Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cleaning the closet

Before I showered, I reeked of urine.

Chienne – both taking Prednisone and afraid of fireworks – had accidents during the night because she was drinking more water than normal and unable to conquer her fear to go outside through her dog door. She used my closet and the carpet there is now quite smelly.

“You’ll want to use the special enzymes.” Friend advised, having scrubbed at the carpet multiple times already. “But,” she warned, “it stinks. So you might want to move your clothes first.”

I brought special break-down-urine enzyme cleaner back from my parents’ and sprayed it each day. The bottle advised to wet the carpet thoroughly with the spray, then cover with a damp towel until it dried naturally. On the second day of that routine, I walked in to find Chienne peeing on my damp towels!

“What are you doing?!” I shouted at her, causing her to jump from her squat. “No, no, NO! No peeing in the house! Outside.” I emphasized each syllable then followed her from the room. She was ducking her head like a bad dog and I was gesturing wildly toward the back door. She tried to climb in the bathtub – her fireworks hiding spot – and I drug her out, lecturing all the way. I pushed her out the back door, followed her outside (I wasn’t done lecturing), and blocked her reentry. She refused to leave the tiny patio, so I locked her out, found her leash, then walked her in the front yard for 30 minutes until she finally stopped pulling me toward the house and pottied.

At some point though, I have to open the door to the master bathroom (where my closet is located) and deal with the residual mess. So I braced myself, sprayed more cleaner and knelt to scrub with hot water and sponges. The sour smell of ammonia was sharp and deeply unpleasant. I grew frustrated, sternly warning the dog that she wanted to stay far away from me when she poked her nose in to explore my newest project. I took a break, realizing that the garbage bag I knelt on to protect my pajamas didn’t work perfectly. My ShopVac leaked a bit as I vacuumed up the gross water I sopped on the carpet and I sighed at the bathroom in general.

Perhaps I was making progress on the smell overall, but I was certainly creating a mess to do so. Garbage bags, dirty water on the floor and in the bucket, my clothes and hands damp and smelly.

“Ick.” I said simply, and wrinkled my nose at the whole thing.

I think I’m in the clean up phase at work as well. The months I spent ignoring some powerful people have caught up to me. Even as I make small peeks into the job search world, I need these people to allow me money and toys and advice. And so I need to clean up my mess.

I’ve tried to interact with them, though it’s often demoralizing and I feel painfully out of place once I leave my safe niche and the warm offices of people I like. Sometimes there are moments where it’s good though – I learn something or am granted access to equipment or a bit of funding. So I continue to try.

I even signed up to attend their retreat. I dread going, yet it’s coming up and I have yet to think of a reasonable excuse (save Friend refusing to stay with Chienne), and Boss – in an email this morning – came as close to ordering me to go as he’d ever get. I think he said he “hoped I’d be able to present my work in person.” because I told him I might use the time to go home instead.

But I registered online. I wrote an abstract, then submitted my poster for printing today. Tomorrow I’ll pick it up, then next week, I’ll pack a bag and drive farther south (in the middle of summer – genius location selection!) to spend a couple of days in a hotel to listen to people who work mere yards away from me. It’s ridiculous, but my poster session is in the morning of the first day, so at least it’ll be over quickly.

The problem, I think, is that as I clean one mess, I just make others. Just as I mopped up water that leaked from the vacuum – nose wrinkled in distaste, I now sit in meetings where I’m unnoticed and unheard, even when the area is one I study. It’s frustrating and makes me sad. But I keep going and trying and allowing myself a break when hiding becomes irresistible.

The hope is that progress occurs while the work is being done. That the pee smell will eventually dissipate after I clean and clean. That at some point I’ll be recognized and respected in the presence of people who have historically been indifferent or unimpressed.

I suppose it is happening. There was a time I would have been unable to tolerate the smell for long enough to clean. When the time comes to get in my car and drive to the dreaded retreat, I think I can do it.

“Katie,” Mom said one day, taking her mouth from the phone as she talked to Aunt, “there’s a bug on my foot.”

Without thinking, I got up, walked over, held the tiny insect between my thumb and forefinger and put it outside.

“You didn’t scream or get a tissue or anything.” Mom said, looking surprised. I smiled and nodded since I still don’t like bugs. But I suppose as I grow up, there are more unpleasant tasks that I can tolerate. I can pick up a bug, deal with bodily fluids and waking every 3 hours to care for Mom, go to this retreat though I’ll be self-conscious and uncomfortable while there, and clean the closet some more. It’s getting better, but it’s not there yet.


PPB said...

This is lovely.

EA said...

When I started piano lessons, I could only tolerate the icky feeling that came in my stomach as I sat on the bench five minutes at a time... five years later, I can sit down at the piano and loose myself in the music for hours... practice and time, it just takes practice and time...

life_of_a_fool said...

>I walked in to find Chienne peeing on my damp towels!

O.k., I laughed at this, just because I'm dealing with similar issues, and I know how frustrating it is. I can't tell you how many times I've been grateful that my current apartment does not have carpet, like my last one. I hope you continue to make progress with your messes. :)

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