Deep Cleaning

There are two ways to clean a room or a house: surface and deep.

You can straighten up piles of stuff, get rid of obvious dirt, vacuum, dust and do dishes, but when you open your closets or kitchen drawers, they’re stuffed with junk, clutter and crap. Lift up the carpet and you’ll find years of dust and crud.

Or if you have time and like a truly clean environment, you can start at the bottom of things, organize all the drawers and closets, throw away or find a home for what’s not utilitarian to you and end up with a home that when you look at, know is clean through and through.

To do that (deep clean), we often need to first make a bigger mess than the one we had before while we sift through stuff, organize, make decisions and then create order out of the chaos.  When we finish, it’s much easier to maintain a clean home because the old adage reigns:  there’s a place for everything and everything is where it belongs.

Many people, including me, use house-cleaning as a metaphor for personal inventories and staying current with our emotions, relationships and belief systems.  If you’re reading this blog, likely you’re someone who wants a clean, well-organized home – both the physical structure we live in and the body – emotions, mind and soul – that house us throughout our lifetime.

As we spend more time growing, we have more events to organize and deal with the impact from in our lives – divorces, breakups, loss, betrayals and other nasty goings-on that we’ve come to call “learning experiences.”  We find and share with others ways to reorganize our lives, deal with our emotions and then reframe our pasts in such a way that we’re no longer victims – of Life, other people, and especially ourselves.

The longer we’ve been consciously seeking to live decent and moral lives, lives that don’t hurt others or ourselves, the more we have a filing system for events that take place and the emotions that result from them.  We develop systems for dealing with the pain, sadness, grief and fear that come attached to life events.  We feel and release our emotions because we want to stay clear and in balance.  Doing this, we believe, allows us to make the best decisions possible now and in our future.

It sounds good on paper. But the one emotion that I’ve yet to find an adequate filing cabinet, a means of organization for or even a place to put it is the pernicious, vengeful and sometimes downright evil events that transpire and the anger I feel as a result of them.

“What have you been so edgy about,” my roommate asked recently.

“I’ve got all this anger and I have no place to go with it,” I said.  “The people I’m angry at are waltzing around far enough away from me that likely I won’t encounter them again. I don’t have an opportunity to tell them how furious I am, how their behavior impacted me and I don’t have the ability or power to insist that they make these situations right.”

My voice quavered slightly and I could tell I had slid into that place where we’re so damn angry we cry.  We’re livid, outraged and incensed and have to place to go with it.

I don’t want these emotions inside me.  I don’t want to take them out on innocent bystanders.  I also don’t want to turn the emotions inward and take them out on myself.

Now this is rhetorical, which means all of you loving and caring people don’t need to rescue me or solve this problem for me.  I know about getting an air bat or using our hands and beating a pillow.  I know about primal scream therapy.  I know that exercise helps.   But the pillow didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t want to hit it.

I don’t want to break dishes.

I don’t want to punish people who didn’t do anything to me.

I do understand why some people have the experience we label “going postal.”  The person who receives the result of all this unresolved anger had nothing to do with it; he or she was just the person  who happened to be there when all the anger we’ve stuffed into utility drawers, hid under the carpet and crammed into our closets finally emerged.

Exploded may be more like it.

We live in a society that’s now legislated anger.  If we honk our horn while driving, likely we’ll end up in anger management class, which only ticks us off more.  If we dump on the person who we know violated us, the predator – not the victim – will often be the person protected by the law.

We can journal, see a therapist, tell a friend how we’re feeling but often these attempts to find release and redemption do not equal the level of fury we feel.

“Seek and ye shall find.”

I know each of us will find an answer to the anger dilemma — a safe and legal way to deal with and organize the anger we feel.  Not the surface irritation, but the deep rage bubbling inside us that we feel on our way to forgiveness, acceptance and peace.

To forgive too soon causes cancer.

Often, the subtle awareness and consciousness of such a dilemma as this means we’re closer than we realize to finding a solution – one that works for us and doesn’t hurt other people, even the ones we may fantasize about hurting.

Those who have read my writing for any length of time know I don’t have many rules, but the ones I adhere to are:  don’t hurt yourself or others, and don’t let people harm you.  I do not advocate violence and I oppose the death penalty.  Dying isn’t punishment.

I’m deliberately leaving this blog open-ended.  Remember its title?  Living in the Mystery.

This subject fits into that category.

It’s not wrong to feel anger but harboring it can have consequences we may not prefer. I want the peace we find to be the kind that results from deep, not surface, cleaning.

If over the course of the next three days or nights you hear a strange, pulsating scream, one that shakes your home similar to the way a 3.2 earthquake would but you check online and no earthquake occurred, don’t worry.  You’ll know I found my answer.

I got my anger out.

From the desk of Melody Beattie

October 2, 2012


  1. Kathy

    Hi, I am at home recuperating from eye surgery and alone for the first time in a long time. My husband is finally working. Now I can have the privacy to read and write whatever I want. Daily I read “Journey to the Heart” and have done so since 1997. The book is very tattered and yellow. It even fell in the toilet once. Luckily the toilet was flushed. I came across this blog. It really hit home. I think I have been deep cleaning for the last few months not only drawers, closets, etc., but from within. I have finally realized I am a co-dependent. I became worried this summer I was turning into an alcoholic. I am a child of alcoholics. I married an alcoholic (he denies). I believe 3 of the 4 children have alcohol and drug issues. In fact, #3 got a second DUI this past March (St. Patrick’s Day). I have come to the conclusion that it is time to end this farse of a relationship after I read a saying on fb, something to the effect: If someone in your life makes you more miserable than happy and despite how much you love them, it is time to let them go. Sitting here with a lot of time on my hands and able to take advantage of this alone time, this verse is soooo true. I have read and reread the web pages on co-dependency, ACOA and AA. At one time, I went to ACOA meetings weekly, and even sometimes twice weekly. I was finally realizing how I had formed such patterns. I then met my husband. He wanted to go to a meeting. After the meeting he replied and said he could not believe all these made up stories. Of course, I was hurt, but the co-dependent I was, I quit going to the meetings. That was 20+ years ago and what a big mistake. Here I am again trying to find myself and to finally find happiness. Just wanted to thank you for your books and I listened to your story. The one thing I really got from it, and I truly need to do, is forgive my mother though she has been gone for a few years. Thanks again for your inspiration. Kathy

  2. K

    Hi Melody, When I found your reply to my comment, I was surprised. I have never imagined that a famous writer like you would take some time to write me back. I am happy to see your reply; especially because I am extremely lonely now. Loneliness comes from that I have left all the people I’ve known because they are abusers, as you left all the people you knew because they were chemical dependent. I hope to go to the Grief Club to feel less pains from this loneliness. Before going there, I have some questions. If somebody posts a message on the Grief Club website, does the copyright belong to that person? If so, what can somebody do in case somebody else reprint somebody’s comment on other websites or on their publication without taking his/her permission? Hope you are writing your book well, and would answer my questions only when you have time.

  3. Anna

    Melody, Since I first started to read Codependent No More, I felt a sense of relief to know that I wasn’t alone; that what I was felt was real and that others had been there and succeeded in pulling themselves out of it. Still, I haven’t managed to finish this book, or to be able to live how I want or change anything. I am codependent at it’s purist, and I don’t want to be anymore. To take a quote from you, “I don’t want these emotions inside me. I don’t want to take them out on innocent bystanders. I also don’t want to turn the emotions inward and take them out on myself. Now this is rhetorical, which means all of you loving and caring people don’t need to rescue me or solve this problem for me. I know about getting an air bat or using our hands and beating a pillow. I know about primal scream therapy. I know that exercise helps. But the pillow didn’t do anything wrong and I don’t want to hit it. I don’t want to break dishes. I don’t want to punish people who didn’t do anything to me.” But I do..everyday. I read your blogs and stories and cry because it’s like you’re reading my mind word for word, when for so long I’ve felt alone and unheard. I just want to let it be able to love and care for the ones I hold dearest in the world, but those are the ones I hurt the most. I am close to losing everything, my marriage, kids and job, all because I haven’t figured out how to just do it. I tell myself that I can, but something (which is almost always nothing at all) sets me off and my hope goes out the window. Then starts the evil cycle of my unfulfilled life. I have just seen my mom for the first time in 5 years (2nd time in 8 years) and it has brought up a lot of emotions that I’m not sure I’m ok to deal with right now, though I know that is part of my much needed healing process. I want to start your book again and try to let go this hate and anger. I know I least some part of me knows it.. deep down.. You have been a huge inspiration to me and I pass along your message to anyone that I can.

  4. Anna

    So Melody, I wrote before about not being able to face my mom and my past. I think that is exactly what I need to do to heal. The only problem is that my mom finally succumbed to her fight with addiction last July and died from an overdose. Not sure how to deal with it over a year later. The only time I find solace is listening to music and writing, and both bring me to tears constantly. I am far away from being whole, not being sure that I have ever been in my short life. How do I let go when I can’t say the things I want to her and the things I said when she was here should never have been said?

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