Last night, after getting the kids ready for bed and making sure everyone was comfortably settled in front of the TV for a movie, I did something I rarely do: I went over to a friend’s house for some non-work related adult conversation.

While we sat outside under blankets in the Texas version of winter (temperature in the low 50s), I mentioned that I had finally moved into the 21st century (or at least the 2010s) and had gotten an Instagram account. She mentioned that she usually enjoys just flipping through Instagram, but hated doing so during the holidays because everything was so filtered. People showed pictures of perfectly decorated houses and family pictures with perfectly groomed kids and pets. So many people were living their life through a filter that she just couldn’t handle it anymore and needed a break.

And I get the temptation. This past week was certainly a week during which living my life through a filter would have been preferable to reality. It was our first week back at school. My husband (who works from home and usually takes the kids to school) was traveling for work which meant that the kids and I had to get up even earlier as we adjusted to regular schedules. Not only were they not ready to go back to early mornings and routine, but I was asking them to do it early, in a rush, and without any morning chill time before leaving the house. Our son wasn’t sleeping well because of the changes and all issues came to a head on Thursday morning as I was trying to leave even earlier so I could be on time for a meeting. The trifecta of the first week back, the absence of my parenting partner, and an unfortunate case of PMS created a chemical explosion in the crucible of my car as I incoherently yelled that I didn’t care if I had handed him the water bottle that he didn’t want, that was the only thing he was going to get and he was just going to live with it because we needed to leave right now.

An Instagram filter at that moment would have been really nice.

And so today, when I took a picture of the floors I had just cleaned of the disgusting filth that had been building on them for weeks, I was tempted to just post a picture of the clean floors.

But the truth looks more like this:

While I’m happy to have clean floors, the truth when I look around the rest of the house is far more painful to deal with. I want a clean house but I want to write. I want to work on the wallpaper stripping in the front hallway that I started nearly two years ago but I need to clean so we can actually eat together as a family at the table. I want to write but I have actual deadlines that need to be met.

It’s the beginning of the semester, which is always an odd time of year for me. I have nearly all of my preparation done, I have little to no grading, and I theoretically have time to relax. That is, as long as I don’t look around my house.

Honestly, I suck at relaxing. I need to be doing something at all times: cleaning (which I also suck at), grading, lesson planning, being present as a parent, etc. It is a valid critique from my husband that I can’t seem to put my computer away when I sit down because I feel the need to be doing something.

And as I wrap up this weekend I feel guilty for reading 40 pages of a book that I picked up at a conference and for writing two blog posts and for going over to a friend’s house to sit around a fire and drink a glass of wine and to just be.

It’s too early in the semester to have grading to do and I have my lesson plans done for the week, but I still have to finish that conference proposal that is due on Wednesday. Laundry is still piled on the bed, dishes are still in the sink, and the table is still a mess. I’m trying to give myself grace, but it’s hard. It’s so hard because I want cleanliness and order and for everything on my to-do list to be checked off when I go to sleep at the end of a weekend. But instead, I have to settle for a house that is in a perpetual state of loving chaos.

So tonight I’ll do what I can. And then I will have to resign myself to reality that once again, the to-do list isn’t complete and we are still living in a state of perpetual chaos.

But at least my floors are clean (for now).

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