Housework is never ending here. 6 active kids create an astounding amount of laundry and dishes on a daily basis. Dirty little handprints seem to materialize on the walls and dust creeps up from the floorboards at a constant pace, staring at me until I stop everything to correct the situation. Toys and little shoes are strewn about and muddy straw is tracked in over and over and over. It’s an incessant flow of tasks that can be so frustrating that it sucks the joy from my day.
In the darkest places of my recent depression it was an incredible amount of effort to drag myself from the couch long enough to hand-wash a few bowls for the kids’ cereal. We ate sandwiches and spaghetti and anything else I could heat, serve and ignore in favor of my pain. Simple, mundane chores required an energy I simply didn’t have, and were almost more than I could handle. I was stuck in limbo between maintenance and progress; existing, but really not living.
A wise friend, who has endured similar struggles, encouraged me to take pictures of a few things everyday. Things I found interesting, intriguing, ect. Find the beauty that surrounds you, he said, and in that beauty look for the inspiration to walk out of your darkness. You have that power, he promised. You just have to find where it’s hiding.
The early photos in this exercise were pretty standard. My children smiling, flowers poking up out of the frost-covered grass. The goats in the pasture. Dig deeper, he said. Look beyond the obvious and find the deeper meaning. I started seeing smaller things; wisps of fuzz from our goats’ winter coats catching on the doors in the barn, signaling warm weather to come. Our puppy’s serious face. The house plants that had wilted while I wrestled my demons slowly coming back to life. Then one morning I took a picture of a little shoe.
This shoe had been abandoned on the kitchen floor by our 6 year old son, Rikur. Less than 2 feet from its correct place in a wooden box by the door, but abandoned nonetheless. I was irritated when I saw it and went to pick it up. Then I stopped a second to look at it. Suddenly I wanted to take a picture. The little shoe, so worn from school and play, laying patiently by the door for its next adventure on our son’s busy little feet. Those feet had been so tiny at birth, with two overlapping toes that frustrated the nurses trying to print his feet. His little bear claws. Just like that, the annoyance of picking up yet another forgotten shoe became an opportunity for a beautiful memory.
Our family began in an apartment. We then moved into a house, and then a basement before finally coming home. We’ve felt the fear and dread of not knowing where we’ll rest our heads a few days from now and the crippling uncertainty of belonging nowhere. Our first night here I laid down in the middle of our bare living room and cried while doing snow angels on the brand-new carpet. I complain about that carpet (and its plethora of kid-stains) constantly now. In my depression I stopped finding the beauty in the small blessings around me which are, in fact, some of the biggest blessings of all.
I started putting little Eivin on my back in our mei tai carrier while I attempted to keep up with the mess. I turned on music and danced so he would sleep. I kept dancing even when he wasn’t with me. I started finding a sort of peace in the monotony of keeping up with our home and busy kids. The messy floor and handprints became beautiful; our kids are healthy, lively, creative and well fed. The full dustpan is beautiful too, because it’s progress. I’m off the couch, I’m moving forward. I’m living now.
I’m never going to enjoy scrubbing dishes, but I can now appreciate that they symbolize a well-fed family. The dirty floor and constant avalanche of toys and hoodies and books are signs of life in a busy, thriving household. Even the forgotten shoes are constant reminders of the tiny feet I once held that are constantly moving and growing. My tangled, half-dried hair that was forgotten when the phone interrupted. There is beauty in chaos, just like my friend said. You just have to look deeper to find it.