Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dirty and Paranoid

I have been dirty my entire life, and "not in a good way", my husband would add (with a wink). I was dirty when I lived with my mother who is the cleanest person on the planet, and I have been since I've lived on my own. A few months ago, I was telling Max how dirty the carpet was in the apartment I shared with my husband and our friend when we lived in London--It was black because we didn't have a vacuum cleaner, and we smoked and cooked all the time.

And he said, "Were you mad about it all the time?"

No, of course not, I was never mad about it. I never thought twice about inviting people round for dinner and eating fabulous food on paper plates on the floor. So what's different now--now that I'm not 23, more importantly, now that I have kids, I'm supposed to be clean, and if I'm not, I'm supposed to feel bad about it? I'm also supposed to feel like I'm the worst mother if my kids are not tidy and obedient. Fuck that. Where do these ideas even come from?

Side note, my then-eight-year-old said, "No wonder we look naughty if all the other kids are on behavior drugs; they have an unfair advantage."

I've been trying to shift things, trying to see why things are dirty and not worry what it looks like to somebody who just stops by. If the carpet is covered in bits of foam and strips of newspaper and crumbs, it just looks bad, but I'm not going to worry about it anymore because I saw the day that created that mess, the creation with the foam and the studious taping of newspaper bits, and although it didn't amount to much (two swords), it took a lot of concentration and there must be something to process regardless of what it yields. If the kitchen is full of sugar and dirty pans, I know that it looks like that because the five year old made himself a snack with sugar and we cooked four meals in the last two days (instead of eating fast food or frozen food or boxed food), and I was probably distracted by working and had only done the bare minimum of dishes.

(As a parenthetical note, I feel like I'm working all the time, and my husband is working all the time. We've finally gotten our income up to what it was in 2007. After that year, it went steadily down until maybe 2010, and it's been going up from there. I know of a few things that we waste money on, but I also know that we live in a two bedroom apartment and don't own a second car and never go anywhere that would require renting a hotel room so... (it's too much to make conclusions there--let's just go with the ellipses). Also, we're working about twenty hours a week more than we did in 2007, and the kids eat more, and our cheap rent that we had been enjoying just got bumped up by $200/month (it's still less than the average in town). (And the magical answer to this is that I put my kids in a government institution for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I will magically make so much more money, but we're trying not to go to the place where we question every thing about what we're doing. Constantly reassessing stresses me out; I really tired of the idea that it is financially irresponsible to raise your own children.))

We also break a lot of things. All five of us, accidentally, on purpose, without even realizing that we are, and fixing them is almost always the last priority. None of the people who live here seem to be remotely handy when it comes to fixing almost anything, but I have to be positive and hope that in the next five or so years, my little eight year old will be fixing things.

So I was working and cleaning and trying to reframe things, and then, everything that makes it hard for me to reframe came splashing about... unexpected very clean company, my period which is now on a twenty-five day cycle, my landlord's yearly guilt trip where she goes into all kinds of issue with an accusatory bent--like needing a new roof--which have nothing to do with me and tells me how they worked hard their whole life so they could have what they have and how she doesn't want to raise my rent.

I think maybe that's why she gets to me because she's so emotional. I'm well aware that I'm very hard on her property, but let's just be business-like. Sorry, a BB ricocheted off the fence and hit a window, I will write you a check, I did the last time we broke a window, and I will the next time. If you need to raise my rent because it costs money to keep up your property, that's not a problem.

Summer has not been awesome the last few years. It is hot, we're crabby, and my husband always increases the amount of time that he spends at work. This sentiment from my eight year old pretty much sums up the last few weeks, "Mama, stop yelling at us. You're taking out your stresses on us, like Daddy takes his out on you."


Reframing isn't about making excuses. It's about realizing that we're the ones who have to live with ourselves, the choices we make, the priorities we set. We need to make our home around what is important to us, and if it's cooking instead of repairs, or going to the reservoir for the afternoon instead of cleaning, or experiencing life barefoot instead of worrying about the the dirt that gets into the carpet, or shaking pans to get the sauce right instead of worrying about the splashes getting on the walls, then so be it.

But stress sucks, and for the last few years, ours has jumped up in the summer, and when it does, the kids need to be obnoxious and naughty and test our boundaries because we've been stressing them out, and we need them to behave perfectly and quietly because we are stressed out, and together, those two things can become a vicious, self-depleting cycle.

I know at the end of the day, that I'm the one who needs to give. I'm the one who needs to let the stress go, just go, not onto anyone.

(I forgot to address the paranoia section of the title, but just think of figuring out where that fits in like a fun puzzle I created for your amusement.)

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