Friday, December 5, 2008

Babysteps are finally starting to pay off.

Do you ever find yourself so focussed on where you're going, that you forget to look back and see how far you've come?  For many years, my life has been somewhat chaotic, disorganized, and haphazard.  We planned for nothing, and it seemed we were always in catch-up mode.  I always felt stressed and anxious, and wondered if and when I would ever feel at peace.  I started university about 6 years later than my peers, at age 23.  We got pregnant while I was in my last year of university, unplanned, unmarried, living in an apartment, with a mountain of debt.  My husband had barely begun his career (also a late bloomer...  he took several years off before completing his university degree to play with a celtic rock band).  We had no idea how we were going to make it.  We decided to get married, which we were planning on doing *some day* anyway, but had never made any concrete plans to do so.  I also wanted to buy a house, because I didn't want to raise my baby in an apartment.  So in a space of 3 months, I graduated from university (complete with thesis), we bought a house, got married, and had a baby.  It was a whirlwind, and sadly, I don't think I enjoyed any of it.  These events all added to our mountain of debt, and I didn't get to enjoy a single one of them, because they happened so quickly, and with little or no planning.  The house we could afford to buy was 85 years old, and needed a TON of work.  Of course, we couldn't afford to pay someone to do it, so since buying this house, my husband has spent every spare moment working on it.  Both of our babies came home to a construction site.  When we brought Norah home, her nursery was a mess of plaster and paint cans.  What was supposed to be a quick makeover turned into a job bigger than either of us anticipated, and her nursery wasn't complete until she was about 4 months old.  She was an extremely colicky, difficult baby, so getting things done during the day was impossible.  I spent many nights working on the nursery until 2 or 3 in the morning, because that was the only way it was ever going to get done.  I never got to indulge my nesting urge; I barely got to do a single thing to prepare for the arrival of either of our babies, because we were living in a pile of plaster dust.  I certainly didn't get to organize or clean much of anything.  Instead of getting to enjoy my precious newborn, I was stressed because of the state of our home and our lives.  For the first several weeks after bringing home our son, we lived in our bedroom because it was pretty much the only habitable room in our house.  We were living at my in-laws up until 3 days before my due date.  What was supposed to be a 1-week arrangement turned into 2 months, and 3 days before I was due I put my foot down and said I was going home, I didn't care what state it was in.  I wanted to go into labour in my OWN house.   You couldn't get the door to the nursery open because it was piled high with furniture, boxes, clothes, you name it. So we worked tirelessly for those 3 days, so that we could clean out the nursery, and finish our bedroom so that I would have at least two rooms in the house that were livable.  At midnight that night, we fell into bed, exhausted, and woke up at 6:30 am in labour.  I was praying that the baby would hold off, but he arrived, quickly, and right on his due date.  Babies apparently don't care if you're not ready for them.  Our living room furniture was piled in a dusty heap in the corner because we had torn a wall down to install our woodburning insert, which was supposed to be complete LONG before our due date. In our kitchen lived a pile of saws and tools. The other bedrooms upstairs served as storage rooms. You couldn't walk in the house without shoes because it was so filthy. Combine that with a toddler and a newborn, and a husband who works 60-80 hours a week, and you have yourself a pile of stress.  Every time the kids would nap and I had a moment's peace, all I could think about was trying to get some work done.  We've slowly, bit by bit, room by room, been piecing our lives back together.  A good chunk of the work that we needed to do to the house has been finished (although there is still plenty to do!).  I've been working on decluttering, organizing, and reducing the overall stress in our lives.  I slowly began to implement my weekly schedule, in an attempt to maintain a generally clean home.  Part of my weekly zone cleaning entails doing one "extra" thing in each zone, whether it's to clean out a drawer, a cupboard, or simply rearrange things so that they are more functional.  What once seemed impossible to imagine, that I would have a clean, organized, orderly, stress-free home now seems within reach.  Those little "extra" things I've done each week have now reached the point where I can barely find an "extra" thing to do.  Nearly every corner of our living space is purged, organized, and accessible.  Our finances are in order.  Our debt is slowly coming down (and most importantly, we are no longer adding to it!).  Because our physical space is less stressful, and my mind is no longer cluttered with stress, I've had time to ponder what is truly important in our lives and make significant changes to how we live.  

With the impending arrival of our next bundle of joy, I am finding myself feeling slightly less anxious than I was with the other two.  We still have some work to do on the house.  We never did complete the upstairs, because we really just needed to return it to a state that we could live in.  I couldn't handle any more construction, I just wanted to get back to life.  There is still some sanding to do, some trim to finish, and we have to get the fourth bedroom ready for Owen so that the new baby can have the nursery (the bedrooms are too tiny to share).  Chances are, the kids and I will have to move in with the in-laws once again so that my husband can complete that work, but hopefully it really WILL only be a week this time.  And I will be insistent that it happens LONG before my due date.  I still have a to-do list that's about 3 pages long that I've been chipping away at.  I want to finish organizing our photos, and finish our CURRENT kids' baby books, before the new baby arrives.  I want to get our food binder complete so that life with 3 children will be as SIMPLE as possible, so that I can actually enjoy it.  I want to make and freeze meals ahead of time.  Our basement and attic became the dumping grounds when we were trying to get our house back in order, and we still have to clean those out.  My husband has been saying forever that he's going to get to it, but given his work schedule I don't see how...  so tackling those areas is also on my to-do list.  I still have diapers to sew.  It seems like a lot left to do, but when I look back and see how far we've come, it actually seems manageable.  With regular, day-to-day life functioning fairly efficiently now, I can actually find bits of time to work on these extra tasks.  With our environment less chaotic, I am enjoying our children more, as I have more time to just *be* with them, and not constantly thinking about what else needs to be done.  

So there you have it.  Babysteps.  Sometimes they're so small that they seem insignificant, but looking back, you can see that those miles you've walked have happened one tiny step at a time.  With children, we only have time for babysteps.  Unlike the days before children, you can't plunge head-first into a task and work on it until it's complete.  You have to find 2 minutes here and 2 minutes there.  Every seemingly insurmountable task can be broken down into parts.  This logic can be applied to so many areas of our lives.  We are climbing out of debt not by waiting around for some miraculous windfall, but by slowly, steadily, paying it down a few dollars each month.  Our emergency fund is growing not by leaps and bounds, but by tiny little amounts each month.  Our home and lives are becoming more and more organized, simply by spending 5 or 10 minutes at a time working at it.  By doing these things consistently, they add up, and eventually begin to merge together into an overall state of peacefulness and well-being.  I can finally see a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, and each day it shines just a little brighter.  I think that we sometimes need to stop and look back at what we've accomplished, and congratulate ourselves on a job well-done.  What's left to do won't seem so bad then.  

1 comment:

  1. Imagine how proud you and your husband will feel when all the work is done, and you can truly sit back and admire it all. It'll make all that dust and grime so worth it!

    I'm with you on the babysteps; it's the ONLY way I can get anything done with 5 kiddos. I feel like I never get to properly finish anything I start! But I suppose there will be plenty of time for doing projects start-to-finish when the kids are grown. In the meantime...babysteps!

    Despite all the plaster dust and saws in the kitchen, your 85 year old house sounds...charming!