In a matter of days, our house will be on the market. We've already had one showing and a few phone calls from friends who have friends who might be interested in buying our house. I don't know about you, but our house doesn't normally exist in a state of show-worthiness. It has taken hours of de-cluttering, countless trips to Goodwill, the purchase of dozens of plastic bins and cleaning from top to bottom to get our home ready for this. And now the vigilance begins. A sampling of my instructions to my daughters over the last 24 hours:
"B, take your markers to your room."
"K, put this doll on your bed."
"A, put this book on your bookshelf." (Followed by, "But I'm reading it." Which led to, "Then you can put it on your bedside table, as long as it's the only book there.")
There will be more instructions, more cleaning, more dusting over the next days and weeks until we have a contract for this house to sell to someone.
This project of getting our home ready to sell has felt all-consuming. When I'm not actually sorting items into Goodwill, trash and yard sale piles, I'm thinking about which room needs correcting next. I think about the things a potential buyer might like (my kitchen) and the things they might not like (the small downstairs bathroom). I try to cast a critical eye around the space, try to see it as a buyer might. But I've lived here for nearly a decade, so it's hard to see it with a fresh eye.
The things I've been doing over the last few weeks needed to be done. Books needed to be purged. Paint needed to be freshened. Shelves needed to be reorganized. Yet I've struggled inwardly with how much of my time and attention all of this takes. As I said to a friend last night, "I am normally a pretty peaceful person, but right now I'm anxious. I feel like this is all-consuming and that's not who I want to be." My friend was sympathetic. We talked about how hard it is to do something like buy and sell a house without it being consuming - there are things that just must be done.
But my theory is that there has to be a way for me to keep my true self available, even in the midst of stress, busy-ness and riding an emotional roller coaster. I don't want to be a housekeeping Nazi. I don't want to be a mom who can't clear her mind enough to teach a math lesson without snapping. I do want to be a wife who takes time to make dinner - even if it means getting the kitchen spotless again immediately after eating said dinner. I want to be the mom who takes her time with lessons, stopping to read about this flag and how it relates to the country's history or pulling out a book to show how far away these two countries are from each other.
So when a milestone arrived today, I shortened our lessons - even taking the nearly unprecedented move of saving today's math for tomorrow. At 10:20 we left our house. At 1:30 we returned home. In between, B had her braces removed. We celebrated with lunch out, ice cream for dessert and an afternoon free of lessons or cleaning.
There are moments every day that are worth celebrating. Sometimes they are small moments: K telling the time from the clock more quickly than her old sisters, A completing a math lesson with not a single problem incorrect, B writing a perfect paragraph on the first attempt. Sometimes they are bigger, like getting your braces off.
What I don't want is to be consumed by a process and miss out on those moments. I want to find a way to do what must be done and still enjoy the fact that life is carrying on around me. I don't want to move into a new house 8 weeks from now and look around and think, "What just happened? How did I get here? Was I marking time or living it?"
If I'm going to be consumed, I want it to be with the beauty of life, with the unexpected goodness that sweeps in as three girls eat ice cream cones, all of them with sparkling white teeth, not a hint of metal in sight.