It was 18 degrees today. I decided that today would be a fine day to go for a run.
I was right. It was.
I used to despise winter. It is bitter and dreary. The absence of sun and warmth feels depressing. I used to spend my days in an office without windows. I never saw the sun. I arrived at work before the sun came up and barely arrived home before it had set. This scenario made for a very long and uneventful season. One in which I longed for spring to arrive.
Winter exudes it’s own peaceful quietness though. I am beginning to experience a beauty of winter that I have not seen before. Today, we bundled up and enjoyed an afternoon run. It was 18 degrees outside. The lawns were covered with snow leftover from the weekend. The river was partially encased in ice. The sky was gray and overcast as it is on most days. It is so bitter and cold these days that we have the streets to ourselves. It is peaceful.
These days are pretty spectacular for us…dreary skies, bitter temps and all.
Tuesday morning. A snow storm is pending. The television is off. All the channels have been encrypted. I cannot watch the news. I cannot see the weather forecast. I don’t know how the roads are or what is headed our way. It’s 8 am. The sky is overcast and gray.
By mid-morning, the snow arrives. From the warmth of my dining room, I am watching the snow cover the pavement, the cars, the trees. Hours pass. It snows. My husband comes home from work early. We spend the day inside. It is warm and cozy. It is quiet except the sound of our voices. The sound of laughter. There are no distractions beyond what is happening in the present moment.
This is my reality now.
The only sounds in my house now are the sounds of laughter and the voices from those that live here. The television is no longer a participant in our mornings. No news. No weather. No morning talk shows. No interruptions from people that don’t live here.
We have lived this life before. A life without any television at all. We lived this life for almost a year. It was quiet and blissful. I forgot how much I enjoyed it. A new television came into our home quite some time ago and some local television channels tagged along with it. Nothing that really distracted from our lives. Some local news and some football. It was enough to change the landscape of our days without ever really noticing.
Our lives have changed once again. We have lived this life before and are living it again. This time, we are bringing our toddler along for the ride. Our days look more like this now….
Earlier this week, I was woken at 3 am to the sounds of whimpering coming from the room next door. I rolled over and reached for the baby monitor. I watched my baby lie in his crib as still as can be. I could hear the whimpering and moaning coming from next door but there was no movement to accompany it. His whimpers eventually turned into little cries. There were moments of silence. I waited and watched. He was still. Perhaps he fell back asleep. Then, little cries pierced the silence. No. No, he did not fall back asleep.
I spent the next two hours quietly rocking him in his nursery. We moved from the glider to standing and back to the glider. We swayed. We rocked. We nursed. At one point, I was pacing the floor while holding my son and patting his back. His head was gently resting on my shoulder and I began to cry. It was at this moment that I realized that I missed rocking him to sleep. I had not held him this way in months. The last time I held him this way, I was just praying it would be over soon. I felt like I couldn’t rock him anymore. I couldn’t endure the hour long nursing and rocking to sleep sessions. I was tired. I needed time to recharge. I was failing at my job. My child wasn’t able to fall asleep. My child wasn’t able to stay asleep. I couldn’t do this anymore. Ironically, here I was savoring the moment. The exact moment that only months ago I had secretly wished would end. This time, I held on to my son and cried.
Time is fleeting. It goes by so fast. I miss so many moments and opportunities because I am distracted throughout the day and tired at night. This night was different though. I cherished the opportunity to spend two hours alone with my son. I would have rocked him for another 2 hours, 2 days or 2 weeks for that matter.
The house was quiet. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Just me and him.
Have you heard of the small house movement? Yeah, neither had I. Not until I came across it on Wikipedia and learned that I am a subscriber to the small house movement. Who knew?
A few years ago, I moved in to an unbelievably small home. A pit stop of a home. Passing through town kind of home. I was lucky this home came equipped with a basement and attic. I needed that space for my shoe collection. I stored my boxes of shoes in the attic. I stored my boxes of collectibles in the basement. What? Did I just write that? I have collectibles? No. That can’t be right. I definitely don’t have collectibles. However, I did find that I had boxes and boxes of things. Most of those “things” remained unpacked in the basement until they were donated.
Most of those shoes All of those shoes remained unpacked in the attic until they, too, found a new home in the goodwill pile.
There are so many benefits to living in a small home but one of my favorites is that it has forced me to examine what I value. In an effort to maximize our space, we have embarked on a major purge in our house. We are tossing, donating and recycling that which serves no purpose anymore and keeping only what we truly value. As we rid ourselves of unwanted clutter and belongings, we are left surrounded by only those items and belongings that enrich our lives and are meaningful to us.
This way of living is a sharp departure from “the bigger is better” way we have been taught. Our houses, cars, mortgages, tuitions and bills continue to grow while our time and money dwindle as we chase the next great purchase that will make us smarter, thinner, richer, better, brighter, etc.
We like this simple way of life that we are creating. My house was never too small. My things were just too big.
The dust is settling. The last 5 years have been a whirlwind of life changes. Getting married, buying a house, renovating said house, getting knocked up, having a baby, resigning from my job, Science Guy starting his MBA….just to name a few of the life changes we have experienced. In the process of adjusting to the bevy of life changes, I have lost myself somewhere. I have been living my life in fast forward.
We have struggled to finish any one project in the house. Years have gone by and we have yet to unpack and settle in. We are continuing to live in a house and not a home. We have 4 walls and a roof over our heads but those walls have some half torn wall paper, some missing door trim, some old baseboards that have yet to be replaced with the new ones in the basement. The rooms of this house remain neglected and partially furnished. The rooms of the house are consumed with half hearted possessions that have been handed down to us, leftovers from our move or random items picked up at yard sales. My house has become over run with meaningless possessions. I spend an inordinate amount of time organizing, picking up, rearranging and storing these items. I spend more time taking care of these things than I do myself. Something is wrong with that picture. In an effort to rectify this situation, we are currently involved in a deep purge of this house to discard ourselves of the items that are weighing us down and no longer serving a purpose.
The same can be said of how I spend my time, what little time there is. Most of my waking day is spent with my 1 year old right now. In the fleeting moments of free time, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of that time scrolling through Instagram pictures and Facebook statuses, checking my inbox and subsequently deleting the thousand or so emails that have accrued or reading blog titles and making it half way through a post before having to shut down my laptop or put down my phone. I bookmark things to read and rarely do I return to read them. I open up emails with the intention to reply, promptly become distracted and rarely remember to return to reply. Over the course of the past year, I am sure I intended to read at least 30 books and never made it through one whole book. I am too distracted by the lure of being a stalker and voyeur into the make believe worlds of people on the internet that I call my “friends” on facebook and instagram. Don’t even get me started on twitter. Twitter is the worst offender of them all. Twitter gives me a headache. Scrolling through miles of tweets without pictures is painful for me. It requires more concentration than I can currently provide at this time.
The lack of attention and detail is probably most noticeable in how I take care of myself though. One look and you might start to notice the torn cuticles, the bitten nails, the overgrown eyebrows, the roots showing as my hair grows out, the circles and bags under my eyes and the disheveled attire. While I can certainly argue a case that raising my baby trumps long visits to the salon to get my hair done, I can’t argue that raising a baby trumps taking care of myself. I am only as good to others as I am to myself.
I am not one for New Year’s resolutions and this year is no different. However, I will make some permanent life changes. I will take better care of myself so that I may take better care of those that I love. I will purge our house and our lives of that which weighs us down whether it be possessions, thoughts or relationships. I will always choose quality over quantity. I believe less is more. I believe a house is not a home. I will make our house a home. I believe that some people look for a beautiful place while others look to make a place beautiful.