“I forced myself to weed the overgrowth”

From "Sacred Housekeeping: A Spiritual Memoir"

One day I added another important commitment—every day I was going to make my bed.

Not to please my mother or to impress company, but to honor my life. It became a daily affirmation that I matter, what I do matters, and life matters. I spend a lot of time in bed. It’s my place of comfort and safety. It looks better when it’s made up; it feels better when it isn’t soggy and rumpled.

This realization changed everything. Making my bed always seemed to me an act of pointlessness. Why bother? It’s only going to get messed up again in a few hours. Not making my bed was proof that my existential angst was correct—my statement that the inevitability of death robbed life of its meaning and therefore nothing mattered. I have now come to understand why Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins, but in those days it was a badge of honor. Slovenliness was my rebellion against a mother who had “a place for everything and everything in its place” and a society that I felt had no place for me.

I’ve accepted that the Sloth Monster abides within me and will always be part of me. When I try to ignore it or get mad at it, it attacks me. I have to bribe it or manipulate it or negotiate with it…”If you’ll help me honor my commitments to myself all week, we can spend the weekend in bed watching Law & Order re-runs…I’ll treat us to goose-down pillows and 1,000-thread count new sheets.”

I hated routine for many years, but now I perform my rituals and routines with missionary zeal so I don’t lose my footing. These are my mitzvot, sacred acts. They are personal, not communal, chosen, not commanded. They remind me to be grateful to God for life: to “eat, be satisfied and bless.”

I have the same conversation with myself every morning when one part of me wants to sleep an extra hour and the other one wants to get up and work out, and every night when one of me wants to drop my clothes on the floor and the one is committed to hanging them up. Leave the dish in the sink? Wash it and put it away. It builds spiritual muscle.

All these years later it’s still a daily battle. I still get lazy and busy with distractions and acquisitions. I buy new underwear at Costco and don’t bother to throw out the old. I keep things that I don’t wear for over a year, a gross violation of The Organizer’s Manifesto. I buy things I don’t need because they’re a bargain, another violation. But what’s different is that now from time to time, I force myself to face down the monster and to weed the overgrowth.

I no longer view my defects of character as evidence of my failure or as enemies to be vanquished. They are evidence only of my humanness. My daily spiritual struggle is to own them and “invite them in for tea,” as Ram Dass taught.

During my group sessions at Beit T’Shuvah [Rosetto is the founder of this nonprofit drug and treatment organization], I began to notice that residents were adopting my evolving insights and epiphanies. A sweet and sardonic 24-year old girl who had been in eight rehabs lit up when I told her my story about housekeeping as an antidote to existential despair. “I finally did my laundry after putting it off forever,” she said. “I was folding the towels when I got that it’s not about finding God in the Burning Bush…it’s about doing your laundry. God really is in the details.

I grinned.