I have a similar theory about negativity as I do about guilt.
. There have been some sleepless nights, kids with tummy troubles combined with other added stressors, all layered onto of the fact that we’ve gone ahead and taken our home apart in order to swap our tv room and our art room…voluntarily swapping furniture, repairing drywall, changing mouldings, and painting, you know, in our spare time.
Anyone who knows me, knows that my love of order and my incapability of maintaining it are my largest struggles. I’m a woman on a mission of self-sabotage. I’ll organize any given room only to leave a stack of things to sort ‘later’, which of course never comes. “Why is there so much S&*! laying around! I’ll curse.”
I drive myself crazy.
I love to collect treasures for making projects, shiny rocks and shells from trips, fabrics from old clothing to repurpose, buttons and metal beads, small boxes and containers to sort and organize all of these beautiful bits into.
But clutter suffocates me. Ugh.
So you can imagine, how much I love having the entire contents of our Tv room in the main, open concept part of the house. It’s something that I can’t put into words, the heaviness it brings me. I suspect it’s partly because of how dark a room feels with too much furniture in it. I mean, I value some of the concepts of fengshui– I like my chi to flow, but it’s also just that life is trickier with three guitars in the main part of the house and a toddler who is delighted to find a hammer on the kitchen table at breakfast.
All in all, these are insignificant problems, and I’m aware of this. Last night I finally had a chance to unload all of this stuff, bouncing around in my brain, threatening to explode like fiery, hot lava. I felt a release, and a deep sense of gratitude for my husband’s unacknowledged suggestions.I was there, I heard them, likely shot them down, only to wake up this morning, feeling as though they were my own.
I put a plan into place and took action this morning.
The thing about negativity is that it spreads like wildfire. It’s as contagious as the flu. Anyone within listening distance is the next victim. With six people under one roof, that’s a hard cycle to break, so I reminded myself that these unhappy feelings have the power to push me forward, that I have to do something about them.
Sure, I could sit in my misery (pass me that tub of ice cream!), as I have now for several days, or I could put on my big girl pants, grab a ball peen hammer, laugh like a twelve year old when I learn its name, and begin working on the drywall.
So that’s exactly what I did.
My nemesis is my need to ‘catch up’
” I’ll be happier when I’m caught up on ________________________(organizing the toys, the kitchen, sorting photos on my laptop, our math work, renovating). It’s a trap I catch myself in frequently.
I realized a while back, after five + years of parenting, that I was chronically uncaught up on the laundry. It felt as though it had been a lifetime since I had seen the bottom of the basket. “Just one more load”, I’d say to myself, only to forget about that last load in the wash, which always calls for a soak and rewash the following day. Sigh. “Just two more loads until I can feel a complete and total sense of control over my world”.
I’ve even tried this thing where I did a load every day, regardless of sorting, so that I was always ‘caught up’. Until it hit me……EVERYONE WAS STILL WEARING THE CLOTHES!
So….I, after many failed attempts ( small fabric-induced panic attacks), gave up trying to play laundry- catch- up, and since I just couldn’t picture the six of us willingly living our lives in the nude (considered it, likely wouldn’t convince the entire family), I chose to accept that there will always be dirty laundry.
Years have passed since that mindset change. I now wash the kid’s laundry and my own once a week because that’s how long it takes for us to acquire a load per person (Papa Bear tackles his laundry and Big Brother has been doing his own since he felt that it was easier to put clean, folded clothing in the hamper rather than in drawers). I also gave up sorting. Yep.
After a child’s laundry migrates from the dryer, it stays in their corresponding basket, and I fold one load a night. That’s it. No rocket science. No pressure. No empty baskets. I should also say, that although I’m nervous to admit this publicly, this brilliant idea was, in fact, my husband’s. I should have listened years ago honey….take it while you can.
I find this laundry lesson has spilled into other parts of my life. I grocery shop when the food is gone, rather than every few days to keep things stocked. I clean the floors when they are dirty, rather than preventatively. I clean the kitchen while making dinner, even though we’ve messed it up all day long. And finally, my most brilliant plan is that we all clean our home together on Sunday nights, for just an hour, before the week begins. I used to spend everyday trying to ‘keep up’ only to find myself drowning in an endless list.
Perfection isn’t possible.
Just a woman wearing clothes, enjoying the journey,
Today, I was planning to be super mom. The kids had asked for a trip into the woods to have tea by the fire. They could have asked for a movie or for candy, but they asked for the very things I’ve tried to encourage in their lives, a love of fresh air, adventure, and water infused with nourishing herbs, so I said yes!
I packed up a bag of tricks– firewood, kindling, dry newspaper. I dug out matches which never seem to be in the same place in our house. I even made the hot tea and brought along four mugs. After dressing our toddler in layers of outerwear, tucking in 6 mittens and boots, and pulling on my winter-onesie (and then leaning over to tuck in my own boots while still breathing), we headed outdoors, only to be greeted by a mound of snow, blocking our usual way to the woods.
This hill has served as a great joy to the kids these past few days, but I cursed it as I tried to move around the pile with a small child on a sled, who, I might add, was wailing for fear of tipping over. As I stepped into the knee-deep snow, dog leash in one hand, sleigh rope in other, and sack of tricks over shoulder, I began to feel the anger rise in my belly.
I knew then, that if I proceeded with AWESOME MOM PLAN, I’d just be miserable, trying to create the picture in my head, trying to please everyone, but ultimately pleasing no one.
And then I felt guilty. Guilty for saying yes and then going back on my word. Guilty for not being determined enough. Guilty for needing help to accomplish this plan. Until I realized that all of these negative emotions were bubbling to the surface in the form of guilt so that I could avoid taking responsibility for their messages, so that I didn’t have to ask myself why I was being so hard on myself. It’s much easier to think I’m being selfless.
Here’s what I’ve learned…guilt holds us back by disguising our own sadness as sadness for someone else, sneakily avoiding our own unhealed pain. Then it allows us to stay hurt, to be complacent in our own healing. With this realization, I’ve started following up the flood of guilt with the question, ‘well what am I going to do about it?’.
That’s when I turned to the kids, and said, “Guys, I’m not going to lie. I really wanted to go to the woods today with you, but I think I’m just going to be grumpy. This is a trip that requires another grownup for help. Maybe we could try again another time. Could we go for a walk and have tea on the porch instead?” There was some small talk that followed. They offered to help, to carry more things, but then, they too, saw what I did…a long path, a lot of snow, and of course, there was the screaming toddler.
And so we walked. Quietly, pleasantly, guilt-free, down our clean laneway.
The tea was nice too.
It’s early in the morning. The kind of early I spent my entire childhood and young adult years dreading. I drag myself out of my warm, cocooned nest and thump down the stairs, in spirit, since doing so in actual reality would likely wake the littles.
I stumble into the front room and roll out my yoga mat. Its familiar click onto the floor reminds me of a simpler time when my eyes were less tired and my hair less grey. Even if I just lay here, I think to myself, I’m further ahead than I have been. And with these words, I provide myself the comfort that comes from a lack of self-imposed pressure. I’ll just fold into child’s pose and see where this goes. Before I know it, my body is remembering the sequences of movement that provided my peace and guidance years ago…when I had time to make for self care.
All of my expertise in this area stems from a consecutive 2 days of daily exercise, meditation, and fresh air, and 9+ years of neglecting myself. I have ample experience in being too busy, in forgetting my value, something that can easily occur while providing care around the clock for others.
It is true that there are times when life gets in the way. In my case, young children mean that care for myself comes only when there is time. When our babies are very young, often the care of myself means making time to eat and to sleep while they do. The problem I’ve always run into is that this doesn’t help my spirit to thrive. Often, I spend those first 2 years in survival mode, despite the cultural belief that by 3 months, 6months, 12 months, everything should be back to normal.
Although Sparrow’s timely step towards that two-year-old mark has played a role in my ability to carve out a small piece of time for my own care, it has been a deeper understanding of self-worth that has truly lit my fire within for growth. When I remind myself that I am valuable, that I am worth a few minutes, that I am more important than the laundry being folded (though those menial tasks are valuable to me and my wellness), I begin to feel successful.
This isn’t to say that I feel that I am worthless. I have a good life. I’m a good person. I like myself a healthy amount. I’m not saying that I feel as though I lack value, but I realized that my actions were telling me this. Too many times I’d wait until I finished cleaning the kitchen before I’d take a simple bathroom break. I felt I didn’t ‘need’ new clothes because there was always something more ‘important’ for us to spend our money on. Always. I had convinced myself that I couldn’t relax until all of the work was done, so I never relaxed. I’m worthy of a break.
So Hey You! Person reading this blog of mine.
- Thanks. It feels nice to know my thoughts aren’t being ignored
- You are valuable and deserving of good things. Cut yourself some slack
Mother of Hays
I’ve been trying to put a little extra into our mornings lately.
Anyone who knows me well, knows how resistant I’ve been to becoming a ‘morning person’. For some, they put off their minivan purchase until trying everything shy of strapping the eldest to the roof racks, but for me, waking up early is my last cling to my pre-motherhood days.
But, like so many areas of my life, I’m working on it.
I was lucky enough to convince our first two children to sleep in, but currently there are weeks at a time where my total consecutive hours of sleep, land somewhere between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours. I feel this in my body and my mind, and I can fully understand how sleep deprivation could be used as a form of torture. No amount of ‘you’ll miss this later’ will ever smooth the raw edges left by sleep-debt, and I can assure you, that of all the things I will miss after our children flee the nest, lack of hours in dreamland will not be one of them.
In spite of all of this, my latest mission has been to start the day off on the right foot. If you have read this post here, you’ll know how deeply I miss those morning moments before the house rises, when I can sort out the tangled web in my mind. Since this is no longer a possibility, in this age of toddlerus-sprintus, I just….get up. My eyes pop open the minute his little toes touch down, and mine are right behind his.
Typically, we make our way to the kitchen where we put the kettle on and begin a morning project. Fall fills my soul with an urge to create, nest, and nurture, whether or not I have to corresponding energy, so we’ve been really working on our breakfast game.
As each child rises, I’m mindful of how I greet them. I could grumble and launch into a lecture; I could look at them with discontent. But Granny says some version of “it means a great deal to a child if, when they walk into a room, they are not looked upon with disappointment, even if we are well-intentioned in the long run.” And she’s brilliant, so I’m working on it.
Ultimately, we are all more eager to listen and even comply when we feel respected, so I say good morning with love and what I hope looks like genuine happiness, even if I wish I were sleeping.
One last thing I’ve learned through this 3rd and final bout of sleeplessness, is that how we start our day is important. It’s the edge from which we jump into the next many, many, many, many, hours of the day, and if our children wake up feeling special and loved, and if I wake up giving that to them, it’s easier to pass around some positive energy, rather than spending the day trying to reclaim it.
It’s interesting, how we often don’t realize the need for a change until one is thrown upon us….
This post began as a quaint account of our day, until I realized there was something else nagging at me to be shared….
You see, I’ve been reading a lot about being imperfect, which is fitting, since we are all created this way, so you may be able to relate.
I’ve realized how many things I avoid tackling, for fear of what they may not become, and I can’t help but wonder how many of us stopped creating, around the time we began to grow breasts or speak with a crackle in our voice? If you didn’t stop, perhaps you became increasingly self-critical.
I’ve wondered how many times I’ve confused striving to be better with being perfect enough to avoid pain and hardship, and I’ve wondered how many times I’ve missed out on a truly joyful experience or an opportunity for growth because of it.
I’ve thought about all of the times that I found myself lashing out, or perhaps weeping alone because I simply wasn’t good enough.
Until I began to question what enough might look like.
And so I began the quest of seeking out role models. If I wasn’t good enough, then I must be able to find someone else who was. Only then, I found myself to be incredibly lonely, since it seems that no one met the very specific criteria I had chiselled out for myself.
Could it be that this person does not exist?
This is a question I honestly asked myself, and I have to admit that this step took me about four years of self-discovery to answer.
And then I thought long and hard about all of the people I have put up on pedestals, only to be hurt and disappointed upon realizing that they, too, are not perfect.
Where am I now you ask?
I’ve made the discovery that most of my successes are modelled after traits of people I admire. I’ve realized that mentors have been the most valuable teaching tool for me, a most wonderful treatment. Let’s be clear that no mentor will possess all of the skills or traits I’m looking for, and I’ve reached a point where I am okay with this.
Because there are so many lessons to be learned from so many people, I’ve taken to looking at myself as the end result of a recipe, with each trait I admire as one of the ingredients. Sometimes, I add the baking soda at the wrong time, or I stir too much, and my recipe falls flat, but I’m working on the ingredient of self-love , and that’s the jar that’s always the most difficult to locate.
Today we fled from here as quickly as possible. I’ve been at home with the children for many days while PapaBear is working some extra seasonal work, and I’ve grown weary of being the only ‘at home’ parent. The messes are constant and always the same, and the daily meals are less interesting without his company around the table at night. Sometimes, it takes leaving our home to appreciate its order upon our return.
The old adage, absence makes the heart grow fonder, really sits with me these days. This isn’t my first rodeo/ orchard season; in fact, it’s about my sixth. Yes, parenting alone is difficult (single mothers, I salute you), but it’s really just being without my other half that makes life seem less colourful.
I was raised in the age of gurrlpower! I heard the shouts of the Spice Girls, and I took the mandatory self-defence course in high school, which entailed a sweaty man, twice my age, pinning me to the ground, so that I could fight my way out from under him. Although the intentions were decent, I received many mixed messages about being female. I should look hot.I should do all things alone,and I should be careful in doing both of those together, or I’d be sorry. And lastly, needing a man would make me weak.
So it seems strange to me that I ended up here, in a place where I have a husband who I lean on openly, and who I can admit to ‘needing’. We’ve grown together as partners. We’ve created this life together…one that reflects parts of each of us, but ultimately encompasses the us we’ve become together. After all, I was born from the same dirt, rather than from his rib.
Unlike the cultural teachings of my youth, I don’t do it all myself ‘just in case it doesn’t work out’, and I like it this way. I’m no less of a powerful woman because I feel better having him by my side, because I require his help (yep, I said it), or because I have changed while standing beside him. In turn, we learn to communicate, to trust, to respect,to nurture…
beautiful things can happen in partnership…and I’ll tell you….“it’s what I want, what I really really want”
…I couldn’t help myself.