What it means to sweep every day.
I stopped for a brief moment, stared curiously at the resort staff member, and continued my morning walk down to the complimentary breakfast buffet. As I continued my rhythmic one-two after that momentary stall, I realized … I was a bit perplexed.
Why was he sweeping the walkway?
There was literally nothing to sweep. The walkway was pristine…so pristine, I would have eaten a fallen pineapple off of it. Didn’t he just sweep this area yesterday as well?
I couldn’t see the reactionary motivation behind it. He clearly didn’t see a mess there, yet still felt compelled to clean it up as part of his job. So it must have been a habit; something that is part of his every-day routine.
And I thought about how that differed from my own cleaning schedule:
- I would only sweep my floor when it became so dusty that my feet would get a little crusty, leaving dark smudges on my shower floor every time I went in to shower.
- Or if I saw more than 2 bundles of stray hair wrapped around a party of dust-bunnies.
- Or if I knew someone was about to come over, and I imagined how much they would judge me when they felt the little crumbs from last week’s chips and salsa prick through the bottom of their socks.
Go on, judge me. But I’m being honest…sweeping was never at the top of my daily priorities list.
As I tonged fresh papaya, pineapple, and watermelon into my bowl, a Ted Talk about emotional hygiene I had watched a couple years ago came to mind. In that video, Guy talks about how physical hygiene is something we maintain obviously because it’s tangible. But how emotional hygiene is often neglected because we can’t see it or touch it in physical form.
Relating back to the man’s habit of daily sweeping, we brush our teeth every day. That’s a daily habit. Even if our teeth don’t necessarily feel gross (which more likely than not, they will), we still brush our teeth every day. Most of us shower every day. Even if we don’t smell, it’s just something that we do because it’s a habit; a daily maintenance.
We do these daily things as habit so that they don’t collect into something that will take longer to resolve if it became reactionary.
For example, if I wash a dish right after I use it and put it away, it’ll just take a moment and my kitchen will stay clean.
If I put it in the sink, thinking I’ll do it later…and continue to pile the dishes until it looks unkempt and needs to be reacted to — maybe it smells, maybe it looks cluttered, maybe there’s no more room to add another dirty dish — it’ll take me much longer to clean all of them. Especially because all the leftover food will have dried and stuck to the dishes, making it difficult to scrub off.
What does it look like to let our self-care dishes pile up?
Perhaps someone criticizes you and you take it personally, but bury the insecurity and move on with time. Maybe you have a million ideas and your mind is racing, but you convince yourself that they aren’t good ideas because you don’t have time to write them down, let alone act on any of them. It could be that you look fine and feel okay, so you eat what you want and don’t work out.
Let’s use that last one as a tangible example. One day, you see a picture of yourself and it’s not the person you remember being. And you realize, you’ve put on a lot of weight and you don’t have that healthy glow you used to. Suddenly, the thought of getting back to your normal state of health is overwhelming and it becomes a huge undertaking, requiring more time and energy, and now you’re stressed about it.
It happened to me all the time…until I started practicing self-care daily. And you might be thinking, well duh, that’s obvious. But for me, it wasn’t. I had always put everyone else’s priorities above my own. I didn’t know what self-care was or how to do it.
So I would take criticism, for example, which would hurt my confidence and negatively influence my self-value because there was no positive self-affirmation that I was doing to balance that out on a regular basis.
And then on occasions when I let it build up, I would find myself feeling really shitty about myself and thinking I was a worthless human being. At that point, I’d do something drastic in exchange for validation or need some sort of therapy in the form of a retreat or any kind of concentrated self-care.
It got to the point where I could see very clearly how I used to let various self-care dishes collect. My life seemed a bit volatile and I’d experience ups and downs more than I care to admit.
It was a lack of regular maintenance.
Not wanting to ever again have to spend a figurative 3 hours of furious pot-scrubbing and soggy dish-washing, I created a daily habit of self-care that included physical, emotional, mental and spiritual maintenance.
Still, some days, especially when I’m feeling great, I’d think,
“Naah I can skip this for today.”
But seeing that man sweeping a floor that didn’t seem to need to be sweeped, really gave me a tangible reminder:
Doing maintenance on the daily, even if it doesn’t seem to need to be done, will ensure that nothing builds up — it will ensure a clean space at all times.
As the man sweeps daily, I practice self-care daily.
On days when I didn’t, because of course I had to test it out, it was very noticeable in my mood, my productivity, and the way I went about my day. I realized that this practice allowed me to be my best self, and share that with anyone I came across.
It changed the way I interacted with the world.
It was tough to stick to at first, not gonna lie. But after committing to a routine, it became a habit. Once it became habit, it was as simple as running a broom across the floor.
Sometimes still, I’m tempted to skip out, especially when I’m really busy. But then I think…
“I’d rather maintain myself as a resort in Bali, than the dorm room of a people-pleasing college student.”
I finished up the fruit parfait that accompanied this whole reflective journey and continued on my way to my morning yoga class…