I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
Many months ago, before there was a Kit in the world, I went over to kissane
's place to hang out with them. I think kissane
and I were having a work date or something. meetar
came home and was v. tired and shagged out after a long day. He went to their music player and put on some amazing soothing music I'd never heard before. It was the most relaxing. "What is this?" I asked in wonder. He told me it was Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon"
I fell in love with it. I played it for X, who fell in love with it. And one night when we had a fussy baby, X played it for them. Now, every night at bedtime, we play "Thursday Afternoon" and rock Kit until they get sleepy, and then we put them in the crib to sleep. And every night I think how glad I am that meetar
happened to be in need of some soothing music that day.
Today I downloaded "Thursday Afternoon" to the tablet we have over the crib for a baby monitor, so it could sing Kit to sleep. Just now they woke up yelling--poor baby, trying to get used to dreaming, which really is such a weird thing--and I put my hand on their belly and put the music back on. They settled right back to sleep. Out like a light.
The only snag is that we have to wait for the track to finish, or sneak in and turn it off*, before we can use the sound-activated baby monitor. But that is a very small price to pay for an aural sleep-cue that is 60 minutes long, can be turned off at any point without a strong sense of interruption, doesn't become boring or annoying no matter how long or how often you listen to it, and doesn't require a parent to sing the same three-minute song over and over to the point of hoarseness. New parents and parents-to-be: I recommend it very very highly.* At some point I'm sure we will set up some sort of networked speakers, or root the tablet so we can remote-control it. Right now, tiptoeing in works fine (and lets us stare at the baby a little bit too).
As mentioned here
, I recently read Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
(which had a very gratifying focus on mindfulness in daily life; for a taste of that, see this shorter piece by Nhất Hạnh
). One of the things he suggests is taking a mindfulness sabbath every week--you do your ordinary daily things, but you do them at about a third your usual speed, with full attention to the thing you're doing in the moment that you're doing it. I like that idea so much better than a day of rest in the traditional Jewish mode, and have been thinking about implementing it in some way.
I tried it yesterday (beginning with lighting candles on Friday at sunset, which was very pleasant in the winter dark) and only sort of managed it. At one point on Saturday night I realized it was dark out and that meant Shabbat was over and I didn't have to be mindful anymore. Then I thought that was a sort of silly way to look at it, and did my best to be very present with whatever I did next (washing my hands, I think). If it were easy, I wouldn't have to make a practice of it.
One place where it was very effective was doing work on Friday evening. I was proofing my pages for the week, which I usually get very distracted from and take ages to do because of the distractions. But I focused on it not in a furrowed-brow kind of way but in a presence and mindfulness kind of way, and it went very quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately I have not yet managed to apply that to the work that I'm currently procrastinating on by writing this, because in order to be present with the work, I have to actually start doing the work, and I don' wanna. But once I actually start it, I will hopefully stay focused despite being incredibly tired, and it will go quickly and then I can sleep.
Today I was taking my meditation walk in the park, and caught myself getting distracted, and thought, "Be here now." And then I thought, "I am
here now," in the sense of, why do I need to instruct myself to be here now? I don't need to actively try to be here now; I'm already here now. I just need to stop being anywhere else (in the mind-wandering sense), and then being here now is the thing that's left. That little moment of enlightenment lasted maybe twenty seconds, but it was a really good twenty seconds. I am here now. No effort needed.
Thus ends my lengthy streak of TMBG subject lines, but this Tom Lehrer quote is too perfect to resist.
I haven't cried since Saturday afternoon, so I think the PMS is finally gone. In its wake I've been astonishingly productive and contented. All the parts of my brain that were hormonally offline have come back with a vengeance.
Dishwasher filled, run, emptied, refilled, run again. A load of laundry done. Work to-do list complete. Baby shower prep complete. Work inbox zero. Personal inbox 1, and that 1 is a chatty email from mrissa
. Writing to her is my reward for getting everything else done.
When my OCD gets wound up, I have this feeling like if I just do enough things then I will reach a mythical state where everything is done and I can relax. Tonight I feel like I've actually attained something like that state. It's wonderful. I could list all the remaining undone things... but I won't, because none of them need to be done tonight, and that's enough for me. I have regained my ability to set them aside, to boomerang them out of my mental inbox (how fucking great is Boomerang for Gmail
, by the way? I don't know how I lived without it) and trust that I'll remember them when the time is right. Hello, brain, I missed you. Welcome back.
I really want to savor this moment, when the house is clean and my belly is full of good homemade food and the work is done and everyone is sleeping and soon I will be too. This is a good place to be.