When I started this blog, I wanted to choose a topic. I wanted to write about things that had a great relevance to my life, that meant something to me, things I am passionate about. Sexuality was an oft-proposed topic. I am very positive-sexuality oriented and a number of people were on my case to write from that perspective, and about my experiences with poly, with bdsm, etc. How could you work kink and parenting, who did you tell about your multiple relationships, all sorts of things. And yes, this was something I could go on about at length (as anyone who’s ever got me started about poly knows LOL!) But thinking about kink and parenting got me thinking about parenting, about cosleeping and natural childbirth, about breastfeeding, “extended” nursing, babywearing (aka slings), cooking for kids, free-range kids, all things I am wildly interested in as well (as anyone who’s heard Eva’s birth story on their first date with me can attest…) Thinking about feeding kids got me pondering cooking from scratch, essential spices in the pantry, “un”cooking aka raw food and green smoothies. That brought me to Craig Ballantyne and Turbulence Training and the Transformation Contest (all of which I learned about through Stumptuous, AMAZING site), which in turn got my mind on changing habits and routines and Flylady and housekeeping. Which links right back into everything else.
So in the end, I chose the title “Easier Than You Think” because I want to write about all these things which, in my mind, are so connected and which generally I feel get a bad rap as being “hard” when, well, they don’t have to be. Some of these things I grew up with and so didn’t struggle with overly, but for the most part they are all things I have changed about myself, my perspective and my approach to life over the years. So I know from experience that it’s not as hard, as daunting, as it can seem, and that even the stuff I am currently in mighty combat to change :p will in fact look pretty simple when I look back on it.
Which brings me to what’s on my mind today. These things all go together; teasing out “where to start” in a :LIFE: is not only silly but is pretty much impossible – a starting point can be anywhere. It’s all connected. For me, things fall apart first in my home, if something is not quite right in my mental state. Why is this? Well, probably because I grew up in a VERY messy household. Intelligence, curiosity, integrity, all sorts of things were valued…but cleanliness? Just wasn’t really high up on the list. Things suffered even more when my father – the homemaker, a quite unusual thing for the time, died unexpectedly when I was thirteen and my sister was ten, leaving my mother suddenly widowed with a new house we’d been in less than a year that she had no real idea how to care for, landlady responsibilities she had never signed up for, and OH did I mention my sister and I went through puberty the year after that…at the same time? (I apologize to my mother upon occasion for the whole puberty thing…) The house was atrocious, terribly horribly bad. But it was what I was used to, and though it may seem intuitive if you’ve grown up with it that way, there is “learning” in how to keep a house neat. Not just how to CLEAN it – that I excelled at, I could take the worst, most terrifying room, and get it spotless through an insane amount of work…I just couldn’t maintain it, I couldn’t KEEP it neat.
Over the years, I lived in my own place (sort of) with two roommates, and we battled over dishes and such. I discovered Flylady and overthought it instead of taking baby steps, I just wasn’t grokking the reason yet why you can’t fix everything in on fell swoop. I got married (to one of my former roommates), moved in with my inlaws for 9 insanely difficult months (suffice it to say, my mother-in-law grew up in EXACTLY the opposite situation as I did, cleanliness-wise, and even for that, it remarkably anal), and then my husband and new baby daughter and I moved to our own, totally independent place.
And there I struggled. My husband, having grown up in such a different way, was always on my case about the house, or so it seemed. I was working, and he was the one at home with the baby (no longer quite so unusual a choice), and even with that, I wasn’t keeping things clean enough for him (despite that he did most of the work). This caused so much tension that it led to our separation – he left me while I was pregnant with our second child. Now, the house was nowhere NEAR as crazy as it was when I grew up, but the constant fighting finally got to be too much for him. For my side, I couldn’t figure out what his issue was. I mean, he told me, but it didn’t make any sense. Meanwhile he wasn’t stellar either – among other things, he would splurge money that wasn’t “his” to spend, often putting us in difficult financial situations that should have been easily avoided.
We were separated for two years. How we got to a point of reconciling after that is a long story, and one worth telling in its own right, but a big part of it is that I finally figured out WHY he was upset. I finally understood one of his favorite sayings, one I just never :got: before: “A room is like a mind.”
He would say this, and I would nod, maybe smile, and thought I got it. But I didn’t.
Living on my own, with only a 2-year-old, left me no one to blame for things being out of place, and no one to clean up except myself. I was well and determined to prove him wrong, very motivated to show him that FUCK YOU I can do everything you can do, and BETTER, and a whole lot else besides. I wasn’t doing it in a mean way really, but I was absolutely certain that, his naysaying aside, I COULD change, and I WOULD dammit. And so I returned to Flylady.
This time, I read the whole thing, I let it sink in, and I started small. I kept my sink shiny, and I read the emails daily, and what do you know, my house started to come together. And as my house came together, I felt better. When I wanted to make something, I could find the materials I needed. When I woke up in the morning and walked into the kitchen, I wasn’t overwhelmed at the dishes needing to be done. In fact, my shiny sink positively HUGGED me. It made me smile, giggle even, every single morning. It was AMAZING. I could think clearer, I could relax, and I WASN’T cleaning all the time. In fact quite the opposite. I felt like I wasn’t doing much “work” at all. What made the difference, what finally taught me not how to clean but how to KEEP things clean, was routines.
At the end of every night, after putting Ana to bed, I would pick up any stray items in the living room and kitchen and put them away. This was the work of only a few minutes. (It helped that I got in the habit of, whenever moving from one room to another through the day, asking myself “is there anything here I can take where I am going and out away?”) Then I would sweep the carpet (again, tops 3 minutes) and HEY the living room was now pretty much spotless. Moving into the kitchen, I would wipe down the counter, stove and table (maybe 5 minutes…if I was slow), do the dishes (usually 15) and sweep (2 minutes). Then I would mop (something I used to dread but realizing it actually took very little time helped a great deal!) All in all, I’d be done with the main rooms in less than half an hour, and WOW did it look good after. And I felt great. Instead of tiring me out, having the house clean gave me energy.
And somewhere in all that, I finally understood. When the room is cluttered, your mind is cluttered. Your energy is all tangled up and everything is hard. Finding things (in room or mind) is difficult, it takes lots of work, and often ends up in needless duplication (anyone who’s ever bought a 2nd, or 4th, pair of scissors when you couldn’t find the first (or third) knows what I mean here…). When the room was clear, my ENERGY was clear. I could relax. Nothing whispered at the back of my mind, telling me “look at those dishes, you’ll have to do that soon”, or reminding me for the umpteenth time that “you’d better mop up, it’s getting downright sticky in there.” When I relaxed, I was truly relaxed. Nothing needed doing because everything urgent was DONE. “A room is like a mind.”
And oh, what a difference it made to understand that.I finally understood that THIS is where we had been crossing wires, this more than anything else. When the room was messy and the kid just gone done for a nap, *I* had seen two hours to spend with my husband, precious minutes to catch up, to talk, to fuck, to snuggle. I didn’t want to CLEAN, that was WORK, and kept me from that vaunted couple-time. But for him…the subconscious message he got if I pushed him to chill with me was “she doesn’t care if I can relax”…pretty much the complete opposite of what I wanted him to feel. We both wanted the same thing – enjoyable, pleasant time as a couple – we just crossed wires in understanding how to get there.
That brings me to today. Three years after we reconciled, we are apart again. For some of the same reasons and some different ones, but on the whole a very friendly separation. It’s been four months since we broke up, and while I am doing quite well in a number of ways, I realize some things definitely suffered. And chief among them has been my routines. Now, to be fair, my routines had suffered a great deal before we separated, and so the structure for them was already crumbling. As I mentioned, keeping my house neat is one of the easiest things for me to lose, even though it gives me so much benefit. Still, changing such entrenched habits and mind-processes IS difficult. Or rather, not difficult, but one must respect the process, the fact that it takes TIME to create new pathways in your brain, and moreso, to program those new pathways to take precedence over the old ones that have been carved in.
I forgive myself for the fact that the house has been pretty bad. This is important – if I don’t forgive myself then I can’t move forward – and, that said, I have been getting back to Flylady and my routines. One of my favorite sayings of hers is “You are never behind. Just jump in where you are.” and that’s what I have been doing. I’ve pulled out my timer, and in 15-minutes bursts I’ve made a goodly amount of progress over the past week. The most important thing is that I have KEPT the progress I have made, because I have not just been cleaning but also doing my morning and evening routines. THAT is the important part.
A room is like a mind…and I am ready to let mine be clear again.