Today’s Reclaiming Me guest post is by Robin, of The Not-Ever-Still Life. I met Robin last year at a DC Metro Mom event and was immediately struck by how genuine and caring she is. She has been a supporter of mine, a voice of reason, and a source of strength for me…and today, she is here for you.
I live in the shadow of greatness.
No, really. We live in one of those neighborhoods so common to Maryland that was built up on the perimeter grounds of an old manor house. Look past my ordinary deck and my neighbors’ ordinary shed and swing set and you see a mansion.
It’s gorgeous. Wide, fluted columns support a two-story porch. Third story gables make me dream of a writer’s nook, or a sound-barrier distanced play room. Google Maps set to satellite imagery shows me a five car garage with a second-story living space. Guest rooms? Servants’ quarters? The pool looks divine and from the peeks we see through shrubbery on our neighborhood walks I’ve envisioned myself set up quite regally in there.
But I don’t have to walk the neighborhood to imagine. I can see it from here at my kitchen table, where my toes are being showered with shredded cheese by the toddler in the high chair on my right. This is where I sit to pay bills while I catch the pear slice he’s flinging while I argue the difference between “left” and “right” with my three-year-old and explain to my five-year-old that Cs sound like Ss and I promise, I really do know how to spell princess. Yes, I can write it for you to copy. Oh! Sorry. Sorry that I wrote it in pen instead of purple marker. Eww, I didn’t swivel fast enough and there’s pear on my foot. My right foot, let me clarify, since the three-year-old asked.
Soggy, drooly, half-chewed pear. No, that’s not the left. Really, love.
We had three kids in four years and they are the light of my life and the black hole of my sanity. The baby is just 14 months old now, and the year+ since his birth has been the craziest I’ve ever experienced. We’re balancing two careers and three small children with spelling lessons and business travel and sleeping through the night and planting an organic garden and outgrown shoes and show-and-tell criteria and everything in between.
I look at the house up the hill and daydream that surely it comes with a housekeeper, right? And a governess. I need a housekeeper and I definitely need a governess.
Or maybe my kids have been watching too much Mary Poppins. I just need better systems.
There is a long list of Me Things I’d like to reclaim: my figure; my uninterrupted night’s sleep; my meals, on my own (ceramic) plate, and requiring a knife and fork; a sense of mental balance. But really, they all add up to the last item – I need some mental balance. I feel like the sidekick’s curmudgeonly dad on Seinfeld. Everywhere I look around our filled-to-the-gills-with-life-and-its-accoutrements home, my brain mutters through clenched teeth: SERENITY NOW!
One of the things that makes my brain the craziest** is not that I don’t know where to begin; it’s that I’m bursting with ideas and I always run out of time and energy to execute them. I have a home improvement project in mind that will make me feel so much better. I’ve been beginning it for about five months now.
(**Like how I compartmentalize my feelings? I’m not feeling crazy. Just my brain is.)
Let me show you:
Here is our front hall on a typical day. I bought that console table when the lovely husband and I were newlyweds and child-free and living in a townhouse whose hall closet had sufficient shoe storage. Now we’re overrun with small feet that demand to be shod and live in a Colonial with a typically tiny front closet. Hence, this disastrous result.
But I have a grand plan: I bought a dining room buffet piece off of Craigslist and I’m going to sand it and paint it silver and I’m going to paint the wall gray and the key rack and mirror frame indigo blue and add blue glass knobs to my fabulous “new” silver shoe storage cabinet and the hallway will look sleek and uncluttered and when I walk through it I will feel fabulous and uncluttered and–
That’s how my brain works. Life’s planning is one big run-on sentence.
I’m great at thinking up ideas and I’m really great at being impetuous and were this six or seven years ago, I would have sanded and primed and painted that cabinet the weekend I got it home. I would have painted the hallway the following evening. I’m not great at calmly thinking of an idea and working on it incrementally, patiently. I wouldn’t have struggled to find a series of evenings to work on such a project, prioritizing over laundry and photo editing and baking allergen-free cupcakes for daycare, or any of the other details that fill my life to bursting with things I do happily and willingly in what used to be called my free time for those little monsters I love so much but consume my sentient hours whole.
Serenity now, little brain. The weather is getting gorgeous and I can work in the garage while they’re in the yard, now. The baby toddler doesn’t need to go up to bed quite so early, now. I’m not getting up as often in the middle of the night, now. It might take six months to carry one of my projects from planning to (halfway through) execution, but that’s better than a year ago, when I was so in the throes of being outnumbered by the children that I couldn’t even think to figure out some better systems. It’s a slow uphill, but I can finally see that we’re climbing it.
What project are you always working on? Please please show Robin some serious love folks!!