“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama
I began my career as a house cleaner.
The first few weeks were tough. There is physical work involved, although it is not too challenging. I was overweight from care giving and a lack of drive to improve my physicality. Why should I? I wouldn’t be in another office any time soon and cleaning does not require a spit-and-polish appearance. That, I liked. Office clothing is expensive and is a pain, at least to me.
At my first meeting with my lovely boss, I sat at her kitchen table and cried. I was so conflicted. Grateful for something to do, somewhere to go, a way to get some cash together to have my poor little car tuned up since I would probably be heading back down south anyway. After that first meeting her assistant followed me outside and gave me a check to help me with my car. She is a single mother going to school and struggling as I was. More tears.
So I forced myself to soak up the cleaning protocols for their business and learned that these homes were lovingly owned and maintained by folks who were off-island much of the time. I would have seven homes that became my responsibility. Most were close to me and a couple are not. Cleaners are paid as consultants, per house, every two weeks. Most people who can afford to stay in these wonderful homes are also very neat and tidy. The job itself has an almost ‘zero’ ick factor. Nice.
When I began, the season was in full swing. People coming and going, checking in and out every day. Lots of work, lots of running around. It was quite warm for me to be schlepping up and down stairs with a vacuum cleaner and loads of wash. I was regularly breaking a sweat by the time I finished. I also noticed that I was sleeping better and not eating as much. Hmmm.
So I pressed on and began to see some positive feedback from owners and guests. Who’d a thought that spending a few hours making the place desirable and welcoming would result in some unexpected payoffs. I began to see cards and……MONEY left for me by grateful visitors. When I found Suzy’s retainer and sent it back I received $50! Another guest sent me a generous gift certificate for sending her Aunt Maizie’s special pillow left behind. Several owners now routinely leave me tips when they come to visit and appreciate my efforts to notice problems and make suggestions as to neglected maintenance or just a possible problem in the works. Since I had made it clear that I was available for any extra work I became the go-to gal to pick up houses whose cleaners were ill or unable to complete the job alone. I became master of my own schedule, working as much or as little as I wished. Boofie settled into my new routine and since she had been coming with me to care for Harvey in my previous job she also had some adjustments to make. And she did not disappoint me. She learned what it meant when I said I had to work, without her. She remains unfenced and in our yard until I return. She is always waiting.
Friends, I am happy. I have learned to find joy again in the simplest of professions. But getting there was not a one step process.
I had to:
Alter my preconceptions and see myself differently.
Accept the work and apply myself to doing a good job.
Jettison the anger, LOTS of anger at the conspiratorial establishment that would not hire me for the work I was most anxious to continue. Probably the toughest thing in this process was to forgive the miserable manager who fired me and also forgive myself for allowing that setback to so destroy my grace and peace.
But the main constant in all of my rediscovery and acceptance was to realize that staying on Whidbey was all that I wanted. This is a place I have visited for years and every time was invigorated in the experiences here. The thoughts of being here kept me sane and strengthened me when my Mom’s care darkened my days with emotional overload.
So I am here! And I am making my modest ends meet with this unexpected opportunity. Along with early Social Security I am doing fine, thank you. And another gift: since beginning this job I have lost almost thirty pounds! And it is not coming back. I have given away bags of larger clothes and will not shop again for anything unless it is smaller. I am happy, feeling great and relishing my life here where I belong with like-minded folks who adore the island lifestyle.