Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

Never let it be said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. For lockdown has provided me with an unexpected opportunity to expand my household repertoire under the careful, often bewildered, supervision of Fionnuala. She’s had me painting fences, assisting with wallpapering, baking flapjacks. But more than all that, she’s taught me the difference between tidying up and cleaning. This has been a quantum leap for yours truly. Mind well and truly blown.

I’ve always thought myself a tidy enough person. If a sweet wrapper is lying on the ground I’ll pick it up and put it in the bin; I’ll wipe a table if I see crumbs on it and shout at the kids for leaving their stuff lying around the house. I did my bit to keep the house in some semblance of order. Or so I thought. Since lockdown I’ve had to learn the difference between superficial tidying and proper cleaning. As in killing germs as opposed to just repositioning them around the kitchen.

Fionnuala has introduced me to the wonderful world of bleach and disinfectant. I’m lifting ornaments and cleaning under, as opposed to around, them. I’ve polished furniture, swept floors and even started making the bed. With all the pillows and cushions in exactly the position they’re meant to be in. You name it, I’ve attacked it with vigour and vim – wood, metal, glass, it’s all felt the wrath of my cleaning fury. I’m a man possessed.

My default setting is with my nose stuck in a book or dreaming up ideas for the next Kirkwood Scott adventure, but I’m keen to pull my weight around the place and not get under Fionnuala’s feet too much. I always recognised the amount of work she does, but the enforced time at home has taken this to a whole new level. It’s a full time job keeping on top of the endless chores with a husband and three teenagers under the same roof.

For years I treated my mental health in the same manner. I would pick at it, fuss around the edges and do the bare minimum, thinking this was enough to keep my head in order and prevent the messy monsters within from running rampant. It was only when the rubbish was piled waist high that I recognised skimming the surface and refusing to get my hands dirty was slowly but steadily dragging me under, never to return.

It was only when I started to methodically and regularly confront my issues that the mental makeover started to show progress; serious DIY work as opposed to papering over the cracks, removing the layers of dirt and grime in order to reveal the true person underneath. No more skirting around the elephant in the room, sticking my head in the sand like an obstinate ostrich. Grabbing the thistle and taking the pain, for after the pain comes healing and growth.

Therapy. Medication. Counselling. These are the cleaning products of the mind, they polish the process of recovery and rehabilitation. Don’t lie in the debris, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and climb from the pit. The abyss piled high on all sides with the detritus of wasted lives and shattered hopes. The rut can be all consuming, it dulls the senses and rusts our resolve to realise dreams and aspirations. Don’t let its noxious lies overwhelm you.

So as I scrub the toilet bowl or sweep the floor, I’m glad this silver lining has been revealed to me at a time when the planet seems to be falling apart. Mental order removes the dirt of despair and allows us to glue the pieces of self back together. We are whole once more, different but whole. Our cracks are scars and through them we rise from the ashes to face the world again. A new way of living, a fresh chance to live, laugh and love.

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

27 thoughts on “Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

  1. I think this might be one of the best blogs you have ever written. Bravo!

    When I am struggling mentally, and am just overwhelmed, the first thing I do is clean. The physical work helps me be able to process my emotions. Also, I organize and declutter, because for me, nothing is more cathartic for removing unwanted emotions than throwing things away. I’m not a sentimental hoarder; I very much enjoy the glee that comes from filling up trash cans (or rubbish bins as you might say!) and Goodwill bags, so this is a of great benefit to me. Lol.

    There is so much truth in what you wrote about how we often just “move the germs around”: we push memories or issues aside because we don’t want to face them, but moving them into another corner, with other junk, doesn’t clean anything. All it does is maybe disguise the problems until another day when we trip over the pile. Either we start to let the light in, and accept that we have to stop just dusting at the edges, or we’ll be buried.

    Thank you for always reminding us that there is hope.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I enjoyed this! I wonder is this analogy is at practical work in the minds of many! If the proper cleaning we all must do is informing our psyches overall!


  3. Great analogy. I feel like I’m “okay” at both things. I pick stuff up. I clean under it. I investigate. But, like, that giant piece of furniture in the living room which is high enough off the floor for dust to get under it but not high enough to get a mop or a broom or a vacuum under? I just kind of pretend that problem doesn’t exist…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great analogy! I know for me it’s easy to let both things slide – cleaning around the house and mental health. I noticed I’m letting my mental health/recovery slide when I start to get grumpy. That’s the first sign!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post. Your last paragraph adds hope without removing responsibility. Such good advice coming from a credible voice. It’s also great to get a new appreciation for your biggest supporter.


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