The Storm Before the Calm

By Alison June 6, 2013 11 Comments 4 Min Read

In matters of human nature it is a truth universally acknowledged that things will always get worse before they get better: a theory me thinks we can apply to everything from re-arranging the living room to family disharmony.
It seems to we have reach crisis point before we can start to see that one way or another from the worst mess or biggest crisis we will be able to create order and joy all over again. But heavens: just because we KNOW something to be true, doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when we are right in the thick of things…

This weekend we have been gifted both a new mattress and a scrumptiously fabulous (but absolutely huge!) gas barbecue. I also got it into my head that if we are to have people round on Saturday evening for dinner we need to clean every carpet in the house, re-arrange the living room furniture and basically turn the house upside down just in case said visitors turn out to be nosey parkers and decide to inspect the inside of our bathroom cabinet. All that and the sun is shining and life has to go on and writing has to progress and lovely friends visited and children carted to and from school and brows mopped and family disharmony tolerated if one is not to blame for it.

So today I sit on an armchair that used to be on the other side of the room, drinking iced mint tea and trying to pretend that all around me is in order, when there is a mattress on the landing, a Rug Doctor in the dining room, a garden that is pretty but upside down in our efforts to make way for giant barbecue, books stacked haphazardly left, right and center,  laundry half done, a cupboard spilled on to the floor in a search of a set of table mats I apparently no longer own and almost everything that used to be under the bed now in wibby-wobbly piles around the room after swapping the mattress and causing chaos.  Not to mention the fact that the carpet is still wet and thus walking in and out of the kitchen on and off slippy carpet is a hazard and Finley has been under strict instruction not to walk on the carpet with grubby garden feet and so has taken to hopping from one sofa to the other as if he was a bird!

Oh my. I can’t see how life will ever get back to normal. The house looks hideous. I feel demented. I’m making people cross.

But of course it will. For this is the way of the universe. The storm before the calm. And when we are stood right in the center of the tornado it serves us well to still our mind, prevent hysteria of the taking to ours beds with a glass of medicinal whiskey kind, and with one eye on the goal (impressing visitors/resolving upset/creating peace of mind), take the first step on the road to joy again.

Thought is required. And baby steps, one after another. Should we suffer from bull at a gate syndrome we have to temper our urge to rush in and try to fix things half-heartedly for a hasty resolution and instead attempt to make progress systematically, without panic or hysteria: doing what we can and remembering to look after ourselves in the process.

It is tempting,you see, to shove things in cupboards simply so that they are out of sight. To pretend we don’t feel things that we do. To put sticking plasters over huge hurts and try to hang curtain rails up with glue and it never, ever works. Nobody said it was easy (but darn it: no one ever said it would be quite so hard), however chaos was never calmed with an aspirin. Chaos in our heads and our living room floor is calmed with mindfulness and hope and work and lavender oil. Always lavender oil…

Work: that’s the key. Accepting that things are the way they are right now and working towards changing them for the better. Getting busy with a vacuum cleaner. Putting things away. Creating space where there was none. Saying you are sorry. Talking into the early hours. Talking at all. Wanting order and harmony enough to be willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Nothing is forever you see. Not with commitment to making things better. Not with the belief that now is not always and not, oh definitely not, with the belief that we can fix anything worth fixing, if we adore our home and love our families to bits.

I do believe we can fix anything.

And if not then we simply have to pour a lot of good wine down the necks of our lovely visitors and hope they don’t notice that their feet are wet. Talk at those who will not talk to us. Keep cleaning till we drop and accept the things we cannot change.

(All photographs from this week on my Instagram feed.)


  1. Brunette says:

    When the calm arrives, I’ll tell you that my Housekeeping 365 e-mails stopped coming. Again. Haven’t had one since Sunday. *sigh*Technology hates me.
    I just read The Child of the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge, and it was unexpectedly depressing. All her other books were much more uplifting than not, so I’m going to go make something scrumptious for the kids and lose my disappointment in their delight.
    (It’s been dark and gray and rainy and stickily humid here for the past 3 days, which doesn’t help one’s outlook)

  2. Wilhelmina says:

    Well Alison here in London town people are just so happy to see the sun, have some warmth, and be outdoors that as long as you have an outdoors with somewhere to sit, and something to drink, and even a barbecue inside could be a bomb site. If up north the weather is anything like so glorious , just make the powder room pretty and entertain outdoors…..It will be lovely for sure.

  3. Barbara says:

    Hi Alison, My 365 have stopped arriving too. Sad about this so have to go searching through my folders for the master file. Hope all goes well for you and your visitors. Enjoy.Love Barbara

  4. brocantehome says:

    Oh gosh this is a nuisance isn’t it? I use a service called MadMimi and their autoresponder should deliver each email daily but for some reason it keeps stalling, at which point I have to get on to their help line to ask for the autoresponder to be “pushed” which is why your emails arrive a little later some days than the 8.00am delivery time they are scheduled for.I will go now and ask for another “push” and I will look into changing services (without further interruption) asap. I swear tech will be the death of me.
    Thank you for your patience.

  5. Mine stopped, too! I was afraid you mysteriously “knew” I was not accomplishing it all and just decided to excommunicate me! Not really… You’d have dome that many moons ago! Your new stuff sounds delightful… I know just the mess you mean… The one right before the “Ahhhhhh.”. Hugs from MO….

  6. Karla Neese says:

    I can “cheerfully” announce that I am still receiving the 365 emails. I put the quotes around cheerfully because I love seeing it until I see all the things I must try to fit into my day. Ha ha ha.
    Hang in there Our Alison! We are all in this together!

  7. Brunette says:

    It’s back! My in-box just lit up.Thanks, Alison! Sorry it’s such a hassle.

  8. Lovely post, Alison. I always come to the same conclusions myself, but it is helpful to be reminded. And I really enjoyed that it was adorned with your photos.

  9. Sasha says:

    I loved this kind of post too – interspersed with snapshots of everyday life! You are so wise and so right – and I have an almost disturbing addiction to that kind of ‘roll your sleeves up and grit your teeth and dig in’ storm before the ever so satisfying calm it creates! (or maybe its the end result and accompanying self satisfaction I’m really addicted to?!). I hope your best laid plans pan out as well as I am sure they will – the bonus being you have a lovely new bed, clean carpets and ‘new’ lounge and garden to enjoy at the end of it all regardless – win win! x

  10. Diana says:

    I just love the picture of the potting bench. I was given one very like that a couple of months ago and I have to say pottering around on it has calmed a few inner storms lately. It’s all about sifting out the things that need to be changed from those that you need to accept because you can’t change them. Hope your efforts prove gratifying.

  11. lynne says:

    Oh, Alison. This was such a lovely post. Your essays always brighten my day and cheer me up enormously. I love reading about your life and seeing your snapshots of the things you choose to highlight. You influence so many of us. For those of us who post comments, there are many many more who read your essays and go about their day feeling cheered, calmed, or like they have a “comrade in arms” as they go about their daily chores. So happy I found you! You have changed my housekeeping/cooking/decorating/reading/music choices forever! Love you!

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