I really am back from my end of the year “break”. Yes, I realize posting something on Monday, then not making an appearance till 4 or 5 days later doesn’t help support the statement. In my defense, I’ve been doing a lot around here, other things I’ve mentioned wanting to get done this week. Turns out that those items and life didn’t line up well enough with blogging to make everything happen. Everything in time.
I’ve been fighting a very negative attitude, aimed at myself, as of late. Okay, it has been for months. The start of school should have been nothing different than the past several years of school. The difference? Our long-time foster kid started Kindergarten. My feelings were a complete surprise to me and I wasn’t sure how to handle them at first. It isn’t like this kid hasn’t been going to school since Day 1. On the contrary, preschool, more specifically the Early Childhood program, has been a part of our lives since the time this kid moved into our home. And it isn’t like this is my first round of being the parent of a student. So what was the issue?
It took a while but I finally came to the conclusion. The issue was that this kid was going to public school, about which I had no choice in the matter.
Though I am very frustrated that the adoption had taken so long to get moving, I also no longer felt like I was in control. Now someone else was telling me what to work on at home and when. I had to follow their plan. Preschool was focused more on general things – colors, numbers, letter, fine-motor skills, and therapies (speech, developmental, physical, etc.). These were all aimed at getting the kids ready to be able to function in a public school setting, to catch up to where they needed to be. It wasn’t your typical preschool and everything was planned to serve multiple functions. What they did there very much lined up with what we were doing at home. These two parts of our lives meshed very well. Now it suddenly changed and I had homework to follow-up with.
School started and I was feeling very negatively towards the school, which then turned toward me feeling like an incompetent mother. Why is it that I couldn’t find time to do the stuff we used to do? Why was my kid struggling so much with school work when it used to be fun? What was I doing wrong?
The gardening season finally came to an end. I was relieved, hoping this would mark a change. There would be more time to focus on things here on the home front. Yeah. Not quite.
We decided to leave for a few weeks on a vacation to visit family. This meant that all the items here at the house that I had hoped to do and the new routines I was hoping to iron out had to be put on hold. “Okay, I’ll enjoy the trip and just deal with everything when we get back. Besides, this will give me a chance to work with the kids on our own. Surely they won’t miss too much.” They didn’t, but they also weren’t always keen on doing “homework worksheets” the teacher sent along. See, what I didn’t take into account was that we are early risers.
The kids naturally wake up at 6:30 a.m. Thankfully my husband and I also like getting up early. What I didn’t think about was that not everyone appreciates those early hours. To amend my statement then it would be more accurate to say, “…they also weren’t always keen on doing “homework” quietly while we stayed in our bedroom quietly for two hours quietly till it was somewhat decent to wake up the rest of the household, even if it was still early for the rest of the household.”
I came back feeling as if I had failed at showing the teacher that I could do all the stuff needed to keep the Kindergarten student up to date on what should be learned. Kindergarten. Right, as if not learning the letter ‘K’ this week meant they would never ever, ever, never learn that letter the rest of their life and fail Calculus as a result. Forget about the fact they had learned the letter ‘K’ the previous two years. Yeah, I know. But hey, it’s what I was feeling.
I was focused, wrongly, on showing the teacher that I could do just as good of a job as she did, that the student would come back with ALL the worksheets completed. Unfortunately there was no worksheet showing what was learned on the many day trips we took to see sites and talk about things. (Is there an app for that?) Those things stuck more than any worksheet we did while on vacation.
Once we got back we had 2.5 weeks till Thanksgiving and leaving to visit family for most of a week. It took most of a week to do laundry and get back into the swing of things. This was just in time to pack again. None of the items I wanted to work on around the house happened and I was feeling more behind and more like a failure for not doing those things. My husband would make comments about this or that needing done, ask why I hadn’t done this item or that when I said I would, mention how we just have so much stuff around, etc. I know he didn’t mean for it to come across as critical, but I took it all in as proof that I was failing.
Then December came and I was sure I would get back on track. Or at least the track I thought I should be on. Yeah. Nope, didn’t happen. I decided that I needed to get into the habit of picking up the house before starting anything beyond simple housework. It seemed to happen every day, something to make even keeping the house picked up impossible. Sometimes though it was a good thing and I didn’t let the guilt get to me. If a kid wanted to sit on my lab and listen to Bible stories and folk songs then I am very happy to comply. We can have sandwiches for lunch for all I care at those moments.
All the things I wanted to get done before staring a big project in January weren’t getting completed. These were all ‘small things’ that wouldn’t take long to do, except there were several of them. I wanted these items completed before moving on and disrupting our household more with a larger project. The closer Christmas got the worse I was feeling, which really did not contribute to a productive attitude. Then I realized there were only two weeks till Christmas and I hadn’t completed all the gift shopping I had hope to do. COMPLETE FAILURE. I was pretty sure this was stamped on my forehead for everyone to see.
Let’s just say the days away for Christmas were not exactly restful and encouraging. I couldn’t wait to get back home. There are stresses enough in my life that I don’t need to try and behave perfectly (including keeping my kids quiet, see above on that one) to decrease the stress in someone else’s. I guess I kept my cool enough that my husband was surprised when I spoke up about my feelings on the way home. He had no clue to the undercurrents that were happening.
Okay, NOW I could get on track. Except I was so down at this point I couldn’t do anything. Even seeing everyone’s end to the year summary posts and goals for the new year made me feel guilty, lazy, incapable, and all around like I was amounting to nothing and never would.
I read. And read some more. In my free time I read. Basically I escaped. Guilt, frustrations, selfishness, unrealistic expectations, would appear when that book ended, and the one after that; I realized I had to do something. “The New Year, when it starts then I’ll do what I planned. That’s it. In 3 days I’ll start.” That lasted all of a day, thankfully, before my brain reminded me of something.
“Start Today! Do something now. A little each day will add up to something big.” And that is exactly what I have been doing every day since. Combating the small voice in my head whispering horrible nothings into my ear. “I’M NOT LISTENING! La-la-la-la-la. I can’t hear you.”
One of the items I wanted to do in the new year was to clear out the items in my house that we don’t use or need anymore. How? 1 item at a time, 1 day at a time. Even if all I did was throw away, give away or sell 1 item everyday that would mean 365 fewer things in my house by the end of the year. If I did more than that each day, great. If I skipped a day, then that was fine. There was bound to be a day that I threw away, gave away or sold more than 1 item to make up for it.
Progress – I have 1 item sell pending, a stack of fewer shirts, 20+ books listed for sale, a box of clothes in the yard sale pile, 5 mostly empty gallons of paint drying outside waiting for trash day next week and multiple things in the trash. Not bad for 7 days worth of the 1 item per day goal.
Here is what I have found – it is getting easier. Yes, I still have those negative thoughts. I still let things get to me, but I’m slowly coming out of this ditch I’m in. I may not be able to take a week off to work on the house without also needing to cook and do laundry, but those little things every day are starting to show.
I took an hour yesterday to organize our extra clothes. They used to be a pain to get to, so I had moved them to a convenient location. So convenient actually that it was easy to just toss the outgrown clothes and newly acquired clothes right on top of the boxes. Well, that is till the pile became too precarious, so I grabbed an empty tote and started tossing them in there. This quickly became a huge mess right at the bottom of the basement stairs. It screamed “FAILURE” every time I saw it, which I did several times a week. While I could have used the two hours it took to sort through these clothes and shoes on something a bit more visible to our daily lives, I count it as extremely productive. Now when I walk by it I feel in charge and hopeful that the rest of the house will be that way too soon, if I just keep going.
This morning when my husband walked into a basically unused room of our house, where I had wrapped Christmas gifts and decorations were in the process of being put away. He said, “We could never move, we have too much stuff. This house is a mess.” I replied, “I don’t want to hear you mention that again. I told you I am doing one thing a day, but every time you say that I feel further behind and like I may as well not doing anything. I know we have too much stuff and I’m dealing with it 1 thing every day, so please don’t say that again.”
I felt so much better. For months I’ve been trying to think of how to say that very thing. How is he to know what I am feeling if I don’t say it? How can I get aggravated at someone making me feel bad if they don’t even know they are doing it? The key was doing it at the appropriate time and in a nice way. This was it.
Every year starts off with the feeling that anything is possible, and it is. What is NOT possible is doing everything.
I think this is where I got stuck. I was trying to do everything, expecting myself to be able to do it. When I found myself coming up short, whether real or perceived, I began the slow descent of negative thoughts which only further inhibited my ability to do anything.
Where does this leave me? Reevaluating what I want life to look like in the upcoming year, season, month and week. At some point in the future I am going to share what those things are, but first I am going to work them out in my head. I want to make sure I don’t set myself up for failure. Again. Like I seem to do so often.
For now, I am going to go find some pictures to post next week. Then at least you will have something nice to look at, and my guilt will be lessened, if I get too wrapped up in finding things to clean out of the house.