A few months ago, I bought a Groupon for housecleaning. My plan was to use it when I moved out of my old place, but at that point they were still swamped with clamoring Grouponeers, so I had to do it myself.

I decided instead to use it as part of my end-of-semester recovery plan. Last Thursday's spa visit helped me recuperate and re-illuminate a bit of my inner self; today, the magical cleaning elves came and polished up my living quarters.

I'm not a complete disaster at housekeeping, but there's no denying that by the end of the semester I'm in triage mode. I can just about handle the bare minimum of daily upkeep: dishes washed, bed made, key surfaces wiped down, clutter more or less contained. The litter box is emptied regularly, and I always have clean underwear.

I can't really guarantee any more than that.

This semester has been compounded by my various health issues and an off-the-charts level of stress. I have many years of practice dealing with the pressures of deadlines and expectations, but these days my job is a major source of anxiety on multiple fronts. I don't think it's a coincidence that my body is choosing now to signal its displeasure.

Stress, anxiety, and chronic fatigue don't make it easy to tackle major chores. At the same time, I find it really does a lot for my peace of mind to live in a pleasant environment. This wasn't always the case--I was rather infamous, deservedly, in college (and, let's be honest, well beyond) for being both messy and oblivious. But I think I just didn't quite grasp what a difference it makes to live otherwise. Now, I do. To top things off, it rained most of the weekend (always a welcome event in the desert), which was lovely except for the fact that the roof sprung a leak. This is an old building, built in the 1960s, a small single-story complex. So that roof leak expressed itself by dripping straight through the light fixture in the spare room, filling most of a large-ish bucket with brackish water and seeping through the wall into my bedroom. This just added to my sense of household grunginess.

My plan was to have a hair appointment, but there was a miscommunication with my stylist, so I had to reschedule. That left me with some time to kill outside the apartment while the elves worked their mojo. So I treated myself to lunch, and then did some Christmas shopping. I picked up a few very shiny things for people who have made this awful year a little less awful.

Giving gifts to acknowledge people's specialness is another thing I wish I could do more often. It feels a bit like scrubbing parts of my soul that have gotten a bit grimy while I've spent so much time wrapped up in my own problems. Like cleaning a window, and remembering how nice it is to have an unmarred view of the light. And that there's stuff on the other side.

As a result, and maybe a little bit thanks to the cleansing rains, today everything seemed to gleam more than usual. Not just inside, and not just in my mind and spirit, but even the city and the people around me. There was a shimmer in the air that I haven't seen for a while. I came home after the cleaners had left, and sighed in pleasure at the glow of a freshly cleaned space.

Everything is easier to face when there's a bit of sparkle.