Mabon 2017

I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I was catching up with myself, and I feel so much closer now, like I have it at times.

But it still takes a big push here and there, and periods of climbing and climbing, balancing, juggling. Layering each accomplishment on top of another there and trying not to let them all fall, because the work I am doing now is training new habits, new routines, new rituals.

I’ve never accomplished much with spring cleaning. Sometimes I feel the urge a bit, but after a long winter, when the air grows warm and I can see green again I just want to go outside and play.

But the fall is another story.

Before I settle in for winter I do a lot of space clearing, in preparation for being nestled in with nowhere else to go for months and months.

Now on Mabon, on this Autumn Equinox, I am seven months pregnant, in the thick of a magical undertaking and some personal transformations, and I am following the seasons so much more closely.

And leading up to this day I’ve spent a lot of time and energy pushing to get to the bottom of the clutter in the house. Pushing to get to the bottom of my reluctance to wash the dishes and fold the clothes. Pushing to find my balance between time and space for myself and serving the people I love, and myself, with actions of home making full of care and attention.

I’ve gotten so much done, compared to the mayhem that used to creep in whenever I let my guard down months, years past, I now feel like I do not have much more catching up to do. I can maintain while I finish the last little details. And I really feel like I can keep it up this time.

But I am so tired. So worn down, I’ve worked so hard. And while I appreciate the result of my efforts in the state of my home at least, on this day of thankfulness I found myself feeling a lot of lack that surprised me.

I realize I have not tended my friendships like I used to, perhaps before I had kids, and I have difficulty now reaching out to others when I need them, or having them serendipitously show up at the right time. It’s a bit like we’re all a little distracted by our own whirlwinds.

And I haven’t been the most patient, the most encouraging with my kids lately, pushing them to just fall in line with what is easier for me, and I felt the fallout from that today, too.

I was so excited to celebrate my own harvest, to share the merriment with my family and friends. But I noticed a lot of what I didn’t do instead.

And I suppose along with counting my blessings, which I still intend to do as I think it is so important and I know they are many, I need to listen to all that is creeping out of my shadows to be heard. As the days grow shorter than the nights from here on, I need to work with the hidden and hurt parts of myself, my fears and my failures, just as much as I need to bask in my achievements and the luck I’ve had.

So that’s my wish for myself tonight, and for you too should you want it – that we may find the balance between the pleasures and the pain in our lives. That we may see the value in the challenges and mistakes as well as in the success and the comforts. That we may recognize and accept both sides as they appear to us, without undue judgement or avoidance.

I wish that we may be open to the wonder that is there for us to enjoy, and that we be open to experiencing our sorrows as well, without getting stuck there.

I wish you all the best as you turn into your own cozy dens of winter, and I so look forward to emerging refreshed and inspired once again in the spring.

Blessed be!

To Bend or Break: a Pause

Greetings to you strange friends and friendly strangers! I took a bit of a break from my decluttering extravaganza. I spent some days catching up on other things that needed my attention and tried to include myself in that!

I feel like I have been through a bit of a whirlwind. Time is passing quickly. I still sometimes feel like I have so far to go, so much to do, but I can see more tangibly now what I have accomplished in even a short time lately, and that feels so good.

We’ve been working on establishing a bona fide bedtime routine, and we’re not quite at the sleep time I would most appreciate, but it is so much better than it was and still seems to be shifting earlier, ever so slowly. Without much strain I guess, now that the kids are usually asleep before I get too burnt out.

There are times when I decide something is really important and I just put all of my energy into it, even when it doesn’t come naturally or when it seems like a big effort. I just give it everything I have and try to make it happen. Go through the motions and strain myself to get as close to the mark as I can. And when I’m doing that and I experience any set back, any delay or any complication, it feels so awful.

And I’ve had some nights lately where I sat in the dark for over an hour waiting for a child to stop squirming and fall asleep. Nights when I didn’t want to read any stories by the time we started. Nights where I didn’t want to nurse at all, but tried to offer it as long as I could possibly stand to buy an easier transition into sleep, to be able to walk away a little sooner. Nights where I was hoping to catch up on the dishes, on my studies, on some quiet project or another after the kids were asleep, but found myself so exhausted by that time that I couldn’t do anything meaningful at all.

It’s part of that perpetual cycle I find myself in, always feeling like I am catching up or making up for something, never quite finished. Wanting to focus on one thing at a time, but feeling unable to prioritize. Because when I am going through clothes to donate, the dishes pile up. When I’m cleaning up the kitchen, toys and books are getting dumped out. When I’m cleaning up the play areas, a wall somewhere is getting colored on. When I’m working away at something stained or broken, the kids get too hungry and start fighting. When I’m making lunch, they want my attention. When they have my attention, the laundry piles up.

And there is this dance to it all, sometimes I’m paying attention to what is right in front of me and I take the right steps, things fall into place as well as they can and things are taken care of in time.

But sometimes, often really, the scope of it all is so overwhelming that I try to force things at the wrong time, or just can’t get moving on anything at all.

Management of our entire household is so full of details and nuances. I’ve been thinking a lot about the mental load of it lately. All that invisible work of noticing, analyzing, organizing, preparing, delegating. And there is so much to keep track of.

I haven’t felt particularly talented when it comes to rhythm and structure and getting chores done. I seem to have a lot of trouble finding the right way to schedule things for myself so there is time for everything. And I’ve largely been making up for this deficit I feel by focusing more and more on simplifying our lives. Trying to have less things, less demands so it is easier to get to the bottoms of every pile.

But the funny thing about simplifying, that is a task, too. That can be a chore. That can be a whole category of chores. A new set of tasks to check off, projects to manage.

This time around, as I’m decluttering I have noticed more regular tasks falling to the wayside and a bit of mess piling up. But it hasn’t been as bad as I might have feared. I do feel now that I am starting to see some actual space cleared, some actual relief of needless tension, and the feeling of being a little closer to being caught up with myself.

In taking a few days here to get some other cleaning done, I’m actually starting to feel happy and content about my house, my life again.

And with a trip planned this weekend, I’m not sure how fast I’ll get through the rest of the decluttering challenges. But I’ve made a big push and I can see that we are moving! I should be able to keep this all up over this next month as things slow down a bit for us again.

I do have another area half done to post soon upon completion! But I don’t feel like I need to pressure myself to push, push, push until all those rocks are over the mountain anymore. I have a lot more faith now that we can take care of everything in time! And that is such a relief.

I hope you are all well and feeling capable and comfortable out there! At least some of the time!

Pendulum Swings in Perfectionist Parenting

I’ve been reflecting a lot on what seems to be a boom and bust cycle I have been going through, in terms of parenting and households ambitions.

There are a lot of ideals I hold. I have been wanting to practice more discipline with myself, more regular cleaning, more rhythm and schedule to our days that we can feel more confident and content within. And I had so many ideas about what I should be doing – what kind of food I should be cooking, how present I should be, what kind of days I should be guiding the kids through.

And I have been having so much trouble pushing myself to be more productive in so many different areas at once. I would get some motivation, have some days without TV, wake up a bit earlier, get more time outside, have more regular meals. But I would burn out very quickly, feel like I was pushing just a little bit too hard. And instead of easing off into moderation, I would just slack off completely and we would have times of too much indulgence, too much distraction, too much mess. And any relief I might feel from giving up on trying so hard to live up to those expectations would soon be replaced by frustration about clutter, sticky floors, kids acting out after too much media, days gone by feeling like I hadn’t really done enough.

I still can’t be sure if my discomforts at those times of rest and leisure are because I really want and need more structure to function, or just because I feel like I am not good enough when we are eating commercial food, don’t have everything organized and cleaned, and aren’t having Pinterest-worthy days full of crafts and love and magic.

Since I got past my initial parenting phase of being way too tuned into my child and not having any interests or projects outside of her, I have felt bursting with ambition and creativity to work on my own things again. And that seems to be where I have the most trouble balancing my parenting goals with my personal ones – if I want to have adequate time and opportunity for self-care as well as creative expression and to pay attention to my own interests, it seems that I need to sometimes leave the tv on, or let the kids make a mess, or let my high standard of routine and cleanliness slide. But sometimes I let it slide just a little too far, finding I want to lose myself in my own work like I could before I had kids.

This brings me to notice the divide that still exists in me, between what I think of myself as an individual, and how I see myself as a parent. I would love to work to bridge those two aspects of myself, and find ways to live a magical and creative life as a parent, instead of feeling like I need to compartmentalize everything, and totally shirk off my responsibilities to do things that make me feel good.

I am working on finding a balance, here. I am trying to be more honest and more realistic with myself about what I really need to do, what I can do. And looking more at my particular skills. I really believe that I can have a lush creative life and be more present with my kids. As long as I am not spreading myself too thin in other areas, too!

So I’ve been easing off on the push to perfect all the crunchy, connected, spiritual parent things. Trying to worry less about accomplishing the external things that I have convinced myself that I need to do to be doing a good job at this. And I have let things slide just a bit too much into indulgence, it seems, but even though I would like to do just a little better than I seem to be right now, I have been open to having a lot more fun with my kids. I have been managing to keep the house and my kids from falling apart, and I’ve still been able to get involved with a lot of crafts, writing projects and social collaborations.

I am learning to trust that movements towards healthier eating and better schedules can happen for me, without me trying to work them all out and force them to happen. But for now, I am learning to be content with my own gifts, and my own challenges, and am noticing the ways in which I am still appreciated and valued. And the ways that I appreciate and value myself! As a creative, mindful parent. As a sort of philosophical writer. As a friend, a partner, a family member.

I’ll be sharing a lot more of this journey as it develops. It is still hard for me to feel like I don’t seem to have things under control. But trying to act as if I do, to put on that show is a lot harder. And I much prefer being in the swing of things. I am really excited to see how this might work for us!