Monday, October 12, 2009

The Geological Dig

Just look at that clean counter!!

Getting our house ready for the market has been quite the experience. Stressful, yes, but also incredibly eye-opening to our habits, priorities and memories. Several weeks ago, we made the final decision to sell our house and began the geological dig through the stuff we have lived with for years and years.

I was scared most of the basement, so we began there. Not only was it filled with the most disgusting yuck from years of a wet, sopping experience down there, it was also the space that would show the most improvement over the smallest span of time. I wish we had a dumpster to toss it all into, but we found ways to decrease the mass of trash bags and got it all out with the evening trash. We were pretty proud of the accomplishment after the first day of digging. We were also saddened that we had let so many of our possessions, once special and memorable, disintegrate down there.

By the time we moved our dig up stairs to the main rooms of the house, we were beginning to get familiar with this strange sensation. We were digging through all these boxes, bags and shelves of things we apparently felt we needed at one time or another. We began to wonder why we needed all this stuff - especially stuff that we hadn't even looked at in a long time. We started asking ourselves, and each other, what does this box of mementoes hold for us? If we trash them, do the memories still exist? What was so important that we needed to hold on to all of this? Why put it in a box in some closet or shelf when we really need to let it go?

Once we got started letting go, it became tough to stop. Only getting back to work after the weekend off took us out of the trashing mentality - but honestly, I kept going in the evenings after work, just at a slower pace. After we attacked each and every room (including the boys' rooms!!), we began looking at the bookshelves, the cupboards, the drawers. If we weren't careful, one of us would put something down and someone else would snatch it up to get tossed!

What we were afraid of happening - finding the love for our house once again - did happen. We love living in a clean and organized space. We love it so much that we are finding new habits to keep it somewhat tidy and presentable. Of course, leading realtors through helps us stay focused on that. But I find that I have been able to let go of the fear that someone would drop by unannounced - mostly because now I want someone to see how beautiful our home has become - but also because we were able to get things cleaned out enough to know what's behind every closet door, under every bed and behind every cabinet. Although we discovered how much we love living in a clean house, we still understand how important it is to sell our home and move on.

Within all this, we made 4 trips to the second-hand store, with the van stuffed with donations. We have made one trip to the bookseller, but only unloaded 7 books. The library will receive the rest. We have made use of our local trash and recycling center with what felt and looked like tons of junk. Living without all of this has brought on a feeling of lightness of being. No longer stepping over things to get into bed, I can navigate to the bathroom and back in the middle of the night without fear of a catastrophe. My kids can find their clothes in the morning without needing a pickax to get through the piles of junk. We are truly a family transformed.

What piles are you hiding behind (or under)? Do you put off sorting through loads of junk as a way to put off cleaning out your life? Or do you have everything in neat order to keep control of things? Have you experienced a clean-out as we have? What did you find out about yourself? Share your thoughts here!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Coming Back Into Focus

Do you know the feeling when you somersault underwater, then come out of it not knowing which way is up and out into the fresh air? I have become quite familiar with that feeling over this past month. When several issues hit at once, that were frustrating, eye-opening and concerning, I had to find my way to fresh air. During that process, I stopped writing on my blog. I stopped, mostly because I had nothing to share. I had put aside my urge to check in with everyone, and to share things I was thinking about. I gave myself time to define my priorities, and to let go of those things that were no longer important.

I have made several discoveries about myself over the past month. I have learned that taking care of my family, my home, my body and my money are all priorities. Not that they weren't in the past, but I have reached absolute bottom with each of these areas lately, that I had to stare each one in the face long and hard to discover how I was going to pursue a comfortable standard for myself. Just how clean is clean? Just how much money needs to be in savings to feel secure? What foods make me feel sick and what make me feel better? How hard do I push for my kids to be involved in after school activities - or homework? How about family respect? Do I demand it at every turn?

My sister, Lisa discovered more cancer in her breast (pectoral) muscle - from the side that the initial tumors were removed. I never considered this would happen. Why? I knew it could. However, I knew what 'clean margins' meant - and when the doctors announced that they 'got it all' with the initial surgery, I never questioned it. I subscribed to the magic carpet that carried us all right out of harm's way and into the land of healing. I should have known better. But I just so desperately wanted to take a deep breath - I wanted to be certain Lisa would be fine forever. So when she called me with the new pathology report a few weeks ago, I felt all the trauma of the first cancer phone call over a year ago. Me, at a laundromat during one of my washer-break-down days, trying to shove the clothes into the dryer, putting quarters into the machine with blurry, tear-filled eyes. The quarters kept falling to the floor, and me, swearing under my breath. I wasn't angry at those quarters, but at life. At the ridiculous cosmos for causing my sister pain and anguish.

So you see, I had to step aside from this blog, from certain areas in my life that were taking considerable time and effort that I just didn't feel I could afford to give. I stopped creating art, making music for fun, enjoying friends, laughing. So many things stopped making sense, and I had to figure it out. Not really a depression, but a serious focusing to get clear on life and how I really want to live mine. I can't stop my sister's cancer. I can't change the housing market. I can't force my children to love school. I can't pay the bills unless I go to work. Looking at all of this with a positive light, I can learn more about breast cancer, to be pro-active rather than frightened. I can keep my house tidy until the right time comes to sell it. I can extend my kids' educational experiences by offering more museum trips and adventures that relate to their curriculum. I can find a way to de-stress at work, providing myself enough space to enjoy what I do and the people I work with.

And I can keep finding time to do the things I love, to keep everything in perspective.

I wish you all well.