Fade Big Picture, Spotlight Small Scene

My shut down switch is touchy. I wish it was more difficult to activate, but it has a super low threshold and it’s all in my head. I realized this in a massive way when my girls were babies. Little less than two years a part and both in diapers was the hardest days I’d ever been faced with. My comprehensive emotion was happy and I felt fulfilled as a new mom. The day to day though was feeding two back to back, sometimes several meals ahead of me. Bathing two others bumped my shower to third and not only changing the diapers, but buying them, making sure they were stocked, carrying them everywhere. Just getting rid of them becomes a constant cycle.

Between all that was little time for much, but in their awake time they were mobile and liked to pull every book out of the basket, every tupperware out of the cabinet, every toy out of the toybox. And I let them. Putting those things away were easy. What wasn’t easy was finding the time, energy, mental capacity to tackle anything else. Laundry was mountainous. Paperwork was suffocating. Deep cleaning was a pipe dream. If I ever found the time and energy to start a cleaning project, it was clouded by the sounds of the babies destroying another close by area of the house.

If it was a game, I was letting the house win. I was being punked out by the intimidating size of what I thought was against me. Normally I don’t let size intimidate me and have always been proud of the fact that I don’t scare or back down easily. This, however went on for at least a year. Submission, sometimes I would flee the scene. Wake up, pack up and leave. I would not even know the majority of the time where I was going! I remember pulling out of the driveway with the only destination for certain being away from home. It brought on guilt. It brought embarrassment. Neighbors were never invited past the front porch and the only ones that knew were my mom, sister, and a best friend. On occasion when they came over, they would immediately start cleaning. My mom would always go straight to laundry. My sister and best friend would start throwing things away. I wouldn’t fight it or try to excuse it. I would only accept the help.

This clarity came years later. Thankfully one of those days, taking back control began to come into focus. I’m not sure if inspired subconsciously by HGTV’s Clean Sweep, but I did watch HGTV around the clock if not watching Disney or little one paced movies. On that particular show, they would tackle the worst areas of the house by taking everything out. Designers would separate everything into three piles; KEEP, SELL, and TOSS. I had been inspired to clean the garage once by that strategy, but never any part of the house. I got extra fed up with a walk in hall closet that was used for coats, toys, and catch all for junk I wanted out of sight. I never even thought about the show or that being a strategy, I was overwhelmed with frustration and began throwing everything out into the hall. At first I had no intention of throwing everything out, but the more I threw out the more I kept throwing out.

It wasn’t until I got every last puzzle piece, pretend food, doll accessory, and costume heel out of that closet, that I started to feel an emotion toward the clutter that I hadn’t known about. I dusted and vacuumed, which took about 3 minutes and then stepped back to admire my masterpiece. It didn’t matter that the entire hallway was filled four feet high with the original contents of the closet. It didn’t matter that I had all those puzzles to sort through and toys to match parts to, winter gear to organize. It was a feeling of accomplishment, victory, pride, and most importantly, motivation. The motivation was incredible. It was the catapult necessary to make me want to see the beauty of clean and organized for everywhere else in the house. It was a major job going through it all, but felt cleansing to throw away unneeded item and pack up give away bags. After thinning out, organizing the toys and coats I purposefully chose to go back in was exciting and even fun! I think I stared at the inside of that closet for days. It was a constant inspiration. A tiny, obscure area of a house out of control, a fraction of the square feet left to work on, but such an enormous impact and weight it carried despite it’s size.

Impact so enormous that it transcended the impact on cleaning and organizing the rest of the house. A lightbulb went off for me with the completion of that small project. It made me realize when I’m overwhelmed, it may be necessary to pick one tiny piece and ignore the rest. I let the scope of the work so needed in every room fade into the background and put the spotlight on a messy closet. I was reminded sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. I learned the best way for me sometimes to really clean and organize a closet, drawer, room, garage, is to take everything out. Throwing it out of the way is therapeutic and lets me see the space. Occasionally, it allows me to visualize a new purpose or better layout which is so much fun.

Personal growth, even in this small way shapes the quality of life. I’ve never even come close to letting a house take over me again. The strategy is ingrained so I know it and believe in it. I do need to apply it to other areas, but at least I’m aware of the easiest kick starter. Like anything else, I need to occasionally remind myself how well it works and shine a spotlight on my kids or relationships, diet, rest, exercise, money, this blog. There is an obvious reason my last post was a little over a year ago. I’ve had enough ideas, written enough in my journals, that I couldn’t had an entry for every day the entire year. It became bigger than me. I let this intimidate me and so went the vicious cycle to embarrassment. The longer I let it go on, the longer I let it go. Challenging for the most part in my head because it always ends up being 1000 times easier than I’ve made it out to be. Choose quickly and something small, but spotlight it, whatever it is. Put a bright spotlight on and let the background fade away. For me, this is the no fail fix to my touchy shut off mode.  Decide what scene, and turn the brightest spotlight toward its direction and close in.

Resuscitating Chivalry by Killing Shotgun

I always try to keep my eyes open for ways to improve.  At least this way it will hopefully offset the times when I slip.  I’ve always appreciated when someone can convey a useful strategy that is specific and simple for me to use.  We can all benefit from general motivation at times, but something tangible to take away and quick to implement has always been attractive to me.  It’s value goes up, when I try it and see immediate improvement.  It becomes invaluable when I realize that has taken root and becomes an involuntary reflex.

I have countless people and stories and things they’ve taught me that I’d love to get to share them all and plan to, but this one was one was from me and to me.  I was reminded of it because I saw it happen today.

I’ve tried to teach my kids to have a “you go first” mentality. When I say teach, in this instance, I mean I talked to them about it often. Stories occasionally were told, ways for them to use given out, a few times getting them to practice at home showed temporary results.  I could share, but will get to one simple strategy that came to me randomly, stuck around, and has been really sweet to see work.

Last school year one day picking up my daughter and a friend from school, my daughter automatically came to the front seat while the friend went to get in the back.  I said, “Wait, stop”, to both of them.  I told my daughter to offer up the front seat to her friend.  She did.  I am thinking it wasn’t wholehearted, but she obliged.  Her friend declined the offer and they both started back to their original destinations.  I said again, “no, hang on”.  I tried again.  I told my daughter to offer the front seat genuinely.  She offered again and her friend declined again.  For a second time, they probably thought they were going to get to their attempted destinations.

For the last try, I knew I had to think of a different strategy to make this lesson work.  After the third time telling them to freeze, this time I told my daughter to insist to her friend that she take the front seat and not to take no.  I told her to insist on taking the back.  They both got tickled.  I may have even given exact words out to use, but they both thought it was funny. I’m sure we laughed a little about it and I’m sure I preached a little more about it to them after they had finally gotten admission into the car, into the seats I had assigned.  I don’t really know if that day, I thought about it being a big life lesson or if it would have any longevity.  It was just a silly way I was trying teach the “you go first” approach to combat the selfishness that will always be a human nature slip.

The best part of this day to me actually happened on a day that came a couple weeks later.  I was picking up my daughter and the same friend from school and when they got to the car, my daughter offered her friend the front seat saying I insist.  We all got a little kick out of knowing where it had originated.  An even better part of the original day for me came on a day weeks later when I picked up my daughter and a different friend and she insisted that friend sit in the front and just going for the backseat.  I didn’t have to teach her that part, but if she picked up naturally that it worked quicker if you position yourself there so they know you mean it. That time no one laughed.  The next friend thought it was a nice gesture and I thought, wow, something little that I taught her is becoming part of her nature.  That was pretty neat to see.  She’s insisted to anyone getting in the car with her many times since.

Tonight, which has been close to a year later.  I took my daughter and a friend to another friends’ house for a surprise birthday party.  She offered the front seat up leaving the house and after a stop at Walgreens for of course, a gift card for the birthday party.  I need a strategy for not buying birthday gifts on the way to parties.