One night ago, I dreamt of patchwork quilts. They appeared throughout my dream journey, at one point for sale in a whimsical boutique my friend started, another time, hanging on a wall in a sun-filled yoga studio.
Two days ago I deep cleaned my house, taking eight hours to carefully mop floors, scrub toilets and sinks, pick up, dust, wipe down appliances, fold laundry, vacuum, make beds, rearrange furniture, and declutter. I didn’t even ask my kids to help me, but let them gleefully play on their ipads the entire time. I have a feeling it was one of the best days of their little lives. Though productive, it was not my ideal way to spend my time.
It’s Day Three, and my house has remained clean, the longest stretch ever, since having children, six years ago.
How the three-day streak, you ask? How has it remained clean with two sticky kids and a furry giant dog? Did you go out of town and leave the house completely? Did you lock your children and husband in the basement? Did you hire a live-in housecleaner? Au contraire, dear reader. The answer is, I’ve given up on everything else.
I sit in a chair in the living room, and pounce as soon as a stray envelope flutters in from the mailbox. Or a cereal bowl is left on the table, soggy Cinnamon Toast Crunch soaking up the remaining milk. I could ask, I mean nag, for help. “How many times do I have to tell you to put your dishes away??” I pick up clothes, I flush toilets, I load and unload dishes, load and unload laundry (but not fold…I’m not that great!). I pick up throw pillows and refold blankets and quilts, non stop.
Do you know what the significance is of dreaming of quilts?
Let me repeat that.
I am having a hard time processing this. I believe in dream interpretation, and I know that the past few days I have felt a sense of peace from having a clean house. This does not come easy to me, cleaning, devoting time and energy to tidying up. So the lasting results have been impactful. I like walking through the house and not feeling Cheerio crumbs beneath my feet. I like how the fireplace mantle doesn’t have odds and ends placed absentmindedly as a reminder to place them in their proper spot later. This feels good. I’m calmer. I am happier. I’m more willing to say yes to my kids. I’m not as angry when milk spills, because it’s just one mess, rather than a domino effect, where the spilled milk puddles around crayons, ruining important papers, sopping into Baby Bunny, who now requires a bath, but will most likely smell of sour milk the rest of her days.
Yes, a clean house feels so good. However, I am left with feelings of deep dissatisfaction. I have not painted in days. I have not written, worked on personal projects that bring me profound joy and a sense of purpose and identity. Projects that I hope will lead to a financial stability, that are career goals. I am angry while I clean, because of the sacrifices it entails.
Where is the balance? Having a clean house brings me the same joy as when I am at work in my “studio,” painting away, experimenting with new techniques, finishing a project, or editing other writers’ manuscripts. It creates sublime calmness where the world stops spinning and all energy is directed toward the task at hand.
Is it all or nothing? Is it possible to have both? A clean house and devotion to art, in addition to the demands of motherhood and family? Because the minute I leave my perch to work in my studio, my house will look like a scene following the Rapture. Puddles of clothes in the hallway, toothpaste left on a toothbrush in mid squeeze, a bag of popcorn beeping in the microwave, hours after it was initially placed in there.
Through sobering life lessons, I am coming to the realization that there is no balance without sacrifice. I can have it all. Just not at the same time. Clean home, ignore the children. Play with the children, ignore personal goals. Stay up late working on projects, ignore my spouse. Go to bed early, ignore everyone and everything. Something has to give every once in awhile, but what? How do you choose? Looking for inner peace, patience, and mindfulness to be okay with sacrifice is the challenge I’m currently facing. I have a long road ahead of me, and life is short. At least, childhood is short.
This morning, it is a dark and gloomy summer vacation day. My kids are eating boxed cereal, still half naked, ipads clutched in their hands, sitting at my feet like little kittens. I am in pajamas, at 10am, sipping on cafe au lait #2, finally writing. I will eventually take them to the library. I will make them get dressed. I will get dressed too. We might play in the rain, go to the donut shoppe, or stay snuggled inside, watching Aladdin for the 100th time (this summer). School starts again soon, and these glorious days will end, days that I do not take for granted.
I am experiencing domestic bliss. Nowhere to go, nowhere to be. Hanging out at home, under a patchwork quilt, the kids and me.