“Enjoy this space. Look around you. Tell yourself, ‘I did this. That I didn’t steal a penny from anybody. I didn’t borrow. I didn’t get any part of this as an inheritance. I built this. I worked hard to earn this.’ This is your achievement. You did this. Enjoy.
“It doesn’t need to be on Facebook. Does not need to be photographed, shared with someone else. Doesn’t need to be flaunted. Doesn’t need for anyone else to admire. This is for you to cherish. This…is yours.”
It seems to be my path in life to fill the silence before and after with florid exclamations. I am preconditioned to articulate the momentous emotions which overcome me from time to time. A bathroom seems hardly likely subject to rouse such passions, but it did, and I could not help transmit that apparently trivial passion to the only listener.
The first project my husband and I did for our home was re-do the bathrooms. They had run their life, to the point where facilities had stopped working altogether. Plus, the original designer, God bless his/her soul, had no idea how to amplify space and let the light flow through, and had done just the opposite.
I grew up in a ramshackle old house in a ramshackle part of town; in childhood we had two cramped rooms overflowing with my mother’s idea of well fitted-ness and a mini courtyard for bath. I cannot ever more enter a bathroom that is dimly lighted. I cannot spend one tenth of my daily existence in a space whose walls close up on me, where the artificial light has to be switched on no matter what time of day.
Given a say, I’d put larger windows in my toilet than bedroom(s). Luckily, one of the bathrooms in this house has a huge east facing window looking out to the park. Extremely fortunate it does, because the other’s smaller orifice couldn’t be enlarged due to planning regulations. But we seemed to have made the correct choices in colour and layout, and were blessed to have found this extraordinarily gifted plumber, so that, after the pulling down and building back was over, a burst of sunshine was flowing right through that window and streaming down our stairs to land on our front door.
Renovation is my thing. I love the challenge of renovating spaces. I love the dare of looking beyond what is already there, trying to picture what else can be possible.
For one, the world no longer has as much space as we teeming gazillions of individuals need to call our own. It is so heart breaking to have to concretize a fallow piece of earth where wildflowers grew once not so long ago. It is specially demoralising to have to put your human will over the grown tree’s that has rooted itself to that vital piece of soil, getting in the way of your future castle’s foundations.
Even if one can get over the ruthlessness of manhandling the wilderness, the entire process of building an infrastructure from scratch is exhausting. I am as manipulative, conniving, selfish as the rest of us – I have an obsessive need to control the flow of energy through my space, however tiny, this unforgivable need to arrange the aesthetic of my surroundings. History tells me Jane Austen could not write a line for all the years her parents exiled her to Bath. It was only when reinstated in Hampshire that her muse overran again.
Linda Goodman had amused me years back bringing to my notice it was the constellation of my birth month that was responsible. I had never before realised that I bear such a fetish, but had in fact, been aware how it felt ‘right’ in certain settings while other places had that something missing.
Maybe, it is my fickle spirit. I have figured, there is no harm in dictating – if such a narcissistic hunger for power must be allowed to rule – one’s teeny space, to coax and calculate cosiness out of inanimate objects and their inherent physicality. There is creative charm in being able to cohere disparate items, blend utility with taste; being able to do so on a budget is the proverbial cherry.
If we did it my way, no banks would have been broken, but we did it my man’s way. He took me by complete surprise with his involvement, and how he matched my steps, trip for futile trip, as we made countless numbers of them for that ‘just right’ everything. He measured every centimetre of the walls and floors, left minute instructions for the workmen to execute in our absence, poured over catalogues and shop displays.
If I had had thought myself detail-oriented, I got a reckoner. As I admired his taste (in décor), I couldn’t help marvel my own (in him.)
When the plumber left for the weekend, giving us leave to use the facilities we had hard earned, with caveats – try not to spill water on these, see that none seep there – we adults decided to take him up on his word. Like children given an open door (which literally is the case, the yanked off piece hasn’t been hinged up yet) to a newly sown wonderland, we lapped up our aquatic pleasure garden.
And in there, a slightly philosophical thought crept upon me. See, this is what I was saying about some places making me feel ‘right’ about them.
Life is a lot like a house or room. It is a constructed space. It is a space we build, not really to publicise, to flaunt or hold up to the arc of admiration, but for ourselves.
Life is what feels comfortable to ourselves, with that faded lampshade and threadbare rug and stuck drawers that no stranger would ever understand what is so special about.
And like that house in need of repair, from time to time, our lives, too, need renovation. New perspectives. Clean paint. A fresh breath. A start over. Re-do. Declutter. Sweeping, monstrously effortsome, emotionally costly, painstaking, insane rebuilding.
New hobby. New job. New career path. New geographies. New ideas. Untested. Untried.
I, have been blessed, and cursed, with a restive constitution and its consequentially unpredictable destiny. It took me time to adjust to change, some more before I learnt to savour it. As I looked around that delightful new space, which had lived so long unseen in our old house, listening to every word of the advice I was spewing for my husband, I appreciated how my life was rebuilding itself.
How often do we cherish ourselves? How often do we pat our backs, in the silence of the dark doorway before entering that party, where it doesn’t end up hurting ourselves? How often, for none other to witness, for it is not theirs to behold, do we hold ourselves up to the light?
The light that, given half a chance, would flow straight through from one end of our being to the other?