There’s nothing quite like the chaos of planning a child’s birthday party to prompt deep introspection about the surroundings of your life within the confines of your home. No, really, I mean it. There’s that moment after you’ve scrubbed the bathrooms and before you’ve got the main room to vaccuum when you stand in the middle of the room with a duster in one hand and ice water in the other. In that moment of flagging momentum you can see the cobwebs on the chandelier and the goldfish crumbs in the kitchen – at least I can. That moment brings with it for me the perspective of an outsider seeing my home for the first time and it occurs to me between sips of water that I don’t have a style. Or rather – that my home doesn’t have a style. The defining line between those two is pretty blurry.
I have the sense that the line shouldn’t be as indeterminate as it is, but I always feel like inviting people into my home is opening myself up in some intensely personal way. Standing with my water and duster I think I finally figured it out.
The walls hold no predetermined plan, instead they are splattered with a homeschool timeline, a piece of artwork from my high school days, my friend’s father’s sketch of a clown, a haphazard collection of small frames containing my chosen family’s photos, a purple polka-dotted orange hamster figurine and a large mountain goat bench. The fridge is covered in ToDo lists and kids magnetic letters while the aloe plant is functional. The white board nestled in the fireplace opening shows the lessons from Friday. My home is an accurate reflection of my life almost as clearly as if the walls were mirrored instead of heart-red painted on a Saturday morning. It seems that I live my life with my head down, passionately swinging my way through activities, homeschooling, crafts and family dinners and the glue and the art and the heart, the projects and the edges of our technological love are splattered around the rooms I inhabit. I am living my life deeply, head down and focused and the walls of my home reflect that life in all its gutsy, dusty glory.
My style is less about a predetermined idea of what I have choosen as my home’s presentation and more about the style of life I have. A style not found in a magazine or suggested by the latest organizational fad. It is, very simply put, that living my life gets stuff on the walls around me rather than having me decorate intentionally. Like footprints following me through the motions, my home tracks the changes and motions I make living the life of a mother, lover, writer, scout leader, world changer and artist.
Inviting people through the front door into my inner sanctuary is a pleasing, satisfying, and ultimately terrifying action. If I had chosen a style, thought long and hard about what furniture would look good, or set about to tie it all together somehow I might relax a bit as judgments of the room against some outside and arbitrary social standard could be taken as judgments on the style rather than on me personally. I chose to live my life and this is the result. I am pleased, empowered and enchanted with the idea that I live life immersion style and that my home supports that action. This action of life / response of home is not a pattern my mother or even my sisters understand. In some ways I don’t believe I understand how I have come to the point of drowning daily in the richness of breathing in joy, gulping down experiences and exhaling art and love.
I am proud that my cleaning is nervousness that I look my best, that my home look its best, but not that I hide anything or purport any lies about who or what we are. My living room still held a mountain goat bench and each room in my home held a small mouse figurine when guests arrived bearing presents and smiles celebrating my son.
I have met my challenges living this way within my home. Before a recent meeting of scout leaders a woman entered, looked wide-eyed around at my main room and commented, “This looks exactly like what I thought your home would look like.” I was flabbergasted. What would my home look like? What did she mean by that comment? Was it a good image she had or was this some mysterious judgment veiled in open commentary? What exactly was my home supposed to look like? Days and hours of struggling with this question brought me no closer to an answer. I did finally give up, and now that I’ve looked around again I think I realize that the leader who commented was wiser than I am. She realized quickly that my home simply is part of my life’s pattern and if you’ve seen me, or my life’s actions, then you can guess at my home.
In my home I have room for the wooden bowl of my mother's mother's mother and the light saber cake for my son. I have room for the potluck and space on the walls for the art of my family - whether it is framed or watercolors in 5yo hand held up with painters tape. I can tell you why there's a pile of stuff by the backdoor --- and it involves loving my family as they are rather than attempting to change who they are to fit an external ideal of "clean" or neat. Our lives are less static art and more performance art with a performance daily. My home will never be the same, always showing the newest project and losing the pieces that are fading from the mind in a constant evolution of who I am, who we are.
I dusted, I cleared the surfaces to make way for the coming attractions, and I erased the sticky popsicle making spots from the counters. I did not erase the fact that we live here – really LIVE here – or that our world is colorful and varied. I did not present to the world a false face of pristine coffee tables with crystal vases holding hothouse flowers. I did not scrub away our individuality or the blemishes that make us perfectly imperfect. I did not squash our hearts into closets hidden away from the fray, but they are comforted and cushioned with large pillows tossed where we last lounged and blankets for when the chill of harshness touches our toes. I did not pull down my son’s watercolor art because that would suggest I am somehow less than proud of the budding artist’s imperfect work. I did not apologize for the state of my home. I have stopped apologizing because I am not ashamed, nor do I think it is wrong or anything for which I feel “sorry.”
I am living a life that is less static art appreciation and more performance interactive full-contact art – and I passionately engulf myself with it.