What Would I Do Differently? Epiphany Pt.2

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

As the third child gives in to his exhaustion and sleeps, I am here, at 4:30 in the afternoon, with two hands and a bit of time to write. I'm listening to my current "mellow mix" on iTunes--- comprised of some John Rutter Requiem, some Elizabeth Mitchell, some Paul Cardall. I'm eating my precious stash of triple-dipped toffee bits too quickly--- but they are SO good and there is NO ONE to ask for one, so I keep having another. And another. 

I just peeked in on the kiddos to take those above snaps... and there is a peacefulness in the hum of the white noise machines in the rooms... in the way the air conditioner breeze (yes, I gave in. I don't like to be hot!) makes Lucy's bird mobile spin....

This is a good moment. And this is HOME. 

And so I return to that question I left dangling the other day. That day I began telling you about my epiphany. The one where I realized that though I'd spent months aching for "something else", I was given the gift of realizing that if THIS version of my life was all I'd ever have from now on--- small rented house, chubby tummy, never enough money, etc--- if there was never "something else"--- that actually, I was okay. More than okay--- I truly loved my life RIGHT NOW. 

I ended that post with this question, a doozy:

If THIS was all you ever got to have, what would you be doing differently?
I'm curious how you guys would answer this. Please feel free to talk about it to me in the comments. Or email. Or call me and we'll enjoy a chat. 
I have time at the moment to tell you MY thoughts on it. 

I think I spend a lot of time "waiting." I never really realized this until that day. Because I see myself typically as someone who seizes the day, lives in the moment, is appreciative of the things she has... 

But in spite of that, it turns out I spend a lot of time WAITING. In the case of the epiphany above, I realized I had been holding my breath post-Lucy.... Waiting for her to get out of colic. Waiting for my life to feel "normal" again. Waiting for more time to return. Waiting for my REAL LIFE. 

So being faced with the Big Question about how I would live my life RIGHT NOW if this WAS my real life.... it forced me to realize how badly I was doing at understanding that this IS my real life. right now. 


What should I be doing differently?
On a different day, I could discuss the ways I've parented differently since visiting this question... ways I've nurtured my inner artist differently... ways I've just moved differently... But the big realizations of that day actually have more to do with my home. This little white house on Crest Avenue.

It turns out I'd been living in this little white house as if we were going to leave it. And indeed, we were, someday, going to leave it. We'd moved here under the assumption we'd only be here 6 months. We put all of our things in boxes, put all of our boxes in this basement, and moved into the house as it stood-- already furnished, down to the stockpile of DVDs. We moved into someone else's house.

And then life changed on us... (it often does that. Tricky.) and we were suddenly in this house indefinitely. But somehow my mindset stayed boxed up and I never let myself feel like this was HOME. We didn't enter it with a sense of belonging, and we weren't living in it with a sense of belonging. 

So this became the major revelation of my self-inquiry. What would I do differently? I'd stop waiting for my "someday home" and begin living in THIS home, NOW, as if it was all I'd ever get to have. I'd begin to make it my own. It helped me quickly create a sliding scale of priority--- like, what would I do differently if we lived here for the next FIVE years?

Well, I'd design and paint and create a real, cohesive master bedroom. 
I'd plant a perennial cottage garden out front. 
I'd hang family portraits. 
I'd add new throw pillows to the couch.
I'd strip the wallpaper in the dining room, paint, and replace the brass chandelier.
I'd hire a chimney sweep to clean the flue so we could have cozy fires in the fireplace. 
I'd buy new kitchen dishes. 
I'd declutter and make the whole place feel more cohesive.  Less like we moved in for a temporary stay.
I'd go through the boxes in the basement and toss a LOT of stuff we'd learned we could live without the last few years.

Okay.... well, what would I do differently if we lived here only ONE more year?
I'd still hang family portraits.
Throw pillows.
Dining room overhaul.
Cull and sort the boxes.
I'd still work on making it MY home, not just a place we lived for three years. 
It amazed me to realize how much I'd be willing to commit to when I allowed myself to STOP WAITING. How much joy had I missed out on, was STILL missing out on, because I didn't let myself fully live and be present in this house.
As it was, there was ONE room in the whole house that was truly mine, and that was Lucy's nursery.  And that only because she arrived after we'd moved in and we had a sense of purpose and intention with her arrival. The rest of the house was mostly as it was when we'd moved in, because we'd never intended to stay. 

So from that day forward-- from that one day I had the flash of realization that I could be very very happy in this little life if I was never given any other chances or changes-- I started trying to remember to STOP WAITING. To live this life NOW. 

And to begin making this house my HOME, whether it was for only one more year, or five, or forever. 

I have to say--- I am so grateful I did. From that month, October 2011, to now, May 2013, I have made a conscious effort to really LIVE here: hung some beloved things on the wall, changed out the throw pillows, refreshed the mantle-scape, planted tomatoes and beans two summers in a row, purged clutter and settled into life here with more comfort and confidence... 
We even stripped the wallpaper from the dining room and looked at paint samples for the walls. 
We have truly LIVED here, finally. 
Which is why I feel my gratitude spill over into tears when I confront a brand-new truth we've been handed:
The time has come to move. 
After three years in this sweet white brick house with the white picket fence, 1.5 of which were finally lived in with intention and love, the time has come to leave. 
We've never know concretely how long we'd stay here... so this has always been a possibility. But now that it's here, and after giving my heart over to it, I am truly sad. But also truly grateful we didn't waste our time here, STILL WAITING. 

And because of this experience, I know what I plan to do when we move into our new temporary place:

I will lovingly move my things, my family, my LIFE into that home as if it will be the only home we ever get. I will move there with purpose and intention. I will hang pictures on the wall and open those cardboard boxes to find the treasures that still matter after three years of un-use, and I will happily donate the rest of the things that have lost meaning over three years of un-use...

And my family and I will start the next chapter with a complex mix of sadness and excitement.... and most of all, gratitude. Thankful for what has been (oh so deeply thankful, sweet little white house where I brought home two of my babies and found peace and learned to slow down), and thankful for what is coming (thank you, soon-to-be-home on Pleasant Grove Ave., former home of Joe's parents, where so many memories have already been made, and where I know with all my heart a million more are about to be made).

Because the thing is, there is no "real life" about to begin. Not in a few weeks when we move, or a few years when we're done having babies and getting down to the business of raising them, not in a few decades when it's just Joe and I again....


And I'm thankful. 

Exhausted, overwhelmed, sad, happy, busy, tired, unsure, insecure, uncertain, flailing, trying, striving, hoping, dreaming..... 

But mostly, thankful.


  1. Oh, Emily!! I LOVE it so much that you write so freely and share it with us, the readers of your insights... They mean so much to me... I don't think I "wait" for "real life" to happen anymore... I think I finally came to a place where I am "comfortable" with my circumstances, whatever that means. No hidden expectations or feeling "slighted" that something better has passed me by. I think I have finally reached a sense of "completeness" and being okay with me, myself. Although, I am still a "work in progress" and I still have issues in my life that I will someday resolve, I think I have reached a place where I am not waiting for something outside of me to "complete me." I am happy that you have found that place, too.

    It is funny what we can learn from children in our lives, either our own children, or those of others. The children in my life are always present, are comfortable with the way things are, and trust that things will always be okay. Faith, in a child's eyes, is so simple. My adult self tries to over-complicate things too much, but things like reading your blog, or "Simple Abundance" or even scriptures make life a lot less complicated.

    Isn't the peace that comes from simplicity a WONDERFUL thing?

  2. I love your blog so much!

  3. This is beautiful, and so true. I've heard army wives say the same thing about decorating, even temporarily.


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