The trigger

Every journey has a trigger and then a first step.

For me the trigger wasn’t about my distractions, my relationship with my family or even about whether I was using my time on earth in the way that I would have liked.

For me, the trigger was twofold – my supremely out of control house and the sad passing of my mother-in-law.  

I’d been aware for a very long time that the state of the house was having a negative impact on my state of mind.

I was becoming sick and tired of always feeling out of control because of the state of the house. It was untidy and unclean. No matter how much I tidied, the house would be messy again within hours. You couldn’t see the kitchen table or the benches for the amount of stuff just lying about on them. There were clothes and detritus all over the place, in every room. I couldn’t see the bed or the bedroom floor under all the clothes everywhere. Who knows if they were clean or dirty. The bedroom had become downright hazardous at night time as I tried to navigate my way out of the room in the dark to the baby’s room. The family room could barely be played in because of the volume of stuff in there. The bookcases and drawers were full of miscellaneous stuff that had no other place to go and just collected. The more stuff there was lying about, the more stuff seemed to accumulate.

One of the most frustrating effects of this excess of stuff was just how often I would lose things. Nothing seemed to have its own space. Everything ended up anywhere it felt and as a result I could never find what I needed and needlessly spent valuable time looking for lost objects like keys and phone and being stressed about it.

I felt unhappy at home and would try to go about to avoid the mess, only to get that sinking feeling again as I walked up the front steps at the thought of the mess that was going to assault my senses as I opened the front door.

I was increasingly aware that we were spending way too much money and I suspected that a lot of that stuff was stuff that I didn’t need. Yet, when I left the house to avoid the stuff, I usually ended up at the shops spending more money on more stuff that we didn’t need.

Here’s the thing. I have always been aware that my environment impacts greatly on my sense of well being. The more stuff I had, the messier my house was. The messier my house, the more stressed I was. The more stressed I was, the more overwhelmed I felt. The more overwhelmed I felt, the more I needed to find an escape. The more escaping I did, the more stuff I seemed to accumulate. It was a vicious cycle.

Some people might not find that their environment has such a significant impact on how they feel in every day life. I know for my husband it isn’t the same. Often, my husband would tell me to stop stressing about the state of the house and the laundry and just focus on the things that matter.

A lot of people on a journey towards a more engaged life in which they make the most of every moment would probably say the same thing. Focus on your priorities and don’t worry so much about the rest. 

I think that this is sound advice and I am ultimately trying to live a life in which I choose what matters, time with family and friends for example, over the less important things like a pristine kitchen.

Nonetheless, there is no escaping the fact that while my house was in such a state, my stress levels  would remain high and I wouldn’t be able to be happy in the way that I wanted to me.

Then in mid 2015, we received some terrible news. My mother-in-law had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We were going to lose her.

In January 2016, the sad moment came and she lost her battle with the cancer and passed away. She was a woman who had a fierce love for her family, including her grandchildren. She’d built her life around her children and making sure that she could give them the best that she could. We lost something very special the day that she passed away.

In her final weeks I saw how important her possessions to her. She spent a lot of time worrying about what would happen to her jewellery and the house after she passed away. She spent a lot of time thinking about which of her possessions should go to who and how she could protect the rest after her passing.

I was, and still am, grateful that she could spend her final days with her family and that she passed on feeling satisfied that her belongings were going to be well looked after.

With her death I really felt how fragile life is. She went to Rafael’s third birthday not knowing that it would be that last birthday of his she ever had the joy of experiencing. We don’t know what the future holds.

I started to think about my legacy and I realised that I didn’t want my possessions, my stuff, to matter too much to me. I want my family to matter, my friends to matter, my connections to other people to matter. I want my legacy to be what I contributed to the people around me. I don’t want my family and friends to be bogged down, physically and emotionally, by all the stuff that I leave behind. I want them to remember me when they hear a song that I loved on the radio or when they make their oats in the morning and they remember singing “oats a la mumma” at the top of my voice.  I want my legacy to be in the kindness that my children show to others and how they use their manners.

I realised that I don’t want to leave this world having given my husband and particularly my children the impression that the stuff we own matters. I want to leave this world knowing that they have a good foundation in their relationships with their family and that they know that their connections with others are the most important things that we have.

Instead of creating the lasting legacy that I wanted to leave, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of stuff and that I was stressed and overwhelmed as a result. That wasn’t the legacy that I wanted to leave my husband or my children.

I knew that it was time for me change. Time for me to take the first step. For me, that was by beginning to eliminate the excess stuff in my life.

This was the trigger for my journey. For others it might be something totally different. It might be your child asking you to put down your phone and play with them. It might be an increasingly large amount of debt beginning to overwhelm you. It might be the realisation that you spend more time at work and at home doing work after hours that you do spending time with the people who matter to you.

Whatever your trigger might be, there is one thing I am absolutely convinced of right now. It is possible to change and it is never too late to change. When your trigger comes, listen to it, accept it and then act on it. That’s when we can begin to make every moment count .

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