The Trap

So, here’s the thing: every time I start thinking about a post in my head I start it with those words. I’ve never actually used them, but I am just going to go with it today and we’ll see what happens.

So. This thing.

So, the thing is.

So the thing is this: I fell into a trap.

I knew it was coming and I tried really hard to avoid it, but I stepped right into it regardless of all my mental preparation.

I fell into the trap of believing that having a Thing would solve all of my problems.

When we were living in the bus everything was difficult. Even just getting out of bed involved remembering not to smack my head on the ceiling when sitting up and then climbing down a ladder either pregnant or holding a baby. It was difficult to keep things clean when leaving a jacket out on the couch made the entire room look messy, difficult to cook in a tiny space, difficult to even bring groceries home because it involved unloading half of them at our fridge at our neighbor’s house across the street.

Under the circumstances, it was pretty easy for me to start believing that once we got into the house, all of the problems would be gone and things would be all awesome all the time.

And then we got into the house. And it was amazing! It was big and beautiful and brand new and it had a big, beautiful, brand new kitchen with a dishwasher.

My life should have been officially perfect from that moment on.

Except, you know, it wasn’t.

Remember how I compared building a house to being pregnant?

Well, if building a house is like being pregnant, then what I went through was a bout of post-partum depression.

A few weeks after we moved in, after all the initial amazement had died down and reality had started to set in, I realized that I was really not as Happy as I should, by all means and rights, have been.

Here I was, after all the waiting and planning and expectation, standing in the middle of our very own home. The home that we had watched rise from the ground and had walked through every single day since it was just a pad of concrete. That we had documented and written about and looked forward to for years now.

And all I felt was overwhelmed.

I felt overwhelmed by its size. Having gone from a thousand square foot rental into a four-hundred square foot bus, a twenty-two-hundred square foot house with ten-foot high ceilings on both stories seemed like a behemoth. And I was now charged with the responsibility of keeping it clean with four kids running around. I suddenly had baseboards whose existence I needed to be aware of in order to dust them at appropriate intervals, not to mention ceiling fans that would require a ladder to reach.

I felt overwhelmed by trying to decorate it. All I could see was big, blank walls that needed big (and therefore expensive) artwork to fill them, twenty-four windows to buy curtains and shades for (seriously expensive), we definitely needed new couches because the old ones had been destroyed in storage, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the whole rug situation. Apparently they’re a thing.

I felt overwhelmed with the expenses. Property taxes, filling the propane tank, the electric bill – even though I knew these things were coming and we had money saved to cover them, it was still a bit shocking to watch so much money pouring from our bank account all of a sudden.

I started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning because I knew that all that was ahead of me was cleaning and trying to keep the kids from sitting on the cupboard doors in the kitchen (as an aside: what the heck is with kids and wanting to use cupboard doors as chairs? I actually broke a cupboard door doing this as a kid. Is it just because it’s a convenient height? I’m thinking about installing spikes along the tops of all of them.  See also: using the drawer handles as a ladder.)

When people would ask “do you just LOVE your house?” I would say “YES! But, it’s a LOT to take care of…” and I would feel guilty for not being able to just gush about all the good things. I started to feel like maybe we had bitten off more than we could chew and that it was wrong for us to have gone down this path.

It sounds super spoiled and whiney and awful for me to feel the way I did after everything we’d been through, and I KNEW it! I could not figure out what the heck was wrong with me. This was what we’d wanted, after all, and worked for and put up with two record summers living in an uninsulated school bus for. And yet there it was: I sometimes (not always, but sometimes) wanted to throw my beautiful new house out the window.

I didn’t, obviously. I mean, maybe I would have if I could have lifted it up, but it’s pretty heavy.

But I also don’t feel the same way that I did before. Or at least not to the same extent.  And it’s not because I suddenly figured out a cleaning schedule and so everything is spotless. I still don’t have curtains or new couches (but I do have two dining room tables right now, for some reason. I am seriously bad at this interior decorating thing) and bills are ever present.

What changed is this: we started opening up our home on a regular basis to a small group from church. Every couple of weeks we have several families over for a potluck and just to hang out. That’s it.

You would think that it would be counter-intuitive when I feel lame about my house to invite a bunch of people to come over, but for whatever reason, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  I really look forward to having everyone over and getting things ready. There’s a purpose to it.

The kids run around like a pack of happy animals and the adults get the chance to sit around the table and talk. I get to watch the house that we built be a gathering place for new friendships and conversation. After the first one we had, Lily said it was one of the best days of her entire life.

The thing that changed is that our home is being used for more than just us, which was the goal in the first place. Nobody sits there and stares at my blank walls and asks me when the heck I’m going to put something on them. Everybody is much too busy talking and laughing and chasing after kids to bother judging the rugless living room.

Or maybe they are secretly judging me, but the important point is that I’M not concerned about what my house looks like because I know that it is being useful.

It’s a small step in the right direction, but it’s important for me to remember that when my focus is off of myself and more on others, it’s a lot harder to be discontent.

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6 thoughts on “The Trap

  1. Yes to all of this Sarah. Love your writing, as always. And there are many days my heart yearns to trade in our house for a bus. Summertime at the trailer shows how much excess we really do not need to have or need to clean. Especially the clean part. Love how community is the solution to the icky feelings – it often is.

  2. Lovely to hear from you again!
    You need to get a big flat linen sheet and some bright paint and get those friends to make a huge artwork with handprints and messages and signatures. Then get someone to stretch it on a frame and hang it .
    It will both fill a big wall space and surround you with love and community even when they aren’t there in person xxxx

  3. Oh, how I love your last sentence! It’s so true!

    We just signed papers on our new home and I’m already missing the one hour it takes to clean our apartment! I can totally relate to your thoughts!

  4. I really like the “throwing the house out the window”. That opens up a brand new level of thinking.

    You have handled a lot more than most and have handled it well…….. Remember, You are human not Wonder Woman, but you are a wonderful daughter.

    You have a Great husband, Wonderful kids and a Good relationship with Jesus, those things in themselves are better than any and all other things combined…… At the core of all of your responsibility is a beautiful family with a wonderful bond of love……. something that we are so very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience in our lives…. These are and will be “The Good Ol Days”

    I’m very proud of you.

    Have a Great Day

    Love Pops

  5. I live by this quote, “You can’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.” It helps me daily to deal with my perfectionism. It seems to fit here because everyone would be missing out if you waited to share your home until it was “perfect.” I did it for many years with mine and in many other areas but I finally had enough. Perfect doesn’t even exist! Good on you!!

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