All Things, All at Once

hello there, friend

When my husband and I planted that “For Sale” sign, we had no idea we would spend the next seven years waiting. We packed up knick knacks, freshened the paint, and kept our little yellow house as spotless as possible, certain that by this time next year, we would be building our forever home.

Four years later, after offers that fell through, months of hearing nothing at all, and years of making harder and harder decisions, we finally changed the sign to “Sold”. One last time, I washed dishes in our sink. Countless hours I had spent standing there, scouring glass after glass while watching my husband mow the backyard. Our actions said more about us than almost anything else: him, mowing back the grass each time it grew, predictable, unswerving, and me washing clean what would become dirty again, always planning for the next meal, the next step.

All things, all at once

It’s a song I listen to, often on repeat. The mood, the melody, the lyrics: they all remind me of the years of waiting. The years where I lived for the next day and the one after that, not the one I was in. I have spent years waiting for the next big thing to pass and for life to settle into normal.

In all of those years, I wished for so many things: to sell a house, to get that job, to have money enough for our dreams. But what I was really, really wishing for was to stop waiting. I wanted to stop all the doing, put aside the hustle, and to live in the moment.

The time we spent in an apartment between houses felt like an interlude — the “oooh’s” of a song between the verses, a long pause before pressing forward. My husband and I lived skeleton lives while we found ourselves waiting, again, for the next big thing. We hung photos to get them out of the way, not to make the place feel like home. I washed dishes in a sink that was too shallow, listening to neighbors marching above us.

We sat at our dining room table in that in-between apartment, scratching plans onto paper and erasing them again, sifting through possibilities. We were going to build our forever home. What size should this room be? If we move this here, where will that put the stairs? We spent many Friday nights with glasses of wine and a stack of design books nearby, inching ever closer to the future we had mapped out in our head, forgetting the present right in front of us.

It’s not one thing or the other
It’s all things all at once

Our lease was up and we couldn’t commit to another year, but needed a place to stay while we built that house we had planned out on paper. Friends of a friend, more generous than we could imagine, offered an apartment in one of their outbuildings. It had four walls, a bathroom, and not much else. But it would do for three months, maybe five. We could cram one marriage, two people, and three jobs into six hundred square feet, no problem. Another temporary stop on our journey to end the waiting.

One lengthy fight over a driveway permit later, we broke ground on our new house. We could see the end of our wait in the distance, but it was a distance measured in construction timelines that shifted almost daily. In the outbuilding, I washed dishes in a sink not meant for a kitchen, all the while repeating “this is temporary.” I was ready for the wait to be over.

It’s not one thing or the other
It’s all things all at once

August came, and with it two pink lines. Two very surprising pink lines. We lived in a shed that had no address and now we were expecting a baby. Our soon-to-be-house was raw, see-through walls that ended in sky, and I had a tiny person taking shape inside of me, growing day by day alongside that house.

There’s one inevitable truth to building a house: estimated completion dates are wholly and completely estimated. There’s one inevitable truth to having a baby: estimated due dates are wholly and completely estimated.

September, October, before the first snow — all of these were dates where we might have moved in, but didn’t. We waited for subcontractor estimates to come in, for materials to arrive, for paint to literally dry. That summer and fall were one collective inhale and pause, the part of yoga that hurts the most. The part I always cut short — but this time, I couldn’t.

In the studio, when you are facing your mat with hips in the air, pushing your heels down and adding length to your spine, you have permission to take a knee, to pull up and rest if your body needs it. In yoga, you listen to your body, to what it needs. When you are growing a baby and building a house, there is no time to listen.

And these wings aren’t for flying
These wings are just for show
It’s years since I’ve been flying
I’m down to the earth

A week before Christmas we moved into our new house, elated to be home after so many years of limbo. We unpacked our things and hung our photos with great care, content to dwell in this new normal while we waited for a baby to make us three. Our normal didn’t last long. The day that began my thirty-seventh week of pregnancy, rather than settle into the relief of a baby grown enough to deliver safely, I lost my job. It was out of the blue, and I was devastated. It’s not one thing or the other

It’s all things all at once

I wash baby bottles in a sink that looks toward our dining room table, the one where we once planned to build our home when it was just the two of us. That table now holds onesies and tiny socks, folded and ready to be worn and dirtied again. It’s the place where I do my work, an accidental freelance career filling naptimes.

I see the me that once sat at that table, so ready to be done waiting, so hesitant to have a baby and lose who she was and what she wanted. She was used to the waiting, constantly looking toward the next, unsure of what it meant to be settled — unsure if she’d be happy when she was. Now, I still sit at that table, no more sure of what it means to be settled, but a little more sure of what next looks like. Next is a bath for a smiling six-month old, another bedtime story, a sigh of relief when little eyes blink heavy and close into sleep. And next is also emails and invoices, stealing moments out of the day to set words down on paper.

As I sit at this table, I realize that I am both of these versions of myself at once. Part of me still waits for what is around the corner, for the day when life no longer revolves around naptimes, for when we trade out this table for a larger one to fit a growing family. The waiting never goes away, but more and more I learn that there’s magic to be found right here.

This table is where I work and write and take photos, just like I always have. And now, I mother here, too. It’s all things, all at once: past, present, and future.


Words by Abbigail Kriebs. Lyrics to All Things, All at Once by Tired Pony via Google Play.