Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." - Isaiah 30:21

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Living Space

So I lost myself in the living room last week.

It started with the coffee table, a nondescript brown monstrosity with which Jake inexplicably fell in love. I'm not sure, something about the scrollwork. By nightfall on Saturday it was there, taking up every last inch of space, buffeted by an ugly green couch and unusually low rocking chair, anchored by a black shag rug. I despaired. We have lived here for three years and I have never been able to get the living room quite the way I like, despite my numerous valiant attempts and hours upon hours of manual labor on Jake's part.

48 hours later, glaring at the coffee table and lamenting the Patriots' recent loss with back-to-back episodes of Glee, came the revelation: Paint. Paint fixes everything. The next night, a dark, windy one worthy of Halloween itself, I rushed to Home Depot, returning home just in time for Jake to leave for work. Soon I was surrounded by pieces of wood furniture splayed out on various sheets, awaiting their magnificent transformations. I was utterly alone and it was lovely. I turned on some music and picked up the sander. Then the power went out and Liam started screaming.

By the time painting actually occurred the following evening, I had ordered two new slipcovers for the couch and commissioned the man who actually makes the money for this stuff to repaint the living room walls, too. We put the kids to bed and worked together over glasses Shiraz (me) and Jones soda (him), Smartfood, and pretzel M&Ms. It turned into a pretty sweet little date night. Jake and I truly like to work on projects together, which is probably on my top ten list of favorite things about our relationship. Also, it makes up for our disparate tastes.

By the following weekend, I was looking with pride upon a whole new room. What an accomplishment. It felt worthy of Better Homes and Gardens, I thought. I was a domestic goddess, I thought. And then, Ohmygoodnesswhathashappenedtome, I thought. Because I don't do domesticity. I thought.

My mother spent years trying to get me to cook. My sister and I made meatloaf for dinner one night when I was 10, which went so well that she's now a vegetarian for life. When I was 14, I made chili, coolly chatting with a boy I knew while dumping in approximately ¼ cup of basil. Yes, basil. In chili. For years afterward I avoided cooking expressly because older generations had considered it woman's work, and I intended to be above all that. (You might think sucking at it would come in to play, too, but no.) In truth, I didn't get into cooking until we made friends with men who cooked, and then I decided I could do so without being subject to traditional gender roles. By then I had developed an interest in nutrition and clean eating, too, so cooking felt like a healthy lifestyle choice, not a domestic chore.

The state of the laundry in our house is perpetually pathetic. The bathrooms are cleaned only when company is expected. Dusting doesn't even cross my mind. Ever. I think that deep down, I've always kind of liked that about myself. I have generally regarded domestic chores as petty, and low on the priority list. As in, there are bigger concerns in the world, and I have no desire to be bogged down by the very, very small ones like window cleaning.

Yet there I was, exulting in my newly light and airy living room, loving this corner of our home that I had made into something nice. Wondering, who is this person? And facing a dawning realization – again – that my motivations, my expectations, and even my life decisions are influenced by so many things I would rather not see factor. I like decorating. I like cooking. Yet for years I resisted either – and the reason was so that I wouldn't be a “type”? Seriously? Yikes.

Okay, actually that revelation came several days later, and was the point at which I began to reconcile myself to loving the living room – and myself – without reservation. I can't help but feel like I'm in the midst of a significant paradigm shift which has very little to do with the living room, and with much left to be worked out. The ramifications of it all are simultaneously exciting and intimidating. Yet incredibly - dare I say it? - liberating.

To be continued . . .  

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