Last Sunday night, I posted on FB the highlights of my weekend - and one of them I formulated as “cooking, cleaning and feeling the hostess of our castle”. It was an unusual selection of words, and I felt something positive and surprising about that phrase. I thought it was because I have not done it in a while - but there was more to it. It stayed with me overnight. When I reflected on it in the morning, I made a startling discovery:
I never felt completely fully the hostess of our castle since we moved into this house.
It was that aha moment - which both takes you by surprise and yet you know it to be true.
In the last few years, every time I felt disassembled in some way - the need to take care of my environment, namely the house, was always at the top of the list. Yet it invariably felt difficult to do, and even when I started - I would get tired quickly and come to a halt soon after.
This new realization of not feeling fully the hostess was like a ray of light that both made everything suddenly make sense - and illuminated the whole 9+ year journey with the house: inviting me to see both the details, and the important message behind the details.
So I invite you to follow me on this - as some pieces might click for you.
When we were selecting the house, I was pretty sick with ovarian hyperstimulation, going through IVF that brought us our first daughter. It was our first house purchase, it had taken us a while to decide we wanted - needed? - a house, and we felt weary after having to readjust our aspirations and expectations so much over the course of looking at what was available. When my husband suggested we make an offer on this house I was more relieved than excited.
When we got the keys to the house - it felt weird and unreal. The house felt strange and unprepared (the guy took his time to move his stuff out past the key handing day). And when I came over to plan the renovations and cleaning needed before we move in, I felt nauseous - both from the pregnancy, and a stomach virus that hit both me and Vitalik later that day.
When we moved in, I was 5 months pregnant. It seemed like I summoned all my energy (pretty lacking for the first 4 months of the pregnancy) to pack up our condo and have the goodbye party with friends - only to feel completely drained when we moved it. Our floors were not done - we had to stay at a friend’s place for a week. We had no kitchen, very little furniture. My husband stopped talking with me for a few days after the move. It took me many months to understand the discomfort he must have felt with the unsettling we moved into, and being mad at me for not project managing this whole process better.
By the time the key furniture started to arrive and the kitchen was operational - our daughter was born. My mother in law came to stay for three months to help with the new baby. She was taking care of the meals, some of the boxes remained unpacked, friends offered to put things in place - I sometimes reluctantly agreed, not understanding why I resisted it so deep emotionally. We hired a cleaning lady - for the first time ever. All very logical practical moves, that made our life easier. When I turned 40 that same year, and my family came over to celebrate, it was the first time I was ok not worrying about cleaning the house or cooking the food for my party.
Or so I thought.
Don’t get me wrong - we had plenty of loving and beautiful moments in this house during that time. We enjoyed our patio, had fun cooking Saturday breakfast on an electric pan outside, Vitalik loved pacing the spacious floors, empty of furniture, and Dima and I loved exploring both the neighborhood and different parts of Toronto, scouting furniture and eating out while our kitchen was taking a while to install. That part of our journey is cherished and loved - I am just focusing on the discovery made in the last few days, which relates to the disconnects that I had with this beautiful place we now called home.
Between all the circumstances of our first months in the house, and all the practical moves due to the birth of our Misha - I never completed even one full cleaning of the whole house, where I would touch every little part, and make it my own.
After spending more money than we wanted on the new kitchen, the furniture, the most important curtains (as I was boiling in our south facing bedroom breastfeeding and feeling constantly hot for the first time in my life) - my husband reached the point of unease about spending more money on the house. He voiced this unease - and that was enough for me to stop all the remaining projects. So the other curtains, finishing up the fireplace wall in our bedroom, re-hooking the washer and dryer so the doors would not clash, even the picture wall I wanted to arrange - got halted.
Here is where it gets deep. While I mention my husband - he was NOT AT ALL the reason those project stopped.
On the first, surface level, it could seem to be about the money - that I did not feel justified spending. I already got the kitchen option that I preferred - while we both wanted a new kitchen, I was in favor of a more expensive version. I got the curtains that I so desperately needed - even if we both did not really like how they turned out. The other curtains, the plumbing for the laundry room, let alone the fireplace wall - did require substantial further spendings.
But now, 9 years later, having gone through many rounds of deep personal discovery - I know there was more at play. And that more kept getting in the way of me doing the projects, or even tidying up the house all those times that I tried.
Through my life it felt like important things took a while for me. It took me a while to find a guy I wanted to marry. It took a while for this guy to propose to me. It took us a number of years of effort (and sex :)) to get our first baby. On my 40th birthday, my husband lovingly teased me, that by 40 I got all that I wanted - a family, a kid, and even a house. I remember the weird discomfort I felt hearing that. Not because he was teasing - I love his teasing! Now I know it was because what he was saying did not align with my deepest beliefs, or rather doubts, about me deserving all this happiness. And with that doubt, I would easily give my power away. When my husband mentioned spending too much money on the house - instead of hearing his concern or talking with him about it, I heard that I did not deserve to have what I wanted. Which he would never dream to imply.
And so in all these years in the house, I kept accepting things to be incomplete, undone, not fully arranged - which bugged me deep down, and yet I was the one keeping them that way. I kept wanting to put those pictures, to get those curtains, or do that wall in the bedroom - in fact, I made a few designs and got estimates for it. When my husband would say he was not happy with our house - I almost screamed, me too! Yet even the zen space of my walk-in closet has been ALMOST in order, with some things always ending up out of place.
The true reason for that was I was not allowing myself to have the environment I really wanted - and so my mind kept putting the resistance mechanisms every time I attempted to arrange it to my liking.
Gradually, things started to shift in the last 18 months. I burned old papers, released baby clothes, gave away my own clothes I hung on to for years, had a large garage sale letting go of even the valuable jewelry I no longer wore. I arranged some pieces of the house to my liking and managed to keep them tidy for months. I even put up a few pictures.
The resistance was still there - but I could overcome it, at times, and it was diminishing. The more I connected with myself - the more I allowed myself to be and do what I liked, - the more progress I could make.
Finally, in the last couple of months - it lifted. The heaviness, the tiredness, the resistance. I easily bagged the remaining clothes I wanted to give away, started disposing of kids daily artwork, I even threw away our beloved steamer - the most used (and now unused) appliance we had for years.
I went through a lot of deep unlayering in the last two months. Old difficult emotions came out, and beneath them I could see the beautiful person that I am. Glimpses at first, then more.
So now this phrase - being the hostess of our castle - was like the last key. To fully see what was not working. To now see what I do want. And to connect with who I am when it comes to my environment. The reason I formulated this phrase this week was because I was ready to face it - and to do something about it.
I cried many tears while writing this. It has been a blog post of discovery, of connecting, and of letting go. I felt regret, sadness, and even anger - and I felt them dissipating. Like the light dissolves the darkness - the old doubts are now dissolving with this new clarity and new trust.
I am the hostess of our castle. It feels fantastic - and true.
Now I am ready to face the next question:
How much of the hostess of my life am I NOT being?
I will let you know what unfolds from here :).