Tuesday, April 3, 2007

A Decade of Clutter

I took pictures earlier while the water was heating for tea, and I discovered something new about our apartment today. It's a photographer's nightmare. It's very difficult to take pictures of an area when you can't get far enough away from it to put it into proper perspective. Everything is too close. Not... stretch out both arms and touch opposite walls close, but still too close.


It occurred to me while I was resizing the pictures and picking out which ones I would (probably) use if I were to post them anywhere that if somewhere were to look at them and not know anything about me, they'd probably report me to some health agency or something! So, a little history, if you please.

When we moved into this apartment ten years ago, K. wasn't even 3 months old and I was still on bed rest following her delivery. (Long story; had complications early in pregnancy and ended up on bed rest nearly for nearly the whole time, was forced into early labor per doctors orders, K. did NOT want to cooperate with that at all and I was supposed to be on bed rest for the first 3 months after delivery. Ok, maybe it wasn't that long of a story...) This apartment was supposed to be a "temporary" thing; a year or two, three years MAX.

That first year, I spent a hectic time adjusting to being a mother and trying to make head and tales out of the boxes that were already here while dealing with two felines and a baby by myself all day then most of the night while A. slept. (Sometimes now when I look back at that time and how frazzled I was, I wonder if there might have been some postpartum emotional issues going on with me during that first year and thank God that if there was, I didn't do anything stupid.) Roughly half of the boxes we had were here, the rest were in storage, and I was in no real hurry to unpack all sorts of boxes I had no part in packing (meaning, I had no clue what was in ANY of the boxes) if we were only going to have to pack stuff up to move again. Some of the boxes had still been packed from the move we made just after we found out I was pregnant and just transferred to this apartment when we moved in.

The second year was just as hectic with boxes still everywhere and a toddler who had begun to chase felines, and felines that had begun to bound over and burrow behind anything they could to get away from said toddler. It was less than ideal for me so I started opening boxes. Slowly. It's hard to spend even 15 minutes sorting through a box when you have no clue what's in it and there's a toddler wanting to "help".

The years get blurry around that time. At some point I went back to work for a variety of reasons, none of which were "I want to go back to work now". Unfortunately, I was working hours like noon - 9pm. It sucked. I was miserable. I didn't stay at that job long and moved on to something better. (I wouldn't have stayed there long even without those hours; I have problems with a customer service based company instructing phone reps to lie to the customers, and I got written up for refusing to do so.) The "something better" was an office job that I loved for about a year. I stopped loving my job after the owner hired a couple of micro-managing office managers, and a problem about who I should report to and who had control over my time developed. I had no problem doing MY job, but when each of them wanted me to also do someone else's job as well, it became intolerable. I could not, and still can not, do the job of three different people simultaneously.

After that job, I had another which lasted right up until a few weeks after September 11, 2001. After that was a job with a company that couldn't decide what department they wanted me in (there were two departments fighting to have me) and ended up laying me off in a budgetary cut-back measure that took the jobs of several hundred other employees as well.

It was during those last three jobs that K. was enrolled in at the private kindergarten and first grade program with the daycare she was at, and subsequently pulled out of there and enrolled into the public school she's at now.

I stayed at home for a while after that, right up until the time A. was laid off and we needed me to work. Unfortunately, the job I got had 2:30pm - 11pm hours. There was little choice in the matter, though; we needed the income desperately. I worked there for not quite a year, waking up at 6am to ensure K. was at the bus stop on time, sometimes winding back down to take a nap but usually running errands until noon when I would eat something and start getting ready for work. After work, I'd get home between 11:30pm and midnight (if I didn't stay late, then I'd get home around 1 - 2 am), nibble on something while I wound down for a few hours then lay in bed still not able to sleep until 4 - 5am only to have to wake up at 6am to start the whole day over again! I slept mainly on Saturday and Sunday, and not by choice. I enjoyed that job - didn't love it, but did enjoy it - but I loved spending more than an hour a day with my daughter more. As soon as we felt confident that A. could carry us with his new salary, I quit that job.

It took me more than a year to recover from that final year of working. My sleep patterns were so fragmented and my brain so fried from lack of sleep that I am amazed that I was even functional for as long as I was. In truth, I'm very surprised I didn't have some sort of mental break-down or do some serious damage to myself or anyone else (Thank you, God). Once I got to a point where I could sleep for more than one or two hours at a time, they were the wrong one or two hours! I had been working nights for so long that my body shifted to being nocturnal (a natural shift since I've been naturally inclined toward being nocturnal all my life), and shifting from nocturnal to diurnal is a long hard road.

I did clean during all those years. At one point, we actually could get to and use my dining room table, but it was more important to us to clean out the storage unit and stop spending that $60 a month, so the boxes ended up on (and under) the table. Not long after that, I started emptying them, often with A.'s help because I was too tired to deal with it on my own. I did quite a bit of cleaning on my own, too, though I couldn't help but wonder why no matter how much I worked it never seemed to make a difference. That led to a lot of time being unhappy, depressed, and completely unmotivated, and one instance when I started dumping boxes out onto the table with a near-frenzied sob of "Why am I the only one in this household CLEANING?? Why is everyone else making messes for me to clean up?? LOOK!! I can make messes too!! Who's going to clean THAT up??".

So what does all that have to do with the clutter sitting all over and around my dining room table and the mess sitting in front of my desk threatening to take over my living room? A lot, actually. It brings us to now. Today. Right this very minute. Ten years (and a few months) later, I'm still in the same apartment, and still have much of the same clutter I moved in with. But I'm less frantic and strung out from lack of sleep these days, and basically I'm back to being me.

Being more sane these days (*giggles*) and great deal less sleep deprived, I want my home back. I want my haven back. I want to use my table, for eating, for sewing, for working at. I want to be able to sit on the floor in the living room and watch a movie or listen to music while I piece together some chain maille. I want to be able to exercise in my living room, or maybe just stretch out and take a nap on the floor with the cats and the kid some rainy afternoon. After a decade of being "temporary" and having the mindset that it's not worth the effort to make this place a true home because we would only be leaving soon, I've finally decided I'm not waiting any more. If this apartment is to be my home for the rest of my life, so be it. If it's to be my home for just another year or two, so be it. Until then, I will have the order I so desperately crave and need. I will have cut flowers on my desk, on my table, on my dresser, on K.'s dresser, or wherever a sad little spot cries out for the brightness of a flower. I will resume my crafts and bake bread from scratch. And with my own joy in all these things, I will create an atmosphere of joy within my home, for my family.

I'm tired of living my life on hold, waiting for the real life to begin.

It begins now.


Penny said...

It sounds like you had a particularly tough few years there.

Carrie said...

Your flashback of dumping everything onto the table and screaming why am I the only one cleaning - oh hon, I've been there too. Actually I still go there, almost weekly.
And we *do* need a haven. It's so important, especially when we spend so much time within these walls. Voluntarily, to be sure - but why do we make ourselves prisoner to misery while we're in here?
If I lived nearby I'd come over and help you purge. Then I'd beg you to come help *me*, LOL.
Instead, I'll just give you a good hearty "you GO, girl!" via the blogosphere and keep checking in with you.
WE CAN DO THIS. We own the stuff, the stuff doesn't own us. It's about time we show it who's boss, eh? :)