Once a month, my Mama Friend takes my kids for the whole, long day. (I reciprocate a week later or earlier by taking hers. It’s this thing we do, and it’s awesome.)
From behind the steering wheel first thing in the morning, seven whole hours to myself seems like an eternity of possibility. I see the day stretching wide before me, and I am limitless in it. I can check off every last thing on that way-too-long-to-do list if only I just focus.
Usually I spend Addie Day holed up in Panera, writing and consuming a steady stream of coffee and bagels. But yesterday, I decided to tackle The Basement Room.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length, you might remember The Basement Room from the end of November (when I vowed to let it go and have an imperfect Christmas.)
The Basement Room has been through a lot in the five years we’ve lived in this house. It started off as Man Cave, full of movie posters and the swords we brought home from China.
Then, when Andrew started working from home, it transitioned to accommodate both his office and my sewing/craft miscellanea. (For a person who’s not all that crafty, I have a surprising amount of craft supplies, and anytime I do any sort of sewing project, my side of the room explodes with it.)
Now The Basement Room is in transition to becoming our guest room, and I’m trying to prune back the unnecessary craft supplies and just keep the essentials. And, just to make things a little extra wacky, I’m also cleaning out our storage space at the same time, which means there are half-full Rubbermaids everywhere.
Here’s a reminder in case you’ve forgotten just how bad it is:
At home on Addie Day, the house buzzes with a strange, kid-free silence. I sit on the floor in The Basement Room, surrounded by the debris of our life. My Diet Coke is somewhere nearby, and Season 2 of Veronica Mars is playing on my computer, and it’s long, slow work, this purging. It surprises me when I find my phone underneath a pile of scrapbook paper and see that it’s already 1:30 in the afternoon.
Watch enough sappy episodes of Extreme Home Makeover and you’ll begin to believe that a house can actually be ripped down and built back up in a week. Look at enough Before and Afters held side-by-side on Pinterest, and you’ll forget about this eternity of in-between. The tutorials promise ten easy steps to give your bedroom a facelift in a weekend, and it sounds entirely possible.
And it’s not just in the home improvement realm. Everywhere, we’re cutting out the middle. We cheer on contestants in one-hour increments as they drop pounds in drastic numbers week-to-week. We keep just enough of the hard work of weight loss to make a good story…and then we edit the rest out.
We tell the three-minute versions of our faith and cut out the messy uncertainties, the lingering doubts, the long, quiet Middles.
But I’m sitting in a pile of papers and books and photos and files, and here’s the unsexy truth of it: creating space takes time.
The mess gets worse. And then better. And then WAY WORSE. And then it circles around again. These questions, What should I keep? And What can I live without? These are big questions in some ways. They are questions that take time.
I am going through my kids’ art projects and my old writing notebooks. I am piling up fabric scraps, trying to figure out if I’ll ever use them again. I am folding up squares of tissue paper for future gifts and testing out loose pens to see if they still write.
For most of the day, all I’m really doing is moving piles around the room. All the time, the stacks are getting smaller and more manageable, but it sure doesn’t look like it.
At four o’clock when I grab the keys and head into the winter cold to get the kids, The Basement Room still looks so much like it did when I started this morning. You can only see the improvement if you look hard and deep, look all the way in.
And it’s a hard lesson for this overachiever, this perfectionist, this project-finisher: to let go of the golden myth of before and after. The middle stretches long and exhausting and tedious, and this is where you do the good, real work of life.
This is where you let go and hold close, and this is where you make space within yourself. And to stand here in this middle-mess and not give up: this is faith.
You close the door and leave for today. You’ll come back to it tomorrow. Move some piles around. Throw a few things away. Keep on working until it’s done.