Summer in a nutshell:
Back in June, struggling with tremendous change and uncertainty (which is where I’ve been living for at least two years), I gave myself permission to stop. Stop trying to figure everything out. Stop trying to make things better. Stop doing things unless they truly had to be done–so that I might figure out what it is I even like doing any more.
I think I had some idea that if I’d just stop, all the dust clouding my vision would settle and I’d find some kind of serenity and things would become green and shiny again. Or, at least, I would be able to see what is still green and shiny. And, well, yeah…what you see above is fairly indicative of how things look right now.
Most of you who read regularly followed me here from the home blog I used to write with Cane, where we (hopefully, optimistically, enthusiastically, joyfully) proclaimed that “how we do home is how we do life.”
The internets is full of people waxing philosophical about the meaning of home. My friend Laura pointed me to this (rather pedantic, privileged-perspective) piece last week that annoyed but also intrigued me a bit. In it, the writer posits that home “is a place where personal ideals are externalized or personal failures made visible.”
Well, clearly mine is more about personal failures made visible than anything else these days.
This summer we did fix some things that have long needed fixing. We finally gave up on doing anything cool/creative that we love with our entry and painted everything the same shade of brown and covered the stairs with a boring, serviceable carpet.
We got rid of yellowed vinyl flooring in a bathroom, painted the walls, and took out a plastic-covered vanity that surely replaced a solid wood one in a previous owner’s quest to attain a different sort of domestic ideal than any we ascribe to. We put in a new one that’s probably a lot like the original one.
Some of you might remember when we put some lipstick on the pig of the room that it was when we weren’t ready to replace the flooring and cabinet:
The bathroom needed new flooring and the new cabinet takes up less space, which is good, I suppose, but I’m not in love with it. I’m in meh with it. And though I don’t like to say it out loud, given the time and money we put into the changes, I think I liked the funky lipstick version of it better.
Unlike so many of our earlier house projects, these were not labors of love. These projects were done not to make a home but to fix things that would need fixing if we decide to sell the house. (Kind of amazing how that shows, huh?)
When Cane and I wrote that “how we do home is how we do life” we saw it as a statement of power: We can choose how we do home, and a complementary life would grow out of that choosing:
Want a simpler life? Create a simple home.
Want an authentic life? Create an authentic home.
Want a connected life? Create a home with routines and traditions and rituals that connect its inhabitants with each other and those who enter it.
What I’m coming to understand, though, is that this question of home/life might be a chicken/egg sort of thing: Which comes first, home or life? Maybe how we do life is how we do home–and many of us struggle to do life the way we want to.
Some of us live in poverty. Some of us live with abuse. Some of us are living out the inevitable effects of multi-generation oppression. And, even those of us who are relatively privileged sometimes get thrown a curveball that we just can’t hit with anything resembling grace–if we can manage to hit it at all. Sometimes, life throws us not a curveball, but a series of fastballs discharging from a pitching machine set to its highest speed. Then, we end up doing life the best we can, swinging furiously, knowing we’re going to miss more balls than we hit.
Sometimes, life has us so worn out that caring about home feels really beside any point that matters.
I really miss caring about such things as growing vegetables and sewing grocery bags and planning meals and restoring banged up furniture that no one else loves any more. I keep trying to “act as if,” thinking that maybe I can make the equation work the other way: Maybe if I just start doing the stuff, the caring will return and the life will follow suit.
So far, it hasn’t been that way. But as so many on the internets constantly remind me, we’re all just living in one season of life at a time, and they all pass. I’m hoping that as summer fades into fall, this one I’ve been living in for the past few years will move on, too. I’ll keep you posted.