The Zen of Chandelier Cleaning

How odd to notice
My hands channeling my mom:
Sweet inheritance.
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I have many memories, only some of them fond, of helping my mom clean the gi-normous chandelier that hung in the hallway of the home I grew up in. Once a year or two, she would devote an entire day to cleaning the beast, usually a few weeks preceding Thanksgiving. Here is a picture of a chandelier like it.

A83-52/2MT/24+1  Maria Theresa CHANDELIER Chandeliers, Crystal Chandelier, Crystal Chandeliers, Lighting

Mom would do half at a time, so that she could use the other half as a template. There were at least 10 different prism designs (I would guess 250+ prisms?) and figuring out what went where was a nightmare. The process was long: Remove them to a bucket in stages.  Then, soak the crystals in ammonia and water to clean them before laying them out to dry, with some manual drying assistance. Then back to hang them up before starting the second half. To this day, I can’t smell ammonia without being instantly transported back to Rogers Avenue and a mind-numbingly long day up and down a 10 foot ladder (did I mention the ceilings were 12 feet tall?), nervous the whole time I would drop something.

I have a crystal chandelier in my house, a marriage of two small ones that once hung in that same house. Two and a half years ago when we moved in to our current home, I washed it with loving care… the kind of love present when you first clean things in your new home.  I enjoyed bringing it back to life, as it had been in a box for many years. Today I washed it again, but I discovered something that I hadn’t known before – not the first time I washed this one, nor in any of the times I helped my mom. There is something peaceful and zen-like when you wash a chandelier, and I enjoyed it very much.

I think the main cause of this is the fact that your attention must be 100% focused on what you are doing at that moment in time. Each prism has metal bits (sometimes several), that will snag your cloth easily and go flying away.  Getting each dry with no fingerprints requires dexterity (often carpal-tunnel-inducing). Wiping down the naked fixture, ensuring no dust or cleaner is left behind is a rigorous, meticulous affair. All done on a ladder, your arms raised.

And I loved it. I now feel at peace and satisfied at a job well done. I am sure my blood pressure is lower than when I started.  Granted, my chandelier is small, so I’m not sure this now Mom felt… Here is a picture of mine naked and dirty.

2012-12-26 14.54.41

It only has 72 crystals and 4 swags across its 8 arms and center pillar. Took me about 2-3 hours across the afternoon to complete the work.  Here it is clean and dressed:2012-12-26 16.57.08 

Beautiful! I had been avoiding cleaning it for a while, but next year I will remember how I feel now, and gladly set the time aside. It’s easy to forget the power of being present.

My 7 1/2 Minute Lesson

For how much longer
will his little hand seek mine,
earnestly, in love?
”””””””””””””””””””””’
At work today there was a celebration – a “thank you” for everyone for their hard work. One feature was free chair massages, and I happened into the room where they were set up just as a cancellation came in. Bonus! I got my massage straight away.

It was a very good one. She instantly found the knot in my shoulder-blade that keeps lighting off every time I lift my arm. She had a firm but gentle touch. I could hardly believe I was at work.

And then I started to worry… how long had she been at this…were my 15 minutes up yet… wait, was that a “wrap up” move… she’s working on my hands, that must mean she is almost done…damn, I wish this could go longer… 15 minutes is so short…I wonder if I can have another appointment…

And that’s how I ruined the chair massage. I spent half the time in my head asking myself all these questions and worrying about the next moment. I wasn’t enjoying the massage itself or how relaxed I was able to get. I was thinking and thinking and thinking.

In a flash of insight, I realized a terrible parallel and asked myself a question I didn’t want to answer: How much of my life do I spend not in the moment, enjoying the sensations, but “in the worry”, anticipating what’s next? The answer? A lot. And I’m not ruining chair massages with this worry, I’m missing the small, intimate moments with those I cherish most. I have worked a lot harder the last 3-4 months to be more present with my husband and kids. To not work through my “to do” list mentally while with them. To actually just hang out and watch TV and not also feel compelled to dust or straighten up at the same time.  To not ask about what’s next while in the middle of what’s now. It has been hard.  I’m not used to that level of intensity and focus (or, for that matter, self forgiveness for things not completed). I am the product of our times, addicted to moving from one thing to the next, not penetrating (with attention or action) any one thing very long. Or worse, I’m a guilt-ridden working mom trying to do a little of everything to seem like I’m able to handle it all.

But my 15 minutes in the chair helped me understand the tragedy of this. Here I was at a physical level, feeling the difference between a massage where I was present and one where I was worried — and the difference was astounding.  I grew sad that I never fully recognized how diminished my mental, emotional and/or spiritual engagement was in other situations where I was sacrificing my present focus.

I know I’ve been doing better, being more present, and yet I still have capacity for more.   I’ve decided I’m done ruining the metaphorical chair massages of every day life.

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