Zebra Stripes–Part 2 (3-23-16)

I wanted to update my blog on the progress since one of my first posts: How do you get a zebra to change its stripes.

Progress for me, usually comes in spurts. It’s how I operate. I get intense levels of energy for periods of time, then back off, maybe get interested in something else, need to rest, or become disinterested. It’s my dance I guess. I’m not going to say it’s bad, it’s just how I am, and I’ve learned to ride the waves of energy instead of get frustrated when I’m not energetic or productive, or feel like I’m going to burn out if I keep going. I know it’s in cycles.

The house goals have been the same way. I feel like January of 2015 I went through a major purge of the house, ridding it of boxes and truckloads of things. This was where I started. It was a great start. Then another a few months later, as we merged 2 households together. And then another. I’ve stepped up the cleaning. We’ve stepped up the kids taking responsibility for their own things. It’s not easy. It’s super hard. Kids don’t learn habits overnight, and the energy it takes to follow a kid around is for me 10x the work of doing it myself. But slowly it’s paying off. I can’t say we are anywhere near the end, but I have to keep looking at the small changes.

While it’s important to my wife to keep the house at a pretty clean level, I can honestly say it’s always been what I’ve wanted as well, but, between my personality, my habits, my surroundings, and my frustration of knowing WHAT I want but having no clue how to get there, hasn’t gone very far until this year. I don’t want it to seem like her expectations are “up here”, and I’m just trying to meet them. The depressing part is, today I came across my journal from 2003. My number one goal? Keep a clean house, declutter, and simplify. On one hand, it made me want to cry. That was 13 friggin years ago. And I’m still struggling? Holy shit, what is wrong with me? On the other hand, it gives me a boost. Because indeed, 13 years ago it bothered me. ME. No one else. And if you know me at all, you know I live for my own goals, never for what I think others think I should do. I remember feeling super frustrated that I had this pipe dream of simplifying, decluttering, living in a welcome space, and NO ONE COULD SHOW ME HOW. So, no, I am not just trying to meet someone else’s expectations. I’ve just lacked the fire under my butt. I can see that while I’ve made progress faster recently, I can acknowledge the baby steps looking back. Not that I wanted it to take 13 years, and I certainly want to wrap things up here permanently in a timely matter, but I have changed. Very, very slowly. I also need to take it easy on myself. If I felt that frustrated 13 years ago, making this my number 1 priority, BEFORE kids, it clearly hasn’t been an easy battle. If it was that much of a struggle for me then, (adding children made it more mandatory), but the thought of keeping after myself to change, my ex-husband to change, and then teaching a child, forget it. While I learned the basics (seeing my home when I had 4 young children looked a lot better than when I only had 1 because you just HAVE TO), I was drowning in the seas. I had to choose to keep my head above water, or fight what seemed an impossible task of also trying to get the kids to help. So I let certain things slide. I only had so much energy.

Today, things are a huge step from when I blogged 5 months ago. But not quite there yet. Add in another mind shift. I don’t think anything has really backslid, but perhaps plateaued, and needed a shift in thinking. Here’s where things fall apart for me: I am not a person who likes to put things away. I wish I could embrace the “everything has a place” mentality, bins galore, save it all, just keep it neat kind of organization. That’s definitely not me at all. I am smart enough to know that I need to figure out a method that works for ME is the only way it’s ever gonna happen. I would LOVE to live in a world that’s simple, decluttered, peaceful. It would mesh with my young pipe dreams of a simple life. To pick up and go at any time. Not be tied down to materialism. But I also grew up with savers. Save every memory. Save in case you need it. And that works for some people. Nothing wrong with that if you can do it well. I hate the feeling of getting rid of something only to need it the next week! I hate that! I am also a guilt saver. I attach feeling to the objects. I don’t want to hurt the givers feelings. Or things like toys. Or cups. I feel guilty throwing things away. Putting it in a landfill? Wasting the money I spent buying it? Might as well keep it and give it some use once I have it, right? I keep cheap plastic crap around, thinking, well, maybe this will provide a toddler a bit of entertainment. Might as well keep it. Better than in the garbage. So between the 2 poles, I get into a hot mess. I can’t justify getting rid of things, but it’s a big struggle to keep it organized. It’s a huge struggle to get a toddler to pick up an entire bin of toys he’s just upended. It’s a huger struggle to constantly organize toys, keeping most in storage, rotating them out routinely, keeping the stored ones organized. I know that works great for some, but not for me. So I need that next mind shift.

I’ve been straddling these two worlds for a very long time. It either paralyzes me or I swing from one extreme to the other. I go through purging phases, but not long after I go into frugal mode. I see a good deal, I take it. I want to shower the kids with a nice surprise for their birthday. I can’t say no when someone wants to buy them a bunch of stuff, or brings an entire box of books. It’s like I’d be depriving my children because I have a vague lofty goal of not having stuff that I waver on constantly. It’s such a big battle! I think I waver so much because I’m not listening to my original, true compass. I started off not wanting things. Not wanting my kids to have so much. I felt strongly about this. But sometimes life bulldozes you in ways that make your true instincts unclear. I’ve also felt super frustrated when I’ve tried to have people help me figure out how to meet my goals, knowing other people have kids and can do it and aren’t always tyrants about it either, but feel patronized when the best answer is usually “don’t be so hard on yourself!”. It’s like struggling in math and getting a C, but when you ask someone to explain how to do the work they pat you on the head and say, “you shouldn’t worry, you are just being hard on yourself.” I need practical solutions, people!

I’m a little worried this is just another phase and 3 years from now I’ll look back and say, no, NOW I’m really going to do it! This is it! I’m hoping that’s not the case. I don’t think it is, but want to be a little cautious in my optimism. But it’s exciting to have all these pieces start to fall into place. Slowly gaining ground until it all seems doable. The kids, I have to say, are doing AMAZING!!!!! At first I thought it would never happen. It took 6 months to get them to remember to clear their own plates. But they are doing so, so, so well! I have to remind myself how far they’ve come sometimes. Of course, we could find a bunch of things to still work on. Sure, I could beat myself up for not having them here sooner, or that it should be an expectation to put away shoes, not a celebration. But it is! They are learning! It’s coming together. We’ve also come up with a way to merge allowance, responsibility, chores, etc into one system, but that’s a blog for another day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not aiming for perfect. That’s not me. I want to stay true to me at the same time. I think my hair can explain me perfectly. I love dreads for their naturalness, their carefree statement, the ways they look, the low maintenance, the free style of them. BUT, I also have the dreads that are almost perfectly uniform, loose ends tucked in, formed, bleached, washed. I started them on purpose. I started them with the goal of perfect formation of them. Planned. That’s me. Imperfect perfection. No. Perfect imperfection. There are things I will never stress about. They aren’t important to me. And I’ve been a mom for 12.5 years. I KNOW there are days where you let things go. Because a sick kid is more important than the dishes. That there are days where I ditch scrubbing toilets to take them sledding. That watching them play in the dirt in the yard, knowing they will track it in the house, is much more important than keeping the dirt off the floor. Or that while I’m busy trying to keep the house, they are getting ignored, or getting into a mess because I’m at the kitchen sink. There are days I will let them run off to their friend’s house without doing their chores because relationships should always come first. Or go to the park because it’s one of those perfect days that are so, so rare. The flip side of this is that I will run to meet a friend even if there’s a pile of laundry because I treasure them. There will ALWAYS be laundry. There will be the next morning when I feel so rejuvenated by my relationships that I can tackle the extra. It’s all balance. But I think I am moving toward a world where both are entirely possible at the same time.

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