September 21, 2007

So Happy! (Caffeine Edition)

The title of this post was "So Discouraged," but that was before my HCI (Hot Coffee Injection) and now I am more like, "Hey, let's do laundry! and bake brownies! and have an autumnal soup for lunch! and let's think of something fun for The Virtual Avon Party--like, I wonder if I could do a little giftie (lip balm?) for the first five orders?" I've been emailing LeAnna all morning. She is probably getting very, very sorry she ever told me about this Avon thing.

When not under the influence of coffee (note to self: buy larger coffee pot), I've been feeling whiny and stressy. The one time I went on psychiatric medication, it was a few weeks before a mother-in-law visit, just like this. I didn't realize it was the stress of the impending visit--I thought I was just suddenly unable to cope with life.

So many things "need" to be done before she gets here. I think about what actually ought to be done (clean bathroom, hide birth control and journals, put away usual dishes), but before long I'm thinking the only way to start is by getting rid of fully half of what we own, since otherwise there is too much clutter for me to work on the cleaning.

And that may be completely true about the clutter, but it's not going to happen before she gets here, and I need to face that. The water stains on the ceiling are not going to get painted. The WALLS are not going to get painted. The thirty layers of clutter are going to be moved to other locations, but not disposed of. The house will still be our house, and that is absolutely fine and reasonable. I'm working on an "If you don't like it, bite me" attitude, so far with little success. (How come "Be yourself" only applies if you're The Cultural Ideal? Hand-wringing, neuroses-packed, under-medicated over-thinkers should be able to be themselves too!)

The day before yesterday, I began freaking out in earnest. I kept wanting to tackle some of the big messy areas, but even after one single project (I cleaned out the children's craft cupboard--way to prioritize!), I felt like I was way behind on my usual skimpy housework. Laundry: teetering! Litter box: in violation of health codes! Bathroom: smelling like pee!

And other projects continue to accumulate. I overdid it at The Children's Place (I haven't told you about the online order I placed after my success at the store), and I need to lay everything out and see what I'm keeping and what I'm taking back. Elizabeth's shoes are too small and her jeans are too short, so I need to dig out the next sizes. The rechargeable batteries for my digital camera are crap, or else the recharger is broken, and in either case I need to handle that so I can take more than ten photos before the batteries give out. The minivan needs an oil change.

How to fit in the Extra Pre-Mother-in-Law-Visit Cleaning when I can't even keep up with the regular stuff? And I know, I should be all, "Who cares what she thinks?," but I'm just NOT. (I think the people who say they don't care what other people think DO care what other people think: they want them to think they don't care what other people think.)

Anyway. Once I get overwhelmed like this, my natural inclination is to huddle in my recliner, keening and throwing candy wrappers on the floor. At the very time I should be springing into action because there is so much to do, that is when, perversely, I can't face doing a single thing. Each thing I attempt to do seems like the least important or the least manageable, or it feels like something else has to be done in order to make it possible to do this other thing, or I feel like I can't possible do it until I have a System, ideally with Matching Containers and a new house to put them in.

The only way to face this state of mind is to pick anything--ANYTHING--that seems doable, and do it. Thus the craft cupboard. My mother-in-law is unlikely to be affected by the state of the craft cupboard, but having it cleaned up is still better than NOT having it cleaned up. And it made me feel like I was making progress.

Yesterday I did the front hall closet. Again, not as high up the priority list as, say, chiseling dust off the bookshelves. But I did it, and having it done is better than NOT having it done. (I spent the twins' entire naptime doing it, so it BETTER be better than not.) I also scooped the litter box and got out Elizabeth's bigger jeans. And this morning when Elizabeth woke me at 5:00, I used the opportunity to order more camera batteries. Is each task like pulling out my own teeth? Yes. But each one makes me feel a little better than I felt when I had all of it still to do.

Also: worse. Because I'm still stressed, and I'm getting increasingly tired, and I didn't exercise yesterday even though I was supposed to. I wanted to tell myself that cleaning out the closet qualified as exercise, but even I'M not falling for that one.


Penny said...

And I was just telling my daughter, "Coffee is the Elixir of Life." A good lesson, don't you think?

Here's an idea: Don't do any prep for your impending MIL visit. Think about it: Give her, just this once, a baseline total-chaos at Casa de Swistle just this once. She'll have that image permanently stuck in her mind. Then next time she comes, even if you only wipe of a countertop, she'll think, 'Hey! This daughter in law is getting better!' and you will have to do so much less to impress her. Plus, no psychiatric drugs.

Erica said...

This post is further proof that we should be married. I have felt the same way on so many occasions.

Truthfully, that feeling of overwhelmedness (I know that's not a word, so cram it.) is the reason I don't want to put my house on the market. Right after it was built, we got our two lab puppies. WORST IDEA IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. They chewed holes in the carpet in the living room and Maddie's room, they chewed baseboards and window sills and a hole in the wall in the utility room. They also permanently muddied the kitchen walls and tile grout. This means painting the walls and staining/resealing the grout in my VERY LARGE kitchen. The problem is that they're all big, time-consuming projects and I just don't even know where to get started and I'm defeated before I even try.

Misty said...

Oh, Swistle. I have nothing productive to say other than this:

I know exactly how you feel.


She will come and then she will go. There will be an after. This too shall pass.

LoriD said...

Maybe if you don't make the house "welcoming", she won't come back.

Now I've become one of those people who pretends they don't care. Someone's car stalled in front of our house on Monday morning and she came in to use the phone. I was mortified that she walked into our morning chaos, complete with lunch-making, breakfast-serving and kid dressing residue everywhere.

Alice said...

that is an extreeeeeeemely apt description of the paralysis i get when i have too much to do. for me it's usually at the office, where i find myself 2600 hours worth of stuff to accomplish in the next 4, and i get so overwhelmed that i.. uh.. blog.

bananafana said...

I've become one of those people who cares what people think but can shake it off. For example - when the people came to replace our furnace I was embarrassed about our house for about 30 seconds before I had the realization that at least they won't want to rob us. That thought won't help with the MIL so I'll try to come up with something else for you . . . I truly understand the overwhelmed feeling though. I thought it might be nice to wipe down our kitchen counters last night but that meant sorting mail, doing dishes, throwing out old coupons, going through artwork and school papers, etc. Then I just sat down and ate cake instead

Sara said...

Bless you Swistle, because I get the same way.

The house is disgusting, and getting more disgusting and I'm disgusted, but the more disguting it gets, the more I just can not do about it. It's like there is a weight on me and this horrendous feeling of dread.

It sucks.

But like you, I start with something that really doesn't need to be done, but that will make me feel better. Like organizing the photos in the messy drawer of my china cabinet, or sorting through my hujungous pile of junk mail.

And it ends up helping.

The coffee sure does help too. Sometimes loading myself with Starbucks gets me motivated. :)

Tessie said...

I Emphatically Suck at "if you don't like it, bite me".

Yesterday my Very Fussy Aunt had to unexpectedly ride in my car with me, and as I was frantically clearing away the old sippy cups and fossilized Newton Minis from the backseat, I actually LIED, all "oh, she just had those this morning and I wasn't near a trashcan! haha!".

Mental Health Forecast: Weak to Quite Weak.

Black Sheeped said...

This is why I like Xanax.


I wish I could come help you. I liked penny's idea, for the record.

Nowheymama said...

"At the very time I should be springing into action because there is so much to do, that is when, perversely, I can't face doing a single thing."

Yep, that's me in a nutshell.

MadMad said...

OMG, I sooooooo hear you, honey! I just don't understand why it all gets so hard and so overwhelming. (Well, I do, actually, having read your post and lived through this as well.) What I mean is that life in general should not be this way, ya' know? (And mothers in law should not come visit, really. That would help...)

Tessa said...

So, here's something I started doing just recently. I hate housework, with a passion. So I went to craigslist and posted a barter option. I do tutoring, so I offered to trade equal hours of housework for tutoring and someone who would otherwise not be able to afford a tutor for her child is doing my housework, making me incredibly happy, while she's thrilled to get her daughter the help she needs. So, what are things you can do that you enjoy? I mean, you're here on Blogger, maybe you know some html and could help with someone's website? You're obviously an engaging writer, so I imagine you could help someone with reading/writing English? For all I know, you're super-handy and build tons of stuff in your (ha ha) spare time. Anyway, I've found that it's done wonders for my mental health to not have to worry about or stress about the cleaning. I don't know if there's enough time for you to try this before your MIL visits, or what your timing would look like. It's worth a shot, though. :)

mamaDB said...

I love the barter for a maid idea. Your MIL comes this weekend? Probably not time for that.

I got a little panicky for you just reading your blog. I too get very overwhelmed with housework. I got to dust the bookshelves and end up pouring through the babybooks or something.

Here's what I've been trying lately. I take a empty laundry basket into the kitchen and fill it with anything that doesn't belong in there. I then set a timer for 15 minutes and clean the kitchen as much as I can before the timer goes off.

I then empty the laundry basket (I'd like to say I put each item back where it belongs but really it all goes into an empty diaper box and then take the kitchen timer with me into the bathroom. Same thing. Set the timer, throw anything that doesn't belong into the laundry basket and clean until the timer goes off. I say clean the bathroom, kitchen and guest room. Anything else, you know it is bad so the MIL will have something to focus on (the mess) instead of commenting on everything else "wrong" with your life.

Good luck, girl. I totally know how you feel.

Swistle said...

Penny- Ha ha! I'd get to hear all her stories about "friends of hers" who had twins and made all their own clothes and still kept the house neat as a pin! Or, worse--she'd HELP CLEAN.

Erica- This is like that story where the guy's life is intolerable, so the wise woman tells him to bring the chickens into the house, and then the sheep, and then the cows and horses--and then she has him remove all the animals and his life is awesome.

Misty- I am LEANING on "the after." It WILL occur. There WILL be a time when I am looking BACK on this. ...Right? Or will I maybe not survive this?

Alice- OH ME TOO. Here I sit. The twins are napping, it's the perfect opportunity to tackle the cupboards, but...

Tessa- What an awesome solution! I could offer....brownies!

Mamadb- Mess as distraction? That is GREAT. That's like what they say mothers should do with teenaged daughters: fight with them about their makeup and hair so they (the daughters) won't feel the need to find something more interesting to fight about.

Melissa H said...

I'm so with you. When the to do list gets overwhelming I come up with a useful solution like: blog reading. or tv watching. Or some other useless thing. Why is that? It doesn't help the to do list AT ALL.

Good luck getting ready for the big MIL visit of 2007. We're cheering for you.

janet said...

and hey, swistle? give yourself a break. you have FIVE KIDS, including 2 toddlers and an infant. if your mil doesnt like it, tough tu-tus.

casa de janet is always a disaster too, and i dont have NEARLY your number of perfectly good reasons!

mom huebert said...

You mean I'm not the only one?! And really, I'm nearly old enough to be a mother-in-law, but I STILL fight being overwhelmed when things get out of hand. And I find wonderful things to do too, like taking the stove apart to clean (unnecessary), when the dishes aren't even done, or reading a book I've already read ten times (useless).

I feel encouraged. You and your readers have the same problem, and y'all still sound like nice people....

Pann said...

Re: Coffee. yesterday when my girls and I went down to the kitchen, I pushed the ON button for the coffee maker; I'd filled it the night before. The light did NOT come on. "Oh, no!" I moaned, "My coffee maker is not working". 7-yr-old says, "it's ok mom, just have something else for breakfast." 4-yr-old responds, "She has to have it EVERY DAY, didn't you know that?"
Luckily, plugging the machine in seems to fix the problem easily.

I go through the same BS you're going through with MIL visiting whenever my OWN mother visits. It's so unpleasant. Just keep telling yourself... she'll come and then... she'll leave again.

Kelli in the Mirror said...

Go back and read that post you wrote when Henry was very small, about how life is like The Sims and even something as small as eating a muffin will help your overall status. You sound like you need to revisit that. I have totally adopted it as my way for looking at things around the house and it really does help.

Farrell said...

Girl, i know how you feel.

Swistle said...

Kelli in the Mirror- Or maybe I could just go PLAY Sims for awhile! *receding footsteps*

mom of the year said...

I read somewhere that all women should just 'fess up and leave the crap as it lies when guests come over. Then, none of us would feel like a lesser mom/housekeeper/wife if we knew we were all in the same boat. I'm all for that. But I don't think I can do it. I'M JUST TOO TYPE A!!! Good luck, Swistle!

Artemisia said...

Swistle, you must secretly be spying on me (versus obviously spying on me with a spotlight???) prior to company. Any company.

I turn into a goddamn lunatic for at least two weeks prior to any visitor entering my house. I cannot be dissuaded from my insistence that every last corner in the house must be cleaned with a toothbrush, that every closet must be reorganized, things thrown out, and the carpet cleaned. Twice.

I don't sleep at night because all I can think about is how dirty my house is.

And when none of this happens -- and it never does -- I fall into a real pit of despair. Seriously. I'll spend an entire Saturday in bed rather than even just doing the damn dishes. Because, obviously I am a lazy slob that lives in filth. Right?

Oh, I thought I was the only one.

Easier said than done, obviously, but try to keep your home in perspective. I am sure it is comfy and healthy and that is all that counts!

Marie Green said...

I so totally get this. This is exactly the slope I start on in the beginning of a FUNK. Because it IS overwhelming trying to keep ahead, when you live with a bunch of tiny tornadoes that DON'T CARE that carelessly spilling their crap everywhere= TONS of work for MOmmy.

Also, I find that the more I do, the better momentum I have. This is a problem with children, because they interrupt my momentum, and then I have trouble getting back into the groove.

Here's a couple of things that always make ME feel better:
1. Throw out a ton of stuff. Go on a rampage. All outdated magazines, half used coloring books, old mail, happy meal/other crappy toys, etc- IN THE TRASH. This is very theraputic for me.

2. Enlist Paul's help, get the kids out of the house (MOM?) and both of you spend X hours cleaning. I feel less overwhelmed when I have help because we get TWICE as much done. In our early days of "team cleaning" we would make a list, so that neither of us got side tracked sorting nails in the garage or anything.

3. Decide what things are bugging you most, make a list, and do 1 a day. If you have time and momentum and accomplish your one thing, you can always squeeze in one more.

Geez! This sounds bossy. Your post hit a nerve for me though, because I go through the same thought processes. So I don't mean to be bossy!

Good luck. (And I loved your comment about the cultural ideal!)

Jess said...

My husband and I had a similar conversation yesterday (and by conversation I mean, I talked and he listened). Sometimes I feel like a glorified maid/babysitter. But then I took it back. I'm not glorified at all. And I'm CRAPPY at my job! It doesn't matter how much we clean when the crazies are following close behind, undoing EVERYTHING that was just accomplished. Maids don't put up with that kind of crap (or at least they shouldn't). Blah. And ditto ditto on the:

"I think the people who say they don't care what other people think DO care what other people think: they want them to think they don't care what other people think."

Or that's at least what I tell myself, because damn.

Shannon said...

I get paralyzed by too much until the very last second.

I say...drink coffee WHILE playing Sims.

Devan said...

breathe!! I know that IL visits can really start the stress rolling. My stomach just turned into a knot when I thought about Thanksgiving.
I like Penny's idea, but I'd never be able to do it myself.
Just do what you can, and drink a lot of coffee. :)

melissa said...

Breath, Swistle, breath! I feel like that often and as crazy as it sounds it makes me feel better to make a list. I put two or three things on the list (like "clean out the craft cupboard") and when it gets done I take a big black permanent marker and cross it off. Such a feeling of a sense of accomplishment! Who cares that it's not really an accomplishment to anyone but me?

Kristin H said...

I haven't read the other comments yet so I hope I'm not repeating anyone...but how about this for a plan? You could take the money you get back from Children's Place and hire a cleaning person to come in for an hour or three to clean! Aaaand, if your mom took the kids while the cleaning person was there, you could go for a run/walk or go out for coffee or...anything to reduce stress over the impending visit! Like hide in another state!

jen said...

I don't care what my MIL thinks, but I DO care what my own mother thinks. Probably because my MIL isn't the best housekeeper but my mother is the type who will scrub her floor with a toothbrush.

Sometimes I invite my mother over on purpose, because it'll force me to actually clean something around here.

What about Xanax?

Slipped into your MIL's coffee, of course. Coat the "special" dishes with it so she gets a continuous dose without suspecting a thing. That'll be why they are the "special" dishes and everyone will have nothing but good memories of them and not know why.

Katie said...

You write this in a way that really is REAL. It is like you just climbed in my head and wrote down what I was thinking, only in a much better way--less jumbly.

Anyway...It seems we all know that feeling. My mom always told me to start with making all the beds and cleaning the kitchen. If I do that (which, normally I don't), I realize life isn't quite as bad as I thought it was. And, then I'm usually inspired to continue on with something blogging, usually! :)

What about just PAYING a maid service for a one-time cleaning? I have no idea how much that costs, but it might really be worth it!

Swistle said...

Okay, I'm hiring a maid. My parents said when the twins were born that they'd pay $x toward a visit from a cleaning service, and they said that offer is still open. But I still have to handle the CLUTTER myself.

Kristin H said...

Awesome! I'm so glad you're hiring someone to do it! We have a )cheap) cleaning lady come every so often and she helps with the clutter, too. We sometimes have trouble finding things that she has "put away" but I think overall it's worth it. Good for you!

Katie said...

Clutter--put in boxes. Throw in garage. Done!

I'm so happy you're getting a cleaning service! That totally rules!

Jess said...

I totally understand the whole "Damn it I care what she thinks even if everyone else doesn't understand why" thing. It took a bit of coaching on my part before Torsten learned not to tell his mother stories about my quirks that he thinks are cute and that she thinks are horrifying.

Swistle said...

Jess Loolu- Clearly we are going to need a list of these quirks.

Jess said...

Swistle--I'll work on it and keep you posted.