Thursday Ramblings

It’s Thursday, and I’m tired.

I’ve been tired all week. I’m fighting an end-of-summer cold, and it’s making mornings especially challenging. Today, at least, I was able to get up and out of the house at a reasonable hour – I’m leading a training at work this morning, so it would’ve been especially problematic if I was late. But I feel like I’m dragging.

The fact that the weather got hot again is not helping matters – I am ready for fall weather. I’m also ready for consistent weather – the constant shifting is really hard on my body – but that’s probably not a realistic wish in Chicago.

I’m not having a bad week, exactly. I’m just low on energy. The weekend was good – I got to play D&D and we got the apartment more settled. I wrote a song I liked for class this week, so that was exciting.

How about you, dear readers? How are you feeling as we wait for the season to really start changing? What’s new and exciting in your lives? I’d love to hear from you.

Cleanup

Hello, dear readers, and apologies for the tardiness of this post! I am in the midst of last-minute cleanup in our old apartment.

I’m currently waiting for a junk removal service to show up to take away the old furniture that didn’t move with us. I’ve been cleaning the stove, oven, fridge, various walls in and around the kitchen, and I’ve been sweeping some of the empty spaces. It’s 1:15pm and I’m already tired. I just sat down on the couch that’s going to disappear in the next hour or two, and I feel like this may have been a mistake – I know I need to move and get more done, but I would much rather nap.

We’re so close to being done. There are things to haul down to the trash, and a handful of things we need to bring back to our new place with us. There’s more sweeping and wall cleaning to do. The freezer is clean, but the fridge isn’t yet. The bathroom still needs to be cleaned. A few closets and cabinets need to be swept out. But we’re almost there.

We have to be out by noon on Saturday. That’s less than 48 hours from now. It’s weird to think this place that we called home for almost 7 years isn’t home anymore. It was our first apartment together, and it served us well, despite the maintenance issues we had over the years.

I’m looking forward to really settling into our new space in the next few weeks. I’m hoping that will get easier when we no longer need to worry about this old apartment.

I think it’s time for me to drink some water and dive back into cleaning. Onward!

Doing the Scary Things

It’s Thursday and it feels like it’s already been a long week.

Over the weekend, my partner and I moved 16 bags of donations out of our apartment. We also went to IKEA and got a new bookshelf. It was an overwhelming weekend, but it feels so much nicer in our apartment now.

I don’t want to go into details just yet, but I did a hard, scary thing at work on Monday and Tuesday. It went better than I expected it to, and if things continue to work out, it’ll mean some positive change in my work life.

One of the things that made this hard was that I am not great at advocating for myself. I’m also not great at admitting to myself or anyone else when I need help/need to be advocated for.

I feel very lucky to have a partner and many friends who have my back and gently but firmly nudge me toward doing the things that will make my life better. Special thanks this week to friend K for pointing me in the direction of good resources and for helping me clarify what I needed.

This also just happens to be a really packed week outside of work: therapy, volunteering, hanging out with friends, playing D&D. It would have been even busier, but a couple of things were canceled last-minute. It’s a lot, and while it’s pretty much all good things, they’re still things that take energy. I’m tired.

Tired, but grateful. Grateful for good friends and a patient partner. Grateful for the slow but hopefully real turn toward spring. And grateful for that new IKEA bookcase, which has expanded our library into something really beautiful.

Birthday Reflections

As I mentioned in last week’s post, my birthday was on Saturday, and as a present to myself, I took a five-day weekend. I feel like I managed a pretty good balance between packing in the things I wanted to do and taking time to take it easy. Here are some thoughts and highlights from my birthday week:

  1. I got a ton of things done around the house. Not quite as many things as I was initially planning on, but I still made some significant progress. I’m pleased with and proud of the work I did.
  2. Friday was the day of celebrating with friends. I got breakfast with a friend from work who had also taken the day off. In the evening, I met up with some friends for drinks, and then some more folks joined us for pizza and sangria. It was fantastic, and I felt (still feel) very loved.
  3. Saturday was the day of celebrating with my partner. It didn’t go quite according to plan (the weather was threatening thunderstorms that never came but that made us want to stay closer to home), but it was a really lovely day.
  4. Sunday, I went to see Wonder Woman. I have so many feelings about Wonder Woman, but a lot of them are summed up in this lovely tweet that’s been floating around the interwebs:

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    “I’ve lived to see my childhood princesses become generals.”

  5. Monday night, I had the privilege of playing an Acoustic Explosion show at Sylvie’s here in Chicago, along with three of my songwriting classmates and a couple of other cool acts. Four of the seven performers had June birthdays, which added to the fun. I went last (at 10:30 pm – way past my bedtime), which meant I was two drinks into the evening before I got up on stage; apparently, that is the magic number for me to relax enough to perform my songs at a reasonable pace. I actually had to cut a song out of my set because I hadn’t blasted through all of the things I’d prepared! Below are the two new songs I played in my set; the rest of the set was older material that’s already elsewhere on my SoundCloud page.

Homemaking

It’s Shavuot, which means that this week, in addition to getting Monday off for Memorial Day, my office is also closed Wednesday and Thursday. Since my birthday is on Saturday, I decided working Friday was for chumps, and am taking it off as well.

I didn’t make any official plans for my five-day birthday weekend, but I went into it knowing that, in addition to taking time to relax, I wanted to spend some time tidying the apartment. My partner is fantastic at envisioning ways we can make our space more homey and inviting, and while I am, in theory, more than willing to help those visions along, I have historically not done the best job pulling my weight in that regard.

I’ve never been great at cleaning. Past roommates could tell you stories of my mild hoarder tendencies. When I lived alone, I mostly managed to keep my apartment from falling into complete chaos, but I rarely vacuumed, tended to put off the dishes until they were spilling out of the sink and over the counters, and ended up throwing out a fair number of what should have been reusable food containers, because the food in them had probably developed sentience and I didn’t have the mental space to deal with it. On more than one occasion, I decided to go to Target and buy underwear and/or socks to avoid doing laundry. The only time I remember dusting my old apartment (aside from when I was moving out) was the night my partner came over to my place for the first time, and my nerves demanded I do something while I waited for him to arrive.

When my partner and I moved to Chicago and into our first official shared apartment, I was determined to do a better job of housekeeping. I had visions of equally divided labor around the house, and was convinced I’d be able to develop new habits in a new space.

It didn’t happen. I had convinced myself long before that I functioned better in a cluttered space, that a tidy home was a home that didn’t feel lived in, and that wasn’t what I wanted. (I have all sorts of theories about why I had such a major mental block against cleaning, but that could be a whole blog on its own, so we’ll skip it here.) There were all sorts of reasons things didn’t work out the way I was hoping, of course – for the first nine months we were in Chicago, I was underemployed and miserable at my job, and while my partner was kind enough to share his (already established) friends with me, it took a while for me to feel like they were really MY friends, too, and not just putting up with me because they liked him. My mental health was in shambles, I was increasingly dysphoric, I was wracking up all sorts of credit card debt just trying to get by. By the time things got better, I was even further entrenched in my bad habits.

Eventually, though, I started to realize that having a tidy space actually felt…nice. (I wouldn’t have figured this out without my partner’s Herculean efforts to keep up with housekeeping when I was being less-than-helpful – neither of us are perfect, but I wouldn’t have experienced “tidy” on my own.) When my partner read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and suggested that we actually go through all of our stuff, I decided to go along with it, ostensibly to make my partner happy…but I also realized that a lot of the stuff I had acquired over the years had stopped bringing me joy (or had never brought me joy in the first place).

It’s been a couple of years since we started the process of going through everything we own, bringing a greater intentionality to our purchases, and trying together to keep the house tidier. I still feel like I’m not great at housekeeping, but I’m basically a different person for how much I’ve changed and grown in that regard.

So this week, since I have so many days off, I decided to make a departure from what I often do with long weekends (read: overpack my schedule and/or avoid responsibility), and actually try to tackle some areas of the apartment that have felt neglected recently.

Yesterday, I tackled the kitchen and dining room. I don’t have before pictures, because I didn’t think to take any, but I did all of the dishes, completely cleared and wiped down the kitchen table, cleaned the stove, and swept the floor, and when I was done, I was actually surprised at how much better I felt about our apartment.

clean stove, empty sink

Clean stove, empty sink

The kitchen table hasn't been this clear in at least a month

The kitchen table hasn’t been this clear in at least a month

I have other things I want to get done this week/end – particularly laundry and cleaning up some areas of the apartment that are distinctly mine (and distinctly disorganized) – and I know there is more I could do in the kitchen, but I feel really accomplished. Not just because I kicked ass and cleaned a bunch of things, but because I actually recognized an area of the apartment that was stressing me out because it wasn’t tidy, and I did something about it instead of pretending it wasn’t there.

Last week I ran across the idea of the “hearth” for the first time in a while, and how most modern homes don’t have a hearth in the traditional sense of a fire in the center of the house, but there’s still an area that is the gathering place, the metaphorical center of the home. Our kitchen is tiny, and our dining room has not always been the most comfortable place, but it felt like an important (and perhaps even necessary) place to start what will hopefully be a more extended cleaning spree than I usually go on. Of course, the trick is to keep it tidy once I’ve lost steam, but I’m less worried about that than I used to be. Because I’ve learned that I really do like my space tidy. I like knowing what stuff I have and where it is in my home. I can be creative without clutter. It may not seem like much, but right now it feels like a huge victory to be able to say that.

Spring Cleaning

Last weekend was the vernal equinox – the first day of spring. From here until the summer solstice in June, the days will be getting longer. As much as I like to say that I don’t mind winter (particularly because, as a knitter and an exceptionally warm-blooded person, I am rarely cold, but easily overheated), I’m definitely ready for more daylight and the opportunity to ditch my winter coat for a while.

At some point last year, when I started looking into various forms of earth-centered spirituality, I came across the idea of taking the standard pagan “wheel of the year” – marked by the equinoxes, solstices, and four holidays that fall between each, based largely on an agrarian calendar – and create a sacred calendar that speaks to your own life, traditions, and seasons, which may or may not have a lot to do with planting or harvesting. I came up with some ideas for marking the changing seasons, based on a combination of general tradition and things that are important to me. The big thing that came up for springtime was the idea of spring cleaning.

Last year, it seems like most of my spring cleaning happened on an interpersonal level – letting go of toxic relationships and situations that weren’t making my life fuller. This year, the focus feels like it’s shifted to a more literal sort of spring cleaning, the sort where I let go of physical possessions and make an effort to tidy my living space.

To say that I am not particularly tidy would be very kind and quite a bit of an understatement. While I am slowly getting better as I get older, I am fighting years of packrat tendencies, mental illness, and housework-related inertia, and all of this amounts to a lot of good intentions and a frequent lack of follow-through. But, like I said, I’m getting better. I’m learning that I actually to appreciate tidy space, and I do not need clutter to function, and I feel better about myself and the space that I occupy when I take care of myself and that space.

Last weekend, aside from chipping away at the list of weekly housework my partner and I try to keep up with, I tackled two areas in our apartment that I’d been avoiding for months in one case, years in another. While it didn’t hit my conscious radar until after the fact that I was doing this over the equinox, in retrospect it makes a lot of sense – in a lot of ways, the arrival of spring feels like the true beginning of a new year, and I want to start things out right, without a lot of baggage. The cleaning I did last weekend feels like a major step in the right direction. Now I just need to stay motivated!