Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cleaning house, inside and out

It's my first Monday of not having a day job. So I did what I imagine 90% of women who have felt overloaded for a long time, then have a spell of free time, would do: I started by cleaning my brains out.

But I made myself stop at noon. I'm going to try and not run around in all directions at once like a chicken with my head cut off, to try and not go nuts and then burn out within a week. I've divided up the tasks and plan to deal with them one at a time, including space to write and exercise most days, instead of trying to do all the neglected cleaning and organizing--which tends to scream for my attention, because it's on the outside and I look at it daily--at once. Over time I've learned that life is like this: The race goes to the steady plodder in the end. The one who does a little each day but does it every day, instead of the one who goes all out and then crashes. Which has been me, many times in the past, and is the natural tendency of my personality.

I decided to start with my husband's and my bedroom and small attached bath. I don't call it a master bedroom because this house was built in the 60s, and the bedrooms are all small. There was a couple of (actually rather tidy) piles of STUFF, one in the corner of our bedroom and one in the bath, and lately I've been looking at those piles and thinking, I should deal with that. Piles of nice stuff that I didn't know what to do with or where to put, so they have remained in situ for at least a year. Pretty sad I know, but this is what happens when you are overloaded. You don't have time to deal with things or make even very small decisions, like whether to fix or get rid of an old quilt or whether to mend or give away clothes, not to mention odd bits of yarn from former knitting projects and pictures that need framed and etc.

I thought these rooms would take me two hours max, but then I got into sorting clothes. Sorting clothing for give-away is something I do often--there is a fixed amount of space in the small closet I share with my husband, so if I got new things it meant other stuff had to go. I get rid of clothes in an on-going way, but not usually in a take every single item out and think about it way. And I never touch my husband's clothes, because there are just not very many of them. But as I looked through his shirts, some of them never did fit well or were really out of date and needed replaced. Others badly needed a wash around the collar. In the end I got rid of way more stuff than I expected, and my Monday laundry pile doubled. I even found a few mates for the ever-growing pile of orphan socks on top of the washer.

All of this took longer than I expected. And as I went along, it seemed so appropriate to be doing the master bedroom and clothes first: The place and the things in the house closest to my person, and the most identified with me. Symbolic of the inner work I want to be doing concurrently, because I don't want to spiff up the outside without attending to the inside. Activities like spiritual reading, journaling and a bit of drawing need to be part of my new everyday schedule too. Otherwise life will just get crazy again.

Friends have been asking me, "Are you excited to be going back home again?" But all I could think for the past few months since notifying my boss was no--I just feel scared. Scared about money, scared that there won't be enough, scared of stress--of trading time-pressure for financial pressure, and being no better off in the end. But for the first time this morning, I felt faith. Something on the inside, something in my spirit, is affirming me that yes, this is the right thing to do. What I felt the Spirit telling me was that although I've known the "right answers" about how God provides (in particular, that he provides for those called to ministry, like my husband), I have been living as if they were not true. Living as if God didn't care about my needs and even my wants. Living as if it really was all up to me in the end. This was not a call to dire repentance: It was more like a gentle reminder. Something that I have known is true, but just let go of for a while. Perhaps when I was employed, it was easier to slide into the thinking that the income was "mine," and forget the reality that the provision of all good things is a grace, is a gift from God. 

In the past my husband and I have lived by faith financially, even radical faith. But since returning to America, buying a house, and having older children, life has become way more complicated. Way less simple. My heart is for it to be simple, but it just isn't. It isn't realistic for our family right now to live in a small two bedroom apartment or share a car as we did in past days, and in our college town we would pay more for renting a family-sized home than our monthly mortgage payment. Teenagers aren't content wearing old clothes from goodwill, they would stick out at school like a sore thumb. And, teenagers eat a LOT. It may be that someday we can return to a simpler lifestyle. In fact, I wouldn't mind one bit. I miss having way less cleaning and free Saturdays, with no home and yard projects (or basketball tournaments!), because I lived that life for a long time. It's just not what we are called to now.

Please hear me: I'm not saying that having a job and working for money is wrong. It all depends on what you are called to do and be, and if you are married, what your spouse is called to do and be. People can definitely be called to be a carpenter or a nurse or a teacher or a lawyer or a banker or any number of paid professions. I worked at a bank for a year and a half because we needed the money for a while, and I was willing to get a job if need be. There was a need for a time, and I had the willingness to do what I could, but it was not a career that fit me well or that I was called to do long term. Different things are the right arrangement at different times. Many doors are opening for my husband in ministry--more than we've ever seen before. He needs to be freed up to be able to pursue them, and now that I'm home, there are things I can take over for him. Our family (and his crazy, never-a-normal-day schedule) also functions better when we are both pulling in the same direction, rather than going separate directions for much of the day. So I'm looking forward to working together more.

And for me--what am I "called" to do and be? I don't feel a clear answer to that. But that some commitment to writing is a part, I am sure. I have ideas for a new novel, and I hope to be able to write much more consistently now that I'm home. My plan is to set aside three 2-3 hour blocks a week--for now, this seems like a realistic, achievable goal. I also want to lose some weight and gain more strength, and attend better to the counseling/healing process for PTSD. I feel like I have been in a holding pattern for a few months, not gaining any ground, simply because I did not have the time to give any focus to it. I don't think a ton of time is required, and I certainly don't want to plunge into self-absorbtion in any sense. But put plainly, pursuing physical and emotional healing takes some time, there is just no way around it. Sometimes it's a fight to believe that healing and freedom in certain areas of my life are possible, that they are worth pursuing, and real change will result in the end. But those experienced in these things tell me it is so.