Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moving through Fear and Anxiety to Create a Peaceful Home

A few weeks before the arrival of my first-born we literally had next to nothing for our baby boy. I would like to say that I was at peace with the lack of  "stuff", or the oncoming baby, but honestly I wasn't.

Our  cozy one-bedroom cottage in the woods

The fear of the unknown, the fear of permanent change, the fear of the oncoming lack of freedom, the complete change in my living situation, all contributed to the deep inner anxiety and fear I felt. 

I wanted to be brave and adventurous. Earlier that year I let go of most of my worldly possessions, so I could be one of those spiritual renounciats that I so admired. You know, the ones who get on without attachment to material possession, and seemingly live moment to moment, even begging for their daily food. Heck, I even sat in awe of homeless people who survived without their stuff weighing them down.

I quit my desk job, happy to be free from sitting 35+ hours a week, got rid of my beloved apartment in Toronto and most of my worldly stuff. Then I moved to Costa Rica to teach yoga and live in nature with my then boyfriend.

Fast forward later in the year and the lack of stuff to set up a house and bring a baby into the world created a big enough fear and anxiety in me to fill my whole house over -- twice. So much for the freedom I had set out with earlier that year.

As a meditator and mindfulness practicioner, I would like to say I was able to "sit" through it mindfully. And maybe I did a little. But mostly I remember the acute feeling of anxiousness deep within my core. I will never forget what anxiousness feels to me.

The worst part (but probably the healthiest) was there wasn't anywhere to escape from the anxiety and fear. Now living in the US I couldn't work. I didn't have any friends. We didn't have a computer yet. Or a couch. Or a second car. There I was, alone in the woods, husband off working, facing my anxiety and fear front on while the baby grew inside of my belly.

I couldn't even read any of the spiritual books that I had to lug with me to Central America and back. With the half of mind I had left while pregnant, I was so unsettled that I couldn't even focus on anything requiring much thought.

I remember "sitting with the anxiety" (and the sickness and feeling not much like myself) a lot. I remember the only thing that calmed me in those days was to sing from deep within my heart to my unborn child. Singing was the only thing that kept us both at peace. (That and walking in the woods. But walking in Tennessee in the humid summer and hot early fall while pregnant wasn't fun either).

The anxiety I felt at being a mother for the first time translated to the need to accumulate stuff. 

At that point, I may of not felt in control of my destiny, but darn it, I certainly had control over the physical accumulation of  baby stuff! The more the better in my mind. If I had the "right baby stuff" it would assure that I was at least doing something right.

Lots of colors on our play mat.
Did I mention, we had two!
Never mind the anxiety that we didn't have a lot of money at the time to spend on our child like, what seemed like, the rest of North America did. I didn't want people to see us a poor!

For example, everyone seemed to have an exersaucer for their baby, and by golly I didn't want to be an unfit mother! I didn't want people to think that we couldn't provide for our son, so I stocked Freecycle until I got my hands on one.

Guess what? The thing was HUGE and hideous! So many colors and took up so much space in our little home. AND, my son....hated it! Every time we tried to put him in it, he would cry after about a minute. Looking back, it was more stimulation to an already overstimulating environment. No wonder he just wanted to be held and talked to. Never mind all the crazy colorful toys he didn't want to play with.

That is when it hit me. My mindset about baby stuff was just completely wrong. Sure, I knew it on some level, but it took a "waking up". We had managed to accumulate a very descent amount of baby stuff, consciously or by being privy to a lot of second-hand stuff or gifts. In our small space, it was just.so.dizzying! Not to mention the unsettling amount of bright colors and plastic.

Can't believe I am sharing this. Attempting yoga dodging
my first-born and baby stuff.

Fast forward to the birth of my second child three years later. I was a totally different mother. This time I had long accepted and grown to love my life as a mother, and learned to use motherhood as a way to shine the light on my own dark patches and use it as a tool for my self-development. Not only this, but being a mother has opened many doors for me to connect and help other parents.

With my second child, I mindfully set up our new two bedroom  home to create a place of deep calm, where creativity and spirit could burst forth. I learned my lesson.

I try to be mindful of the amount of toys and clutter in my house. I seek not to overwhelm my children (or myself) with too much visual stimulus. It was a conscious decision to have as much as my house brown and beige, with only the truly special stuff glowing with color. You know, the painted watercolors on the fridge, or the rainbow of silk play scarfs, the string banner on our otherwise bare wall that rotates our holiday or craft creations.

Our play corner now: simple, earthy, organized.
Color catching mystical silk painting on the wall.

For us, it creates a calm and warm place in which imagination can burst out.

It took me a couple years with kids to figure out this balance though. I wish I knew it sooner.

1 comment:

  1. This is so very beautiful. The process, where you are now, all of the journey...beautiful. No need to know it sooner - you knew it in exactly the time you needed to know it. And now, I feel fortunate to be receiving the messages. (Those messages I need to be hit over the head with again and again to heed.)
    Thank you. :)