Wintry Making

I’ve been in all sorts lately thinking about my craft practice, and how to prioritise what to make first (I can hear everyone laughing). I’ve been working through a few things in my mind and my problem has begun to emerge: I began making and creating things when Nell was born, nine years ago. I was inspired to begin by a combination of things, mainly a deep desire to be creative and carve myself out from within the daily confines of motherhood, and secondly a growing unease around the amount of “stuff” brought into our lives with the introduction of a baby. I knew I was having an impact on the environment, I knew the decisions I made and the purchases I invested in made a difference to our footprint. I knew that my daily decisions around clothing and food (however tiny) made an impact on real people, many of whom are being exploited and underpaid just so I can have my kid wearing a pink unicorn cardigan. Watch this documentary on fast fashion and I’ll step down from my soapbox. I wanted to make some of Nell’s clothes to avoid having to purchase things that were made unethically, and to try to utilise materials that were no longer being used (I first started sewing with secondhand sheets). I quickly learned that craft was not only improving our home lives and increasing the ethical choices we could make on a daily basis, it was also enormously beneficial to my mental health. It was (and still is) my meditation.

Fast forward a year or so and suddenly I could sew and crochet and I was selling my handmade items. That was nearly a decade ago now! Looking back I can’t believe I once lived a life where I outsourced everything – food, clothing, gifts – and I didn’t know how to make a single thing.

I have reached a crossroads though, where I am still making on the daily, but the balance has shifted and my family aren’t always benefiting from these skills I have acquired. For example, if I have plenty of custom orders, and I usually have enough to keep me busy in the small amount of time I have to pursue such projects, then these orders take priority over say, mending, or making new school leggings for the girls. I have been caught out a number of times and have had to purchase something that I have the skills to make, because I am lacking in time.

On one hand being able to make and sell things has created a lovely little channel of pocket money which helps to support my family and for which I am very grateful. I’m also promoting the environmental benefits of purchasing handmade and allowing other families an opportunity to purchase locally and ethically made items. On the other, I am not always able to make the choices that I promote, and that first drew me to learn these skills, if my time is being taken up making things to sell to other people.

Add to this jumble part time work, writing projects, and general life and craft seems like a real luxury.

So. I’m setting myself a few priorities and getting my craft organised. Number one on the list is fairly obvious… When I fold the washing I see holes in the knees of 90% of the leggings we own. So this pattern is a must for me this winter (and I just noticed it is currently on sale). They are so fast to whip up, and when you really examine it, I dare say it would be faster for me to stay home and cut and sew three pairs of these than it would be to get in my car, go to the shops, search and be distracted and blinded by the white lights, purchase and come home again. I should time it and see.

Secondly, in May I had every intention of making myself this dress to wear to my cousin’s wedding which has now been and gone. I bought the pattern and this material (swoon!) and it is still sitting in my mending basket of all places. So by Spring I’d like to see this dress hanging in my wardrobe, please. I also have this coat pattern ready and waiting, but realistically this might be one to make over January 2020 so it’s ready for Autumn next year.

Other than that, I have this pattern sitting in my studio, along with a few metres of this luxurious linen. I promised to make these pants for my Mum in January 2018. I reckon I should work on getting these ready for her birthday: December 2019… (sorry Mum).

Then there are gifts. I had a sweet period where all my gifts were handmade (amazing how many kids’ parties you need to buy gifts for when you have three kids!), and going back to work along with other stuff sent this little rhythm to the bottom of the basket (I know I don’t have to explain all this, you guys get it!). I spoke to my aunty on the phone yesterday who also loves making all her Christmas presents and said we should get together to plan our our Christmas makes (don’t kill me for mentioning Christmas) so that we can make it a reality to give handmade gifts this year. I’ve also got a few friends who have just had babies and have managed to make a couple of things for those new babes. Being ahead of the game is surely the way to go here.

This list is enough to keep me busy until the end of the year, along with custom orders and life. What are you making this Winter? Do you have lists that you write for each season or do you just make whatever it is that takes your fancy?

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CHANGES WE CAN ALL MAKE TO LEAN TOWARDS BALANCE

This weekend we were home, and it was perfect (even with the addition of yet another bout of colds in my household).

After my post last week about finding balance, I have made a few small adjustments in my life.

The biggest change (and surprisingly the fastest) I made was rearranging my hours at work and (thanks to a flexible work place, thank you thank you!) I now have three full weekdays home with my girls (along with weekends). This has been the biggest change, and I was surprised at just how easy it was to make. Sometimes, though, we have to try things before we realise they aren’t working.

I unfollowed over 200 people on my instagram account – mainly brands and big names that I won’t miss. I remember the early days of instagram when I would hop on and each little square that I saw would elicit a sense of connection to the person who posted it. I would usually know their name and I would comment knowing they would ‘know’ me. These days it got to the point where I would think to myself ‘who are these people!?’ This encouraged mindless scrolling, thinking there must be something of interest somewhere in my feed. I felt disconnected and the whole thing felt very random (I’m not even going to mention the ads every third post). Suddenly the people I really wanted to see were not appearing in my feed at all (thanks, algorithm). Now I’ve taken a whole lot of chatter away, I once again recognise the people in my feed.

I have declined things that I know I don’t have time for – even if they are things I enjoy. This has included sharing a market stall with one of my besties at a market I have been wanting to be a part of for a long time, attending a meditation class I know I would love, filling in for a yoga teacher I admire, and declining the opportunity to take over the specific prenatal yoga class that initially motivated me to become a yoga teacher. Some of these things have hurt! But I have to focus on my family, my writing and creative projects, and the work I can do; I can’t be everything and everywhere at once.

We are all swept away by busy-ness and many people responded to my previous post by saying there is no such thing as balance when you have small children. Part of me agrees; there’s no doubt it is easier to go with the current, for it is strong and unyielding. For me, that life is not sustainable and I reach the brink all too quickly.

There are things we can do to slow down and lean towards balance. And when you’re leaning towards balance, when you’re saying no to the extraneous, I would argue that there is more space to see the beauty in household chaos and disorder. There is heart in disharmony and we can cope. So. Is there something you can tweak in your life to make the cogs roll a little bit more smoothly?

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The Work (and the Seemingly Endless Pursuit of Life Balance)

I have been speaking with friends lately about finding life balance. Some questions we have asked are: Does it exist? How do you get it? Is it ok to have passions and pursuits that are internal and just for you? [Paused this to help P with her playdough]. I haven’t written here for what feels like an eternity, though I do regularly write draft posts that never see the light of day (I currently have 145 draft posts that I have begun and discarded). So rather than begin another, you’ll know by now I whinge about this topic regularly and, what do you know, there was a post about something similar waiting patiently in the wings. I thought I’d publish it today. I wrote it last year and it was originally titled The Work.

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I was listening to a podcast recently where a writer was interviewed about the work involved in writing her first novel. It took years. Writing, rewriting, editing, pausing, submitting. It took hours each day, after other work that consumed her daylight hours. It took brain space, it took energy, it took an unending amount of commitment and will. It took sacrifice of other enjoyable things; relaxation, time with friends and family, television.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this work. At first I was relating it to my own writing pursuits, and still am. Then today as I was getting P her lunch, it dawned on me: this writer was also describing the work of motherhood. The end product of her lunch was absolutely insta-worthy. Bento serves of bits and bobs. If you saw it you’d assume the person who prepared it is a mother in control, someone who’s really got things together. In reality, her lunch took me 45 minutes to prepare. P got down from her chair 11 times (yes, I counted)*. And wanted my help each time to climb back into her chair, but at the same time she wanted to do it by herself so I was required to stand behind the chair and hold her hand while she climbed up. I walked back and forth from the kitchen, trying to put together something for her to eat from leftovers in the fridge. She ate the mandarine and the kiwi fruit. She stuck her hands in the yoghurt and smeared it on the table. She threw the vegetables on the floor and didn’t eat anything else.

This was just the work involved today in one small meal, for one small person.

Now I’m cleaning the kitchen so I can cook dinner before collecting the other two from school – I tore off my dishwashing gloves to write this. P is watching an episode of Play School and I am feeling guilty as she hasn’t watched telly for days and I was feeling good about that. All these thoughts are spinning around in my head.

And I realise. To do anything we care about, there is work. There is sacrifice. There is mind-shattering frustration. In saying that, there is nothing more important in my life than being a mother. And I don’t say that to be a saint, I say it because it’s true. I knew from an incredibly young age that I wanted to be a mum, and I never strayed from that vision. And that is why I do the work, that is why I try my hardest every day. I often get things wrong (like everyone else), but I try.

The conversations I have with other women are like sneak peeks behind the scenes. At school pick up I see smiles and sunglasses and nice jeans or swish sports clothes. But I know that behind each face are the hidden moments of loneliness, of self-deprecation, of inadequacies.

Let’s share them sometimes. Because we’re not designed to face these things alone. Just like any other great work of art, motherhood takes time, it takes brain space, it takes energy. I hope you know that, and I hope it helps you not to be too hard on yourself in those sticky moments.

* Pearl can now (finally) (usually) get up and down from her chair by herself – let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief!

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Firsts, revisited

Last night I reread something I wrote a few years ago, when my third born P was a newborn baby. You can download it here for free, if you feel like it. The story was called Firsts and it was published by The Kindred Collective, an online magazine started by Caitlin Dyer (and perhaps a friend, from memory, apologies if I have missed someone!). I’m not sure why it didn’t continue as it was such a sweet collection of stories. In Firsts I describe giving birth, long days and nights mothering tiny little people, and daily cold cups of tea. As I read I remembered that part of myself: the mother who typed notes ferociously into her phone in the thick hours of the night, with a baby attached to her breast, the soft glow of the phone lighting up her face. I remembered those elongated days moving from activity to activity with babies and small children and the yearning I felt for adult conversation. Endless cups of tea and coffee being made, and cooled; rarely consumed.

In the story I wondered about those “capital M mothers” who launched children in and out of cars, who marched kids around and barrelled through life, parenting confidently with chins held high. I suppose now I am in the phase of motherhood that I imagined back then would come with this elusive capital M status. But I know now that such a thing does not exist.

In some ways, I look back and see myself as more of a mother then than I do now*. Now real life has begun to slip back in, to creep around the edges. I am no longer cocooned by my small babies. When you have babies, you can’t do anything else. You’re utterly consumed by it, and rightly so. At times in those days I felt a sense of desperation, of wildly clinging to ‘myself’, of feeling these small beings were stealing, wrenching me away. I would cry in the middle of the day, bury my head in my hands as a baby screamed for me. I would stomp my feet and tug back, demand to keep certain parts of myself for fear of losing me forever to these little creatures. At other times I would lay with a sleeping baby on the couch for hours on end, marvelling at her soft downy skin, her feathery breath forever linking with my own. The softness and contrasting brutality of days alone with babies and small children is something I will never forget. This is all part of the path and now that it is slipping away I long for it deeply. And forgive me for being slightly daft but it has only just begun dawning on me that that phase of parenting is virtually over for me. P is three and a half and while her moods can be murderous and I (still) very rarely get the chance to sit down when on duty, that physicality, the intensity that comes with being responsible for a baby has slowly faded away without me actively realising.

I held my four month old niece on the weekend and my body remembered. Afterwards, my own babies felt like giants in my arms.

As I move into this next chapter of motherhood my life is opening up in front of me again. I have been back at work for two days a week for over a year and when I’m there, I walk to get a coffee and eat lunch with my colleagues. I occasionally go out for dinner with friends and I don’t have to worry about expressing milk or getting a baby to sleep before I leave.

But this concept of firsts is still following me around (I hear more seasoned parents laughing, laughing). I might be better at hurling the kids in the car and getting-shit-done, but I still flail around constantly, deliberating over countless things: how to discuss reality and disappointment with an eight year old asking difficult questions, how to explain to a six year old that I’m only a human despite her biggest hopes, how to carve out time for a three year old who has spent a lot of her life trailing around after her big sisters’ school routines. I think and worry about the future – phones and high school and broken hearts and rebellion. Now I know just how fleeting their babyhood was, I try not to cling to these younger years, to just relax and enjoy and not worry about the next chapter ending.

Tomorrow I’ll be at home all day with my eldest and my youngest who are both fighting colds and sore throats. We will take the middle to school and come home and make ourselves cosy. I will deliver drinks of water and tasty plates. I will read books and decide what we’re having for dinner. I’ll put a wash on and spend the rest of the day telling myself I should hang it out.

And then I will make myself a hot cup of coffee, and I’ll sit down and drink it, in remembrance of my first chapter.

*Which I realise is completely ridiculous.

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Summer in the Garden

The days have been long and hot here. With all five of us on holidays, time has stretched and elongated across weeks of activity with each task, moment, day seamlessly blending into the next. We lay in bed each night, exhausted, wondering together just how we managed to fill our summery days quite so much.

We have inherited a neglected and lazily sloping terraced garden at our new home. Each day we spend time exploring it; snipping back vines of ivy and jasmine to uncover fruit trees (plums, limes, nectarines, lemons) and native plants (grevillea, banksia, wattle, flowering gums), lifting up rocks to discover hidden keys, sweeping the dirt away from the edges of red brick paved paths to find the paths are wider than once thought, extra rows of bricks are hidden underneath the edges of the beds. Slowly, over time, the garden has edged its way across the paths, and eaten everything in sight.

I’ve been slowly placing all my succulent pots around the garden in an attempt to make it look nice, but it is such a mess, it really is going to take us so long to bring our garden up to speed. Though, truth be told, I’m discovering that I love this process. I was sweeping our front paths today when an older couple walked past. We said our hellos and the woman commented, “A lot of work here, these leaves are relentless!” I agreed, and continued sweeping, only to realise I had been out the front pottering and sweeping and looking and dreaming and exploring for over an hour.

Last weekend we were given nine (NINE!) new plants, all propagated by a family member. We have three silver princess, three jacarandas and three ornamental silk trees to plant around our home. This has encouraged us to examine the light, the slope, the plants in more detail than ever.

Today and tomorrow we might plant some of them, if the heat allows. I know we will look back at photos in years to come and can’t wait to take note of their progress.

I am enjoying this space more than I had anticipated. I watch as the light turns pink in the evenings and see the gentle lean of the plants as they reach towards the sun. I see the weeds and vines enveloped and wrapped around the plants – straining to escape. Day by day we will continue to uncover and untangle and unleash. I’m learning as I go: observing, pottering, playing, experimenting. I’m so excited to see where this garden takes us and can’t help but feel like it chose us for a reason.

Currently Reading

I’ve got a bit of an ambitious pile of books next to my bed at the moment. I’m in one of those situations where you put books on hold at the library, and they all come in at the same time! I’m reading reading reading every chance I get, trying to get through my stack before they are all due back. Above is a small preview of the actual stack… have you read any of these?

So far in 2019 I’ve begun reading:

1/ See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

When I picked this book up I could barely put it down. Then one night after a late night session of reading I had one of the worst nightmares I have had in years – associated with what I had read that night and the characters in the book. I won’t bore you with the details of my dream as we all know other people’s dreams are not that fascinating, needless to say I haven’t picked up the book since! Once I garner some bravery and after I’ve finished the book below, I’ll give it another shot.

2/ The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

This is a book I’m reading for book group. I would never have chosen to read it and initially thought it might be a bit of a drag. But I am thus far pleasantly surprised. The way Peter Carey has written the book, in the voice of Ned Kelly in a long form letter to his daughter, has me completely captivated. I want to read more about the research Carey did for the book as I have no idea whether he is simply making up his version of the story or putting it together based on factual evidence (excuse me if this is naive of me). Ned’s sentences run together in colourful Australian lingo and it is simply an adjectival delight to read (read the book and you’ll see what I did there). I am smitten with Carey’s depiction of Ned; his voice, the broken sentences and lack of grammar a new language that now floats fluently around my head. I haven’t quite finished yet but I know this renewed telling of the Kelly tale will stay with me for many years. I am dragging myself to the finish line as we all know enough of Ned Kelly to know how the story ends.

This year with some inspiration from a family member doing the same, I’ve bought myself a notebook dedicated to the books I read. A space to record titles and thoughts about each. I’ve been using goodreads for a number of years but never feel inclined to leave a review on the app, I’d rather make notes for personal use. My little notebook has given me the freedom to not worry about whether I’m making intelligent enough observations on a book – and also a way to remember what I have read and what the book was about. I often know I have read a book, but can’t remember the storyline or the characters. I’m hoping this little system will help.

Since beginning the #booksinourhands hashtag I’ve realised how many people love reading in our little comunity, and someone suggested we develop the tag into a more established online book group. So I have created a little insta nook for us book nerds to gather. You can follow along at the freshly created @booksinourhands. Use the hashtag to share what you’re reading and I’ll share selected posts in the account. Please feel free to join in and discuss with us what you’re reading!

What do you think? What are you reading right now? What are your reading goals for 2019? Comment below to let me know.

Draft, always

A long time between words. Between thoughts between sittings between stringing words together into sensible-ish thoughts. So long, in fact, that the blog editor has changed since the last time I was here and I’m having all manner of tech challenges while writing this, including losing a complete post filled with words and photos, ready to publish. I went to eat dinner and while gone my computer went flat, the post unsaved. Alas, I try again, this time with truffles from Christmas in hand, a mug of steaming herbal tea and a quiet house.

2018 was a big year for us. I laughed earlier this afternoon as I re-read my hopes for 2018 which included enjoy a slow and quiet pace. Little did I know that this past year was not the year for slow nor quiet. It was deep and tumultuous and raw. It threw us around the place, those giant oceanic waves of change; unsteady, uncertain. At times I handled this with grace, at others; in a heap. Over the past year the Pixie started school, I started two jobs, and eventually decided not to continue with one of them as life was already full and busy enough. I lost a friend. We sold our home of 10 years, and bought another. We moved house. I hadn’t lived in a place for so long since my childhood home. We let go of one dream, and started another. We went camping in our little 1979 camper bought from the side of the road. We made plans.

Now: time to recalibrate. At the start of 2019 we have ended up somewhere unexpected, but ready and eager for this new beginning. I know the new year is only an illusion, but for me it is highly symbolic. I love the freshness that January brings, to think and dream and hope, don’t you? One of the things I’m aiming to do this year is read more books. Last year during all our change and upheaval I got into a terrible habit of mindlessly scrolling on my phone at bed time. I told myself I was ‘too tired’ to read and that I had to research houses and by the time I dragged myself away I would truly be too tired to do anything else but read one page of my book and go to sleep. I’m hoping to share more titles and thoughts with you later on (for now read this post and join in at #booksinourhands over on instagram). As luck would have it, when we moved into our new home in December we had a great deal of trouble with our internet provider. This fortunate situation (though I felt very disgruntled at the time) enabled me to break some patterns and our evenings have been largely spent pottering and reading – with a bit of telly splashed in here and there. I’ve loved this shift in focus. A good book that you’re dreaming of picking up as you move through your daily tasks also helps, for me right now it’s this one.

I am still working on some concrete personal goals for 2019, I generally spend the whole month doing this. Perhaps I’ll share some of them here in the future, but in the meantime, what about you? Does the tilt of the sun in January light you up with new beginnings? Does the quiet allow time for contemplation? I love the sense of disconnect we allow ourselves at this time of year, I feel cocooned by family, free to ignore emails, to dream and think and plan. I’d love to know what it’s like for you.

We Are All Made of Stars

I dreamt there was a woman standing in the corner of my bedroom. There were other anonymous people crowded in there, all quietly encouraging my husband to shoot her. I stood nearby and as he aimed the gun I held my hands up  too, clasping them into an imaginary pistol. I squeezed my left eye shut and aimed over the length of my fingertips. Like a child playing, I said: pow. And he shot. And she crumpled to the floor; a pile of nothingness in the corner. I got into bed and went to sleep with my husband’s arms wrapped around me, a dead woman curled up on the floor next to me.

This is the type of dream I have when there’s a lot going on in my life. When I’m feeling flaky, when I’m tired, when I’m worried. It was just a dream, but the mornings following a dream like this are always tainted with eeriness, with the shadow of imagined violence that swept through my mind like a passing ghost in the night.

Nevertheless, the sun shone today (so warmly) and I brushed the girls’ hair and did their plaits and wiped down the bench and went to work and sent emails and ate my lunch. I patted the dog and ate a biscuit (two). The world continues to turn despite my melancholic night life.

This moving house business is so much more than I ever thought it would be. I’m finding it reminiscent of having a baby; no one can ever tell you how tired or amazed or in love or overwhelmed you will be, you have to figure it out for yourself when the time comes (mind you, selling your house is a little heavy on the ‘tired’ and ‘overwhelmed’ as opposed to the ‘in love’ and ‘amazed’ bit that a baby brings). My sister went through this process earlier this year and while I knew she was busy, I had no real concept of the work involved in preparing a house for sale (when you have three children) (when you’ve lived there for ten years) (when you probably could have cleaned (the oven) a bit more than you did).

I’ve been working my way through each room, and backwards and around. Packing things, sorting things, rehoming things. A little while ago I started to notice I had a lot of wool deposited around the house. In a basket here, on a shelf there. Before I knew it I had a (very) large bag full of balls of wool. As in, one of those (very) large tartan storage bags with the zip at the top. You know the ones? The balls of wool are of all sizes, many not big enough to make a full pixie hat or kotori cardi or other garment out of. I have many plans to make some block coloured kotoris, however now is not the time (my mother-in-law keeps reminding me that it is, indeed, not the time for new projects, thanks Net xx). All these small balls of wool + my night time escapades + my annoyance at waste got me thinking. I have wanted to make a blanket for a long time. Just a small one.

So each night, I stitch. Sometimes just a row or two, sometimes three or more. Sometimes slowly and with many pauses, sometimes frantically and determined. As my hands move, my thoughts fall softly around me. I’m lost in a quiet calmness, my mind tethered carefully with the gentle concentration required of the task. I’m still going to sleep fairly late, later than I would like (later than KB). But this new routine is a nice one, amongst the boxes, the physical work and the nostalgia that most days bring. The stitch is a simple one: dc / tr, alternating (thanks to Helen for the pattern and the inspiration). I had been dreaming of making some beautiful neutral coloured blankets, but funnily enough this one is a good representation of my mind and our life at the moment: very colourful and a bit messy. I’ll name the blanket Moving House.

I read something the other day that suggested nostalgia is a wasted emotion, that it results in nothing positive. I like to think, however, that nostalgia is not just for the fragile-hearted, rather, it is part of a process of remembering and subsequently letting go. That moving through memories and feelings of goodwill about this house will leave me more prepared to move on when the time comes. One can live in hope about such matters.

I revisited this album this week on my trips to and from work and once again fell in love with the lyrics, because I absolutely love the notion (scientific theory?) that we are all made of stars. It adds a little sparkle to the day, don’t you think?

And on that note, off we go. Another week, a bit of razzle-dazzle and we’re one step closer to… wherever we are going.

Stuff and Things and Hello Spring

Even though the air is still crisp, there’s a warmth in the sun that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. Spring. I adore Winter but it’s always nice to welcome back the sun and watch new growth unfurl in the garden.

Over here we are slowly rolling our way through our things. Packing boxes labelled “study” and “memorabilia” and “books”. Bag upon bag of things we no longer need going to family, friends and the op shop. As a last resort when things are in no condition to donate or sell, they are going in the bin.

We are a family of five. We have lived in this house for ten years. Eight of those years have included small children.

We have a lot of stuff.

I always knew we had lots of things. For years I’ve talked about my efforts to declutter, to clear, to minimise. I’ve read books like this and this and this (although she lost me when she said my handbag has feelings). But at the end of the day, I honestly don’t know how to stop the flow of stuff coming into our house. I can’t throw things out fast enough to keep up with it, and even when I am getting rid of things I can’t help but feel helpless at the mere fact that that thing even exists in the first place. If it’s not at my place, it’s somewhere else on the planet. I’m already feeling nervous about Christmas… The neverending cycle of stuff is certainly something I want to work on when we are in our new home. The thought of having to go through this process again at some point in the future is terrifying.

Nevertheless with all this shedding of clutter, the change in the air is palpable; we are between seasons both metaphorically in our life, and environmentally. I was given this quote the other day by a friend who I respect deeply:

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. 

This is true of so many things. The quote was given to me during a discussion about change, and my reluctance to let go of the home we have lived in for ten years. Of the tortuous way in which I trail through memories and lose myself in clouds of nostalgia for days at a time. Change does not come easily to me, but this quote has made me think of change, in this instance at least, as necessary in order to allow the next phase of our lives together to blossom.

So I will slowly continue the sorting and the cleaning and the shedding of layers (and layers and layers) of our belongings, and as I move through the motions it feels like I’m also shedding layers (and layers and layers) of mental clutter too. I love the lightness this creates in our home and in my mind; the space, the clarity.

For there is some sense of clarity to be found in times of upheaval. You just have to know where to look.

Domesticity

Sitting here, Sunday morning. Coffee. Cereal. Sunlight pouring through window onto faces of children. Dirty dishes. Discarded pyjamas.

Domesticity.

School goes back tomorrow. Today we will move our way through all the jobs Sundays require. I went through the washing basket before making my coffee this morning and found that we hadn’t yet washed the school uniforms… the washing seems to pile up so fast that often the top layers get washed but the bottom of the basket is forgotten. This is probably so unhygienic I’m not sure if I should mention it publicly. Never fear, all the uniforms are in the machine now and I’ll hang them out in front of the heater later this morning.

The girls both have holes in their navy school leggings that I put off as a school holiday job. They haven’t been mended. In January this year I bought a few metres of navy bamboo jersey material to make them new leggings. They haven’t been made.

I always look ahead to a place where there will be more time, where life will move a little slower. It seems to be an unending lesson that this time never actually comes. These holidays I have to give myself a break though, as I have not simply been contending with time; I’ve spent the entire two weeks coughing and spluttering with a second bout of a wintery virus that has its tendrils tightly wrapped within my chest.

On the long list of holiday jobs we are slowly working our way through is sorting and clearing our home as we get ready to put it on the market. A few days ago I found an old journal I wrote when I lived in London in my early 20s. Despite being excruciatingly disturbing to read, it made me realise how domesticated my life (and I) have become. The majority of its pages had me galavanting around London at night, begrudging what he said and what she said and complaining that I can’t afford to top up my phone and there’s too much plastic on the broccoli at Tesco and maybe I’ll quit my job and move to Edinburgh among a variety of other things that I’ll never mention here, or anywhere, ever. I had nothing to worry about beyond the 18p on my phone and where I was going to buy my next can of corn.

In comparison, domestic life is… what is it? It is full and busy and intense. I like to tell myself it is rarely dull, though at times when wrapped up in the cycle it can be endlessly dull and repetitive. Sometimes it seems like a ridiculous game, a never-ending attempt to reach a certain point (that never eventuates) and I wonder if I’m trapped in some sort of experiment. Eg. Once I’ve washed the dishes I’ll… or If only I could get through this washing basket, then I’ll have time for… or Once I’ve written these emails and filled out those school notices I could… and somehow (I still haven’t quite figured out how) that moment never, ever comes. If you want it, you have to allow it to barge through the wall of domesticated life. If you want to write something, make something, listen to something, you have to grab the moment by the horns and if the proverbial hits the fan, ignore it. At least, that’s the basic theory. I can’t say I have mastered it, although, I am sitting here typing so I suppose in some ways I have. The girls are all at the table with me, colouring in. Between every third word I type there is a question usually beginning with a repeated Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyyy Mummyy if I don’t answer within the required millisecond. It’s delivered in that kind of whiny, elongated pitch, that cuts straight through your motherly ears (I know you know the tone). That’s ok. I can truly say I love this life. I love the messiness of it, the chaos. I love being around these little, crazy people, despite it being the most exhausting, all-consuming, insane thing I have ever done. I love hearing their conversations, I love organising their things and planning out activities, birthdays, clothing, food. I love cuddling them and reading them books from my childhood, reliving them through their eyes and minds. I love the safety and cosiness of family, of a solid family unit. I love all the nerdy things associated with motherhood: meal planning, wardrobe organising, sewing lists. Sometimes I wonder if I am really an 80 year old trapped in this 36 year old body.

I know that by the time I have figured all this out, my girls will be grown and this brief window of my life will be over. Most days I don’t give it a second thought, I just move with the motions. But now and again I try to tune in, to pay attention. Because domestic life may be inane at times, but I don’t want to miss a second of it.

In an hour or so we will head off to the farmers market and stock up for the week. I don’t know what we’ll cook this week. I’ve been so unwell that we haven’t eaten very well or cooked much over the holidays. The day will flow on as all days do. We will try to make sense of the messiness, and then we will let it go.

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