Come on in! Kick off your shoes and throw your stuff down wherever you want. Grab a snack and a drink out of the fridge, turn on the TV and curl up with a blanket on the couch. Throw in a load of laundry, take a shower, read a book, use the computer, or take advantage of some peace and quiet for a little cat nap. Stay a while. The point is: In my home, no one is a guest. Everyone is family. Those are the rules.
That’s today. Let me tell you about another time in my life.
When I first moved to North Carolina, a little over 5 years ago, I shared an enormous house with the man I loved, a man I lived with and dated for nearly 8 years at the time. We filled our house with beautiful furniture, artwork and accessories. In fact, we spent a great deal of time and energy decorating. Each table setting was perfectly matched. There was a set for eating and a set for display on an elaborate dining room table, which we never used. Fine crystal wine glasses and flutes sat perfectly aligned in a glass cased cabinet, which was carefully dusted when needed, but otherwise never touched. An entire room was filled with the most sophisticated living room furniture and the largest, most intricate shelving unit imaginable. Books, photos, and knick-knacks were on display in every nook and cranny. But, the room was never used, and no one would dare sit on the furniture.
The house was simply majestic; larger than life. It was always neat and orderly. Everything had a place, and there was a place for everything. No dish was left unclean; no towel left unfolded. Every moment of time we had and every ounce of attention was put into that house. It was indeed breathtaking, but looking back, it was a very lonely place to be, because while everyone who entered was blown away by the work we put into it, there was one thing we left out: ourselves.
We spent more time focusing on what was in our house rather than who was in it, and that’s why it never became a home.
Before long, we found ourselves selling or donating those beautiful pieces of our house to perfect strangers. Furniture, art, dishes, and even the fine crystal; memory by memory, pieces of our lives were walking away in the hands of happy new owners, who knew exactly where they would put their new found treasures. We, on the other hand, were left reflecting on the very moment when we purchased each and every item, wondering how our relationship could have possibly come to this. Even more heartbreaking was the day we walked out of that front door for the very last time. Walking away from what was once a beautiful dream was perhaps one of the most difficult days of our lives. It was a painful experience but a valuable lesson at the same time; one I carry with me in my heart to this day.
Recently, I moved into my own townhome. I’ve never lived on my own before, so it’s been a roller-coaster of an experience in many ways. However, I am settling in and getting adjusted to my new life. Some days are more difficult than others, but for the most part, it’s been a great ride. As for decorating, well… not much matches, a few pictures are sort of lopsided, and there are items in rooms that don’t quite belong (like a desk in the dining room and an end table in the office), but I’m okay with that. In fact, I kind of like it that way. It seems a bit more comfortable and much less high maintenance. Besides, I learned the hard way that it’s not about what surrounds you but who surrounds you that matters. The rest are just THINGS. Sure, they may look nice, and may or may not impress a few guests (depending on individual tastes), but once those guests depart, your THINGS just don’t matter. The truth is, with or without guests, they really don’t matter anyway.
Today, I’m no longer concerned with whether my bowls match my plates or if the towels in my guest bathroom are “the decorative ones” or “the usable ones”. Who cares? If it dries the water off after a shower, use it. Period. I’m comfortable here in my home, and I want others to be, too. That’s right, I said home, not house. The transition was made. It was a tough road to travel and I have the scars to prove it, but alas, I’ve reached the final destination, and with some very valuable lessons:
Not everything needs a place, and there’s not necessarily a place for everything. Much like life, some pieces will fall where they may (or where they fit). Sometimes we just have to work around them and adjust accordingly. As long as we’re comfortable, it doesn’t matter what others think, or if our homes, or our lives, match those in some magazine we saw in line at the grocery store. Happiness lies within us, not within our furniture and our décor.
Sometimes in life, it’s good to have a few mismatches. It adds a little flavor and makes the “ordinary” just a little bit more exciting. I sort of enjoy eating salad off of a red plate and soup out of a blue bowl. It makes me smile. I don’t think I have a single set of glasses that match. I love that! As long as what comes out of them doesn’t kill me or someone else, we will all live to see another day. Life is good. Who cares what color or shape the glass is?
Not everything has to be done right now. A dirty dish can wait, a load of laundry can be done tomorrow, and that pile of shoes by the door will get sorted out later. Life is happening right NOW and that is much more important. I’ve experienced enough to understand now that dishes and laundry will be there tomorrow. Life may not.
This has been my journey from house to home. Today, no guests are allowed. The moment you enter the door, my home becomes our home, and you become family. There is not a dish you can’t use, a piece of furniture you can’t sit on, or a room you can’t enter.
Make yourself comfortable. Make yourself “at home”.