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Imagining Possible Perceptions

I run a small cleaning business. I love it. I take pride in my work and would believe that there is no one alive who can clean quite as well as I do, nor do it half as artistically (I feel there is great art in my methodology). I adore most of my clients, and the ones who I don't like all that much I still find fascinating story fodder. 
And so, bad reviews wound my pride. Unhappy clients make me cry. And really mean clients . . . ah, but then it really isn't those specific clients that make me feel awful, but all the things going on in life besides, and somehow this outward thing is what allows me to break. 
It's never the work that we truly hate or love, after all. It's everything else. 
I'm not sure what was going on that day, but my spirit was already in a frazzled state. One moment I was laughing, confidently entertaining a bunch of people. The next moment I was looking for some small corner to hide away in for just a few moments, to breathe, to close my eyes. Back and forth. That sort of day. 

I'd been saying for some time that I wanted to let a few clients go. I've just been overwhelmed with a bit too much work that was cutting negatively into my social life, and even just my solitary life. One of my regulars messaged, "We've decided to start cleaning our own home. Thank you so much for your sweet presence, and we hope you have a lovely home."

I was a bit sad, naturally. I did love these people. But . . . one less client would free me up. I didn't take it personally. I knew this wasn't about me. Possible a financial decision? Who knew. I let myself be sad, but not feel as if I'd failed somehow. 

Five minutes later I received another text from some unknown number. "Hello, I have a cleaning question for you." 

Not a typical "Hello, we're looking for a cleaner." A bit weary, I replied, "Yes?" 

I received a rather aggravated text. I'd cleaned their house last week, it said, and hadn't done a good job. Windows weren't done, and they'd had to redo the fridge and stove. Would I give them credit?

Although I let the message get to me, I'm glad to report that I kept my head. Calmly, trying to be respectful but firm despite feeling overwhelming depression rise, I answered that I did not normally do windows, that professional window cleaners did those, but could he remind me which house was theirs so I could better inform him about the other issues? 

He let me know I'd cleaned a move-out for his wife last week. 

I remembered them right away. I love move-outs. Lots to be cleaned and little junk to have to work around. But this last house had been a little hard to fit into my schedule. I almost didn't. I was able to squeeze them in and informed them that I might not be able to stay as long as needed. Three bathrooms, several bedrooms, walls, kitchen, floors, glass doors, (no windows obviously). I managed to make the house look decent in five hours. Probably could have given them six or seven for a thorough job. I explained that I did a quick job on the fridge and oven, but that they did get five hours of work out of me, and so I could not give them a refund. But I might be able to fit them in for a couple more hours the upcoming week if they wanted more work done. 

Only if I'd do it for free, was the reply. 

I almost said I would. But then decided against it. 

Then I received a rather passive-aggressive text letting me know that next time I clean for someone make sure to give them plenty of time. 

Needless to say, I let this eat at me for a couple days. I did my best to reply gently. But perhaps there was truth in their accusations. Perhaps I wasn't really the best cleaner out there. Maybe I'd just stop cleaning. Start cleaning less. Never take a last-minute client on again, no matter how much they seemed desperate and I felt I had time. 

And then I was like, "Why am I letting this tear me down? Why am I not focusing on that really sweet text I got from a different move-out client?" 

"Hi Keturah, I just wanted to commend you on the awesome job you did on Quasar in L--. That was a big project and you provided so much relief for many parties. Nice work." 
(This place had taken twelve hours. And yes, I'd felt pride upon completion). 

Why wasn't I focusing on this wonderful accomplishment? I knew I'd done a quick job, but also efficient, decent work better than your average cleaner. Why was I so bothered? Why? 

I wasn't really bothered. I was just exhausted, and my emotions needed something to blame for the whirlwind of stress. 

I was annoyed that the husband had texted me, and that he'd done so days after the job was finished. Why hadn't the wife told me anything? As I stepped away from my emotions and started questioning the situation, I started to wonder, "Was this really about me and my work? or was there something deeper at play?" 

My imagination began to tick. Perhaps she wasn't married to a very nice man. Perhaps they were stressed and had a lot going on. He was mad at her about something. One of them was a perfectionist. Little things blew them up. The fridge. 

"I thought you hired a cleaner?"
"I did." 
To save herself, she gave him my number and he harassed me. Or perhaps he was saving his skin because she was harassing him first. Either way, there was a tension, a squabble. I was the focal point, but only to redirect unresolved stress. It wasn't about me or my work. There was some greater pain stirring up the agitation. 

And so, I no longer felt so bad for myself, but rather sorry for them. I wondered if there was abuse, if there was love, or if they were just trying to pull a scam. Really my work wasn't so bad as to deserve credited cleaning. Ah. Whether I was to feel sorry for them or roll my eyes at it all, who cared. My imagination could concoct a million different quite possible stories. But they all lead me to the same place: It wasn't about me, and my work was just fine. 

And to prevent future depression from such silly things, it was time to get to the root of my own issues and stresses, face them head-on, and realize that they, too, weren't really about me, but could be let go of and smiled at. 

So it went. So it's going. 
And now I'm free to enjoy purely the nice messages and not let the meaner ones bother me quite as much. Who knows what provokes people? Just as long as I am granted grace to not further inflict those provocations further, I think I can let it all be and not worry over it. 

Do you like imagining others' perceptions? I do think it's a healthy hobby, though every once in a while I'll imagine someone into complete innocence, then be like, "You know? It is my right to be angry at this person until they make a point to prove they didn't mean this as a personal attack. My imagination shall not justify their actions." 
I had this thought recently. I laughed, and so the anger slipped away all the same. 


  1. Ugh this sounds really frustrating to deal with. I do try to see things from other people's perspective but it is hard.

    1. Yeah it is frustrating. I guess I should try harder. I just happened to do it this time ;D


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