Muddling Through

I have not had many days, since the quarantine started, that I’ve gotten in the bed and felt a warm since of accomplishment melt over me for a productive day.

We’ve managed to do quite a lot each day: Mr. ThreeYear and I work our full-time jobs. I homeschool Little ThreeYear (Junior ThreeYear is self-sufficient at schoolwork for the most part). I feed the family three meals per day. We clean up and put away the dishes (this part feels like it takes hours of our day, every day). We tidy the house. We exercise many of those days. We buy groceries.

Still, the house is never really clean. It’s always fairly straightened for the most part with one or two really messy spots. Laundry is in some state of neglect, constantly.

I do my job each day, but I’m not following my curriculum very well. I can’t. I’m trying to get 17 eighth graders to keep their videos on and answer my questions en español on our Google Meet Up. They have tuned out after fifteen minutes. I can see it in their faces (the seventh and sixth graders are much more into Spanish these days. The seniors–let’s not even go there).

We haven’t managed to spend very much less than normal, mainly because we have been buying new furniture for our house, since we’ve been in it for eight weeks and realized that we need some new pieces. I have gotten us a full month ahead in our budget, which is sweet, but it’s been a slow, long haul to try and build up our sinking funds to the level needed. I still feel like I’m constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul, like we can never save as much as I’d like us to.

The kids’ rooms are always in a state of semi-disaster, even when beds are made. One recent morning, I walked into Junior ThreeYear’s room and saw this:

This is the normal state of his bedroom, unfortunately.

The school year will end in two more weeks, and then it will be summer. But with the pool closed (only until June 2nd! Got the email today), swim team cancelled, camps cancelled, and life otherwise suspended, it doesn’t even feel like summer’s coming, except for the fact that I won’t have to work and homeschool (okay, that is actually going to be amazing–it’s been beyond hard!).

So, we drift through our days.

We drift through our fitness. Training for a half marathon? Not this year. So we go on longish-runs on the weekends, when we get around to it (6 is super long these days).

We drift through our money. Buy a new rug? Rob the travel fund (because what else are we going to do with it?). Spend $1300 on groceries? Um, yes, because we have to stock up! Those days of $775 for food feel a lifetime away.

We drift through our food–tacos, chili, stir fry, soup, leftovers, takeout Saturdays!–on rotation. Eating all vegetarian? I’m afraid we’ve left that experiment in the dust.

The Gift of the Muddle

Despite all the muddling, there are silver linings.

This morning I made bacon and eggs and the four of us sat down to breakfast together. How many times did that happen on a school day pre-quarantine? Zero.

That same bedroom that was such a wreck, revealed, upon closer examination, a touching scene. My two most precious gifts, snoozing peacefully with their imperfect “Mom’s Barbershop” haircuts.

The finances are muddled, yes, but we’re also debt free, got to hold on to our full salaries post-Covid break-out, and have money set aside for things like home improvement projects.

The truth is, my need to achieve, achieve is what I consider to be a really negative part of the American culture, because we’re so impatient with… life. Parts of life that aren’t perfectly efficient (read: all of them right now) don’t help us become more productive, which is the ultimate achievement in a US life.

But, muddled moments and an imperfect, unproductive life brings these moments:

Little ThreeYear and I spend half an hour fooling around with Google’s AI technology (search: bear, dog, or tiger then click “View in 3-D”).

The boys and I spend the evening playing the board game Little ThreeYear created. Most of the rules are in his head, and change frequently. The characters are all based on our family–I am Momist, there is Dadicus, and Lucy is Lucinthia.

Mr. ThreeYear and I take time to hang out after a short, sweaty run.

Junior ThreeYear spends fifteen minutes trying to take a picture through the spotting scope of a bald eagle eating a fish on the pier (this is at the beach).

We buy a used ping pong table and have multiple tournaments in the garage.

old pictures

We dig up old pictures and have fun reminiscing.

The Necessity of the Muddle

Sometimes, life’s a slog. You’re putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get through mile 8 of a 13.1 mile run, and the end is nowhere in site (I don’t know why I always employ running analogies–I think it’s because that’s the hardest thing I regularly do with my body. Although now, Pilates).

Sometimes, things are boring, routine, nothing is exciting, fun. There’s no exciting, fun in sight. In fact, as far as the eye can see, things are routine, kind of hard.

That’s what paying debt off feels like. It also feels like it will never end.

Um, been there, done that. Not only did it end, but I’m on the other side and can now call myself Financially Secure (that’s when you have enough money to pay for your basic living expenses forever–ok, we’d have to sell our house, but we could support the four of us from our savings + investments within a LCOL area in this country).

So it does end. When we were in the middle of paying off that debt, there was no end in sight. I really couldn’t imagine a day when we wouldn’t be struggling to pay the bills.

Now, twelve years later, I can barely imagine the time when I would just put $15 of gas in my car because I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to fill it up.

But without that boring, hard muddle, I wouldn’t be here.

And without the boring, hard muddle of quarantine days, we wouldn’t be safe and healthy.

“We chase extraordinary moments instead of being grateful for ordinary moments until hard shit happens. And then in the face of really hard stuff — illness, death, loss — the only thing we’re begging for is a normal moment.”

Brené Brown

I think I’ll continue to vacillate between seeing the cloud and seeing the silver lining. Especially when thinking about the coming school year and doing all of this virtual learning again.

We’re not doing any truly remarkable stuff these days; we’re just muddling through. But I suspect these may be some of our most precious memories later on.

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

5 thoughts on “Muddling Through”

  1. We’re muddling through over here too! Is it super weird teaching using a webcam? But in pandemic, in quarantine, with a fresh n new infant that screams a lot doesn’t feel like very precious moments! I don’t think I’ll miss this infant stage but I’m hoping I’ll be wrong haha.

    1. Lily, congratulations!!! You’re a mama?! Wow, those infants days.. do not miss! It gets easier; don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Sure, I have to listen to endless ruminations about WWII and Pacific Theater attack battleships, but that’s nothing compared to losing sleep! 🙂 Sending you lots of hugs and as many zzzzzs as possible!!!

  2. Good luck finishing the school year! I admit I’ve been so thankful not to be employed as a teacher during this pandemic, but I have no doubt you all are doing an amazing job. We’ve been so fortunate as well, since we work from home already and just had to add a pre-K and 1st-grade kid curriculum at home. We’ve thanked God daily for our house and yard, perfect for sheltering-in-place. Yes, some days feel like a slog, it’s true. Glad you’re finding the joy in simple moments!

    1. Hi Kate, yes, gratitude is sooo important in times like these. And hard! 🙂 That’s why I remind myself it’s a practice. I am glad to hear you’re not teaching right now. It really is very, very tough. But I’m in my last days of the year when it all feels so impossible so perhaps I’m a little biased. So glad your family is safe and well. Here’s hoping to a wonderful, memory-filled summer!

  3. I hear you about the muddle — I have worked from home for over 10 years now but I’m still finding the shelter-in-place killing my productivity. Today, I slept in and spent the morning taking an hour-long leisure walk on the beach. Got some steps in. Got my nature fix. But it definitely cut into work time. Still a worthwhile tradeoff, and I hope to add more of these days, where I change up the schedule a little.

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