Reader Stories: Pick The Moment Before The Moment Picks You
It was seven against one for as long as I could remember. One husband, three stepsons and three daughters. I struggled to do what was right.
I bent over backward, I ran myself ragged, I was beaten to a pulp. There was nothing left to give, no patience, No hugs, no compliments not even a smile. All seven looked at me like I was the monster.
I looked at all seven of them as the enemy. If you loved me, why wouldn't you pick up after yourself? Why do I have to tell you to empty the dishwasher? Could any one of them do one thing for me?
We were not living in a "home." In fact, I wouldn't even call it a house. It was in shambles. There was no peace and quiet to be found anywhere. There was no organization. Screaming, fighting, and throwing was a common theme. The little ones, barely able to walk, were always crying and whining and making messes everywhere they crawled.
Get a hobby, volunteer somewhere, join a group, hire a maid, was the best advice people could give me. Every suggestion was just another weight on my back. For some reason when we are overwhelmed, we feel the need to bring on a new gadget, a new technique, or another person. Never did it cross my mind that I needed to downsize.
We were a family of eight. We needed commercial amounts of toilet paper and pasta stored for a supposed “emergency.” There was justification for everything we had, so the answer must mean we needed more not less, right?
My husband apparently felt that way. Rather than purging a wife, he decided to add on and get himself a girlfriend. Lovely, but who really had time to care at this point? I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off and keeping all of my plates spinning as if I was a professional plate spinner. It was quite astonishing that I was barely affected by the girlfriend. There was no time for emotions. Everything was matter-of-fact. That's how it was for me. For him, emotions set in he did not like the fact that his quote girlfriend close quote was still living with her husband.
Well, for the first time my husband did something without me having to tell him to do it. He decided to give me an hour to pack my things and leave. Did he mean just me? I hope he did not think I would leave our three daughters with him.
I decided not to find out what he meant and just made sure I brought the girls with me. Why an hour to pack? He was on his way to Home Depot to buy new locks for the door. It was a half hour away so I knew that when he left and came back it would be one hour and I would have to be gone.
Deciding what I would have to take was quite a crazy thing to think about. I took an aerial view of my house and saw areas that didn't need to be taken at all, like the kitchen, basement, garage, living room, playroom, and yes, bathroom. I kept saying to myself, just enough for the next week. For one week, I could do without a lot of my things and then I will figure out what to do. I quickly realized a lot of time would be wasted trying to decide what to take and what to leave. I went straight to necessities clothes, shoes, coats, backpacks, makeup bag, computer, the small firebox with the important papers. No books, no toys, no dishes, no jewelry, no food, not even our toothbrushes. Four outfits each was all I took. There was a bit of strategy in that I made sure they could be mixed-and-matched.
It took 40 minutes to pack my things and get the girls ready for school. That was the worst part. That is when the doubt began to flood in. Surely I forgot something. I have time, what am I forgetting? At that point, I knew that if I sat there long enough, I would be consumed with this doubt and fear. So I said a prayer, put the car in drive and drove away with my three daughters and the demand I put on myself that I would never look back.
I guess the whole thing should have felt scary and perhaps it was, but that's not what I really felt. I remember laughing because there was a pile of laundry in the dryer that needed to be folded and it was no longer my responsibility. There was so much weight taken off my shoulders it didn't matter that I was now a single mom and homeless. You know it's pretty bad when becoming a single mom and being homeless is so much better than where you were an hour earlier.
Three months later, I found a home. I moved in with just two carloads of items. The first night was terrifying because I was doing this all on my own and I knew (or thought) I wouldn't have enough time in the day to take care of a home and my daughters. So I, once again, ran around like a chicken with my head cut off after school. You know what I mean, homework, dinner, lunches, dishes, laundry, baths and cleaning. It was all done. Now what? I must be forgetting something. I know, I will check my watch to see how late it is, to see how far past our bedtime we are. It was only 6 o'clock. What? How did that happen? I DEFINITELY must have forgotten something. This has NEVER happened before.
My kids looked at me and said, now what do we do? I suggested we watch a movie on my laptop, after all, we had no books or TV. So I sat on my couch, cuddling my girls for the first time ever and put on a movie. I remember looking around and saying to myself, what did I forget to do? Then it dawned on me.
My life was simple. I had just what I needed. I felt peace and joy for the first time.
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My life was simple. I had just what I needed. I felt peace and joy for the first time. The key was to stop adding on. Less truly was more and this day, January 4, 2015, was the day I learned that valuable lesson.
- Rita. G
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