you my dirty underwear instead?

My brain’s been running on hamster wheels all day, sometimes three at once. I do clean, it just never gets better. In recent weeks I’ve been working on this a lot, materially as well as mentally. I find a lot of resistance to the expectations of others, that I should be some ideal kind of person, keep a magazine-spread house, do the things those people do. Meanwhile I feel overwhelmed by the crap and I don’t even want to write, I need some space and some clarity and some quiet nothingness, which doesn’t happen in a room that looks like this.

I just read Marianne Williamson‘s Return to Love, about A Course In Miracles. It is a wonderful reminder to me that when I feel anything that is not joy, I am to pray for a change in perception, to miraculously know myself to be one with the Divine, whose dearest wish for me is perfect happiness. The shift I’ve been getting is that there is no one outside of myself who is holding expectations for me. I can’t even remember a time when someone expressed any thought about my lack of order. (Well, okay, it was my sister, and it happened last October, but sisters always have expectations for one another and we all ignore them, right?) What I’ve been rebelling against is nothing more than my own self-judgement.

I’m using all my new age hocus pocusey tools to change my thoughts from I can’t live up to your expectations and You expect too much it’s too hard I can’t do it I quit to I accept and love myself as I am or I access every imaginable resource for the fulfillment of my Divine purposes or both.

I was feeling pretty good about my perception-shifting this week, until I was reminded for the second time of the negative reviews posted about our motel on tripadvisor. Go ahead, look at them, then come back and look at the kitchen some more, but I’m not giving you the link. Our motel rooms are actually quite clean, in sharp contrast to the house, but when business and home and marriage are all tangled up together, well, everything’s tangled up together. My first thought was to ignore the reviews, like, for example, writers are supposed to do. It’s part of life. Just let it be.

But Kevin pointed out that there is a place on the site for responses, and thought we should take advantage of it. He’s right. It’s an opportunity to turn the situation around and demonstrate our professionalism and caring. So I had to think about what I wanted to say to those reviews, and the more I thought, the more annoyed I was. Clearly, at least in some of the complaints listed, the customer’s expectations were unrealistic. (Seriously, can you get someone to fix your cable TV service on a weekend? Do they do that in cities? We have one person who drives all over the state, and he gets here when he gets here.) Which brings us to that e-word. It turns out that some people do, in fact, hold expectations for me and my behavior, and those expectations are not within my ability to fulfill. Which means I have to start all over with my thought management. I don’t even know where to go from here.

Why can’t I just be a writer? Then I wouldn’t be obligated to respond to criticism, I’d be obligated to ignore it. I could be so much happier that way. I could just put out my best, and everyone could take it or leave it. I wouldn’t even have to refund their money if they complained. But I am so over my head with debts and commitments and bookkeeping, I’m stuck on this hamster wheel for the foreseeable future. There was a while when I dreamed of writing my way out, but I knew all along that was a fantasy.

I’d like your thoughts on one last question. When you check into a lodging, when do you expect to be asked to pay?