“Fish” by Jacob Zinman-Jeanes
I’m a big fan of a clean house. Especially when it’s my own. But sometimes having a clean house is out of reach. Like when…I still haven’t recovered from the 7-year-old birthday party at the house last weekend…or our living room is a staging area for the garage sale on Saturday…or, frankly, we just can’t extract any extra energy to clean the house ourselves or hire someone to clean for us.
And during those times, a panic sets in. My chest tightens. My breathing shallows. Until I take these two magic steps.
#1 – Turn Home into Workshop – Changing my perspective on “Home” works wonders. Instead of a showplace that SHOULD be neat and orderly like the staged photos in Home Magazine, I magically turn my living space into a “Workshop” IN MY MIND. Oh, a workshop! Yes, workshops can be messy. They can be a little disorderly. Because work is happening there. It’s creativity in motion. It’s dynamic! I can find a new boundary of acceptable disorder when I’m living in a workshop. No, not complete chaos. Not dirtiness that invites critters into my home. But not sanitized and wrapped up in a bow, either.
#2 – Make Plans for a Friend to Visit – Nothing helps me pull the house together more quickly than hosting company. And when the house is pulled together that quickly, my mind-body-spirit are reminded that regardless of how messy the house appears on any given day, it’s only 3 hours away from near showplace neatness.
There’s an invisible third magic step: Gratitude. Feeling grateful that I have a home to fill, that I have an address for USPS to deliver mail that will inevitably pile up, and that I have beautiful children who fill the house with their stuff, too. Whether it’s a showplace or a workshop or whatever, focusing on gratitude instantly quells the anxiety over dust bunnies and stacks of paper.
I remember a time when random worries only drifted into my mind when I was idle. It was usually the big stuff like who I would marry or my perfect career path. I’d go for a run, watch a movie, or phone a friend and the worry would dissipate.
Until I had a baby seven years ago. Then everything changed. The responsibility of protecting, teaching, shepherding a life is not just profound, it’s freakin’ scary. Now I can pretty much worry any time – day or night, busy or idle. I’m talented like that.
Daily worry topics:
- Are the all-natural cleaning supplies actually cleaning the bathroom
- Did the dish sponge accidentally touch the plate that had raw meat
- Did the turkey burgers look pink in the middle
- What if there is an earthquake and my son isn’t with me
- Is my son eating a balanced diet
- Should we cut out dairy
- Are we getting enough calcium
- Should my son take that gummy multivitamin sitting in the cupboard
- Did the gummy multivitamin give him a cavity
- Am I pre-diabetic
- Will my son be pre-diabetic when he is 45, too
- The ozone layer
- California drought
- The care of the animals at the LA Zoo
- Why does Target readily give out so many plastic shopping bags
- Does the plastic in Legos off-gas
- Where did the brown widow spider in the mailbox lay eggs
That’s just the top-of-the-head list.
Turns out I am just really human. I bet you are, too. Our brains are wired to suss out danger in order to keep us and our offspring alive. We live in stressful times, people, and we have access to too much information. The amount of things to worry about must have increased by 5000% in the past 30 years.
Regardless of the chaos, worrying constantly is terrible for your health, a humongous waste of creativity and, honestly, a big bummer. Here are some ways to manage yourself:
- Identify whether there is a clear and present danger. Yes, I’m talking a Tom Clancy level problem. If “yes,” then call 9-1-1. If not, then chill and follow the next six steps.
- Companionship. Surround yourself with at least one person who is not nearly as neurotic as you are. (Don’t judge by appearance only.)
- Talk about it. Let it out or you’ll act even stranger. But not with the kids. You don’t want to rob them of discovering their own unique blend of neuroses.
- Do what you can. I worked with my son’s teacher to handle the homework issue that was keeping me up at night. See? Knocking things off the list.
- Educate yourself. Sometimes I bury my head and pretend the world doesn’t have issues. Guess what? It doesn’t make me worry less. It just makes me a terrible conversationalist. (Trump? Running for what?)
- Embrace the moment. Be as playful and ridiculous as possible. It shocks the worry away. I like to get in the tub with my son while I’m fully clothed.
- Breathe and surrender. Statistically, all that worry is for naught. Take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone.
When you’re done all that, say “thanks” for having another day to breathe air, to smile and to explore this crazy planet then hug your family a little tighter tonight.
(above) A good laugh from momtastic.com – 17 Hide and Seek Fails
This is the first summer that I have not been working full time since I had my son seven years ago. Believe it or not, it’s not easy to shift out of a high-octane, corporate energy. Lucky, I have a high-octane family to help me out. The past month has been full.
I’ve found ways to put myself completely in the picture, relax and revel in summer. And, at times, even embody little boy energy…pumping my legs to swing higher and hopping off when (oh, my God!) the seats were way to hot…lounging on the couch and watching Lego Ninjago for hours (rationalization: life lessons abound on this show) and kinda getting hooked on it.
My most favorite achievement is that I’ve become a Hide and Seek master, of sorts. I’m the designated seeker. Actually, I’m intentionally really, really bad at it, which delights the little boys in my home and gives me time – in small intervals – to straighten the house. I know it’s a “mommy cheat” but it works. I count to 100 in the room that is the messiest then go from room to room making loud remarks and “ah ha” noises in all the wrong places while I organize.
I hardly even notice that I’m cleaning. Now THAT’S what summer is all about.