Saturday, June 12, 2010

Viewing a familiar space with “fresh eyes”

After living alone for several months, I have a housemate sharing my apartment. I will call him Majid. Majid is a young man in his twenties from Bangladesh. He completed his studies at the National University of Singapore a few months ago and then secured a Research Associate position at the Institute of Water Policy. Recently he learned that the apartment in which he had been living with four others would no longer be available. When attempts to find a lodging that he could afford proved fruitless, he sought assistance from the Institute of Water Policy’s Director. The Director knew that I was living alone in a spacious two bedroom, partially rent-subsidized, apartment and asked if I could help out. I was happy to do so.

One could not ask for a more accommodating housemate than Majid. He is proactively considerate, temperate and low-key. I knew he would accept whatever circumstances my apartment offered cheerfully. Yet as I contemplated his arrival I found that I was viewing my apartment with “fresh eyes.” My experience was analogous to the way we may view our houses before a dinner party. My mother used to say periodic entertaining is good because it provides motivation for a thorough house cleaning. When the Vice President for Campus Life is coming by my AU Anderson Hall apartment I look closely - and then vacuum the living room and kitchen; wash the bathroom floor; scrub the basin and toilet.

The day before Majid’s arrival, though I knew his standards would not be as exacting as the Vice President’s or my mother’s, I did the same sort of looking. There were spots of dirt on the white tile floors - I had not wet mopped for several days. The kitchen floor needed sweeping. Several waste containers were full. Some surfaces were cluttered. Succumbing to pressures of a workdays that begin in the early morning and end after 8 PM, I realized I had been too casual about daily cleaning and picking up. Entropy was encroaching. I postponed my trip to the office for two hours in order to vacuum, mop scrub and organize.

The experience reminded me that regularly viewing the circumstances of our daily lives with “fresh eyes,” whether those circumstances be our priorities, work life, living accommodations or especially relationships with other human beings, is always valuable. And we do not need the prospect of a guest in the house to do so.

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