Dealing with the Physical Clutter:
We bought this house almost a year ago, and it has been a long journey getting completely settled. We literally had rooms full of boxes for many months while my husband worked on finishing up some major projects like the kitchen remodel, and working on prepping our Texas house for sale (original post here). Once the kitchen was finished, that cut down on a lot of the boxes since a large number of them were holding all of the cooking supplies that we could not use for a while. Our old rental house (shown here), where we lived before we moved here, was a tiny little Craftsman cottage, but it had a garage, a basement, closets, and lots of built-in storage, all things that this house is lacking. Since living with rooms filled with moving boxes is not an acceptable option, this house forced us to really sit down and pare down some of our belongings.
We realized that there were a lot of things that we had been carrying around with us for years on end that we really do not need. We spent a few days going through boxes together, trying to decide what we really need, what could be donated, and what should go in the recycle bin. We realized that we had both been hanging onto some similar things, in the hopes of one day having a child. Whether or not this child ends up loving math, science and engineering, we definitely do not need two separate sets of college textbooks from similar math and science classes. We figured just holding onto one set is good enough in case we have a little budding genius growing here.
We started making a huge “donate” pile of bags and boxes in the living room. Before we knew it, that pile had taken over almost half of the room. There were so many random and miscellaneous things in there that we really do not need. My husband loaded them all up in his Jeep and took them to donate. It felt so good to simplify our home, and hopefully help others in the process.
We want to make sure that as new parents, we are setting a good example for our child. We do not want him growing up and being overly focused on material possessions, and our massive decluttering is our way of hopefully starting him off on the correct path. We want our family life to focus on God, love, and spending time with each other; not how many things we can acquire or have in our home.
In an effort to try to make sure that we keep the decluttering a part of our regular routine, I decided to start placing a bag in our entry room that will always be there for when we have additional items to donate. Once we started with this new system of only keeping things that we actually need or regularly use, it is amazing how quickly the bag is filling up!
Dealing with the Emotional Clutter:
Most people know that part of being a good Christian is the concept of turning the other cheek. While I am not always the best at forgiving quickly (I am part Sicilian after all…we are known for holding grudges!), I always try really hard to eventually let go of my anger and forgive when someone has upset or hurt me. For me, that has often included not necessarily telling someone when they have upset me, and just trying to let it go. This does not always work that well since I end up holding onto the anger when the person inevitably does something similar to upset me again.
During my current pregnancy, I have encountered a number of emotional challenges from the people around me. When I was just starting my second trimester, my husband and I were so excited to share the big news. We made sure that during the first trimester, only our parents knew I was pregnant since I had lost so many pregnancies already in such a short time since we had been married. I wanted to announce the news to all of our family and friends in a way that was a little more special than just a Facebook status update or a tweet. I went through a lot of work to make a bunch of handmade cards to send out to all of our family and close friends, announcing three things…our new address, we adopted a new dog, and that we are expecting Baby Stanley in March. Since a lot of our belongings were still in boxes at this point, I couldn’t locate my address book or the laptop that had my wedding planning spreadsheets (and all of our family and friends’ addresses). I decided to send out a group email to everyone via Facebook and explain that I had something I wanted to send out, and I apologize for the inconvenience, but I have misplaced all of our addresses during the recent move.
To me, it seemed like an innocent enough request. Unfortunately, some people must have seen this as annoying and rude(?). I got a surprising number of really angry and rude responses from extended family members, like as if somehow I was being inconsiderate for asking for addresses again, after I had just gotten them all about a year and a half prior for our wedding invitations. This flood of ridiculousness and negativity really upset me, and I started getting some severe cramping. I had to stay off Facebook for a while and try to calm myself down after being so upset that people could be so insensitive and irrational. I even got a message from one relative going off on me about completely non-related issues, somehow imagined in their own mind!
We have also had to deal with a lot of rude, nosy questions from extended family members because we suddenly have two homes and two mortgages, as if that is an indication that we are greedy and selfish. The ironic part is, we want nothing more than to simplify our lives and just have the little house where we actually live! My husband is a very generous man, and originally built the house in Texas for his siblings. It was built under the premise that they would rent-to-own. My husband never intended to make a profit on the house, and the whole thing was done out of love and generosity. However, since the lease was broken and the house was abandoned, we were left with no choice but to try to fix up the house and sell it. We aren’t even trying to make a profit on the sale of the house…just trying to break even! People do not seem to want to actually listen to our explanation of the situation, but instead want to pry into our financial details and make their own judgments. We are incredibly grateful that the Lord has provided for us to get through this difficult time, but the details of such are no one’s business but our own.
Another major issue we have had to face is the judgment that people pass when they hear that you are having a troubled pregnancy. Many people have jumped to one of two conclusions: I am lying around for months because I am lazy and want attention or that I must not be taking proper care of myself to ensure a healthy pregnancy (e.g. eating enough, taking prenatal vitamins, avoiding obvious things like alcohol). In reality, neither of these options could be further from the truth. While I have not been able to contribute much to the projects around the house for months since I got put on doctor ordered bed rest, I have tried to make sure I am contributing to our household and our family life in other ways…through reading as many books as I can about pregnancy, childbirth, baby care, and parenting. Also, through spending extra time in prayer each day. For the past two years, my primary goal has been to eat as healthy and organic as possible, and get myself in the best health possible so I could hopefully have a healthy pregnancy.
The last big challenge that I have faced since I have been pregnant is a shocking lack of support from friends who I used to consider to be some of the people closest to me. It appears that when you are on bed rest, you are out of sight, out of mind for many people. If you are not able to join in on fun plans, apparently there is no point in keeping in contact with that person during their current situation. This has been extremely saddening and disheartening for me. At the time when I have craved emotional support the most, I have found myself with only my immediate family and a few select friends who have stuck by in supporting me through this amazingly difficult time. We live in a fast paced world, and everyone is always busy. However, when you are forced to remove yourself from your normal routine, and only allowed to be in your bed or your doctor’s office, life gets pretty boring and very lonely very quickly. A random text message or call from a friend can literally make your whole day feel uplifted. When the friends you used to go to for support suddenly do not return your calls, it is overwhelming and very alienating.
A part of me has wanted to yell out in anger at all of the people who have presented these challenges while I am in such a fragile state (I am pretty sure that part of that is largely fueled by all of the pregnancy hormones!). However, part of my preparation to become a mother has been my own personal challenge of trying to not let my temper get the best of me. Furthermore, I really have had to try to monitor my emotions since the development of my pregnancy induced tachycardia. Getting angry and confronting all of these people will not help me in my personal goals for myself, and it certainly is not any variation of turning the other cheek. So what options does that leave me with?
I could do what I have often done in the past: do my best to ignore any rude comments, and just let the offending person continue to secretly aggravate me with their rude messages, etc. For some reason, people feel so much more brave when writing a nasty message or comment to someone online than they would in person. While some of the ridiculous things mentioned in the previous paragraphs were actually said to me in person or over the phone, I doubt most of them would actually have the nerve to say some of these things to my face. The internet provides a safety net for people to behave as rudely as they desire.
My solution has been somewhere in between these two extremes. I have made a HUGE effort not to engage in negative retaliation, but on the other hand, I have to think of what is best for my unborn child. Letting people constantly insult me or pick at me is NOT what is best for my baby when we are in this fragile state. Instead, I made a decision to simply distance myself a little from the people who have caused me the most upset. Putting a little space has done wonders for my peace of mind. Not everyone who is in any way related to me needs to be “friends” with me on Facebook. Likewise, my phone number does not need to be distributed to every person in my (very large) extended family. I have decided to emotionally let go of the friends who have chosen to go m.i.a. in my life. I am finished trying to chase down friendships that only I seem to care to maintain anymore. Those friends who like posting insensitive things online (like how amazing some other local photographer is…not like it isn’t killing me that I have had to put my photography business on hold while I am on bed rest or anything), get hidden from my newsfeed so I do not have to read things that will upset me. Paring down my daily contact to only those who are actually supportive and caring has helped my mindset tremendously.
I know that there is no way to completely avoid negative people in real life, once I am out in the “real world” again (i.e. off bed rest). However, I really feel that the experience has been a good challenge for me in the long run. It has taught me a lot about dealing with my own emotions, and trying to start off my journey as a Christ-focused mother in the best way I can. It has given me a deep appreciation for those who have been there for me during this journey: God, my husband, my parents, my sister, and a few really great friends (and with the exception of my husband and my parents, most of these people unfortunately live really far away!). I hope that I can continue to strive to protect my son from unnecessary ugliness in the world, while teaching him to forgive others and somehow stay positive in a world where negativity seems to rule most people’s lives.