Thursday, August 04, 2016

We Live Here :: Two Hundred Seventeen

This... I could write about this all. day. long. It's not just laundry. It's clean laundry, so there's something nice to say. It's also the skates I asked for for my birthday, which I crashed in the first time I took them out, and yeah, there was physical, corporal, damage. On the floor, a painter's sponge, which is Cairo's dearest friend and playmate, and a used fabric softener sheet... my favorite, which I splurge on because it's one of the incentives that bolsters my mood when I am doing laundry. And I am not even saying "it's a good dryer-sheet," because maybe it's not that good. I wouldn't know, because when it comes to laundry, I am not that good. It smells nice. The old floor and the new floor, and the compulsion to defend or justify that they don't match. At all. And if anyone thinks it matters to me, then they don't know me. But, it is true that I know just enough about societal conventions and glossy magazine propaganda to maintain a space in my brain for an explanation: "I do not care." I regret that I know that much about societal conventions. My red chair, and the resignation that my pink chair looks worse and worse from use, and cat abuse, but the happy way I feel about having two chairs that I like very much.

And this is my picture for the day... a picture that I hope explicitly and starkly conveys that my home is cluttered, dusty, worn, mismatched, and beloved, that I keep trying, and living, and moving forward, that visiting friends, sharing time with loved ones, reading long books aloud, or painting stones to put in the garden means more to me than pushing myself to exist as though in the pages of a glossy magazine. I remember holidays, and any day, in homes of friends, family, when everything I recall is pure happiness and comfort, and it amuses me to see old photographs, and to realize that the "perfect" memory I have of the very best moments of my childhood were beautifully imperfect, humanly flawed. Worn furniture, not stylish rooms, unbrushed hair, any number of indications and clues that we were living... as active and dynamic as a verb can be, with all of the parts in motion, out of order. I come from open doors, and family tables, from crafts and glitter, from do-it-yourself. I come from picnics, patched clothes, yard sales, and doing without. I come from there's room for one more, and we have enough to share, come in, stay, you are welcome.

These messages are for me, honestly, because I forget, and I need reminding that, I am ok, as I am. Trying to be very convincing. Because I would like to be a better homemaker, and also not feel utter disgrace and regret, and shame that I am not a better homemaker. It must not be so impossible as I imagine, because I see it done, and admire the families I know that do it... order, organization, tidiness, beautiful homes, thoughtfully, artfully, lovely. I want to take care to not give up trying, or believe too firmly in that defiant voice, "I do not care." I do care. I do get embarrassed, but I'm also untrained, get distracted, and tired, discouraged. I wish I were a better person, with a cleaner home, but not as much as I wish for the next party we will host, for the next time friends will linger over dinner at our dining table, with the smily face scrawled into the wood. I wish I kept papers, spices, yarn, and car repairs in order, had a firm handle on how to make the wifi reboot, but not as much as I wish there were more campouts in the backyard, movie nights, cooking lessons, and hours of laughter, with loved ones. And I wish my friends, too, knew that I don't want to visit them to see whether their laundry is on the sofa, or under a table, or to be served something from a gourmet recipe on designer plates, but to visit, to hang out, to share time and ideas, to help one another, to talk. I do not want a Pinterest Life... I want to laugh, to create moments that will last a lifetime and be recalled as pure happiness and comfort, amidst everything, messy, shiny, good, hard, broken, repaired, in use, lived in.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

10 comments:

  1. I grew up in the country, days spent wandering about with my friends on our ponies, popping in to various friendly farms for cordial and biscuits at intervals. We sometimes tied up the beasts and went in - farmhouse kitchens were never tidy, always cool and had so much evidence of 'stuff going on'. These magazine rooms aren't for real living. I'm a useless house-keeper. Now that I've decluttered and there's only me here most of the time, it's much easier to keep it looking OK, but it's never spotless. But it's HOME - and I love it, as do the kids when they stay - and friends, they're always welcome for a cuppa! Your home sounds just perfect - there's more to live than housework!!!

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    1. Yes! Those kinds of memories are so much better, richer, more meaningful than 'spotless!' And I am so glad to hear your story, because more than emphasizing a lament about my skills (or lack of) I want to celebrate what happens when we relax our attitudes, and focus our attention on activities, on people, on personal interactions instead 'how things appear.' I feel concerned, a bit sad, that the relaxed and open homes of our memories are far less common today.

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  2. What a beautiful essay about real life.

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    1. Each new comment on this post makes me, literally, exhale a sigh of relief... it's such a comfort to say something personal, open, and then to have people want to talk about it, know people recognize what I've said. And of course there are so many perspectives and means of living this real life, but what a nice reassurance to be in the good company of people who understand what I am thinking about!

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  3. You should not feel any of these "disgrace and regret, and shame" EVER!!! I don't even know you personally, though I feel I do, but I can tell you are a wonderful person and a amazing Mother. It shines so brightly in the smiles of those lovely children of yours in every picture you take. You should see my place.....woooeeeee!! I love Adaliza's comment above "those magazine rooms aren't for real living." I'm with her. Myself, I love to look at the pictures, but..........

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    1. Ever, ever?? Thank you, Cyndi. It's a gift, a serious kindness to hear from people that they see the good in us. It's not always easy to remain confident and sure that I am 'doing it right,' to not feel doubtful or insecure. I think this is partly why I shared my thoughts and feelings on this... because I think about the harm of being surrounded by these media messages, the images, the 'life styles of the people who are doing it better' kind of fabrications in print, movies, television, ads. I worry that it's not just my own insecurity but a whole change in culture, where we isolate ourselves in our not-so-perfect homes, and let FB or carefully edited versions of ourselves represent our lives in a virtual way. I am guilty of it... of showing a lovely bouquet of flowers, but not the messy table it's sitting on, or addressing the fact that the same bouquet might get overlooked, and drop a mess of dead leaves before I remember to throw it out. It's not my intention to embarrass myself, or especially not to resign myself to being an indifferent slob... but I want to free ourselves from missing out on real life, because we can't let anyone see our mismatched furniture, too small kitchen, outdated entertainment center, and cat messes. Yeah... I fear we've bought the message that the consumer industry sells us so craftily well. My message is: Let's get together, and don't worry about your sink full of dishes, I left my own back home, so we could talk!

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  4. Hello dear Natalie! I pop by once in a while to see how things are in the Bird House, and I'm so glad I caught this post because it moved me so much. It represents everything that I love about you and your writing - it is real and loving and honest and rooted in family and home. I have a new dear friend named Elisabeth, and as we have travelled along the path of friendship we have had many conversations that began with apologies - about our homes and our gardens, mostly. Apologies for not being perfect, and then lovely conversations about why we do that, when neither of us cares about the other being perfect, when it's the opposite of perfect that we each respond to in the other's space - all those messy, personal, lovely bits that speak to family living a good life in a real home. It feels like you have joined our conversation, and that makes me so happy! I have sent your post to Elisabeth, and I know she will smile and recognize herself and think of our conversations. And the next time we have tea we will make a place for you at our table.

    You are a dear, precious, lovely woman! Big hugs to you, dear Natalie. Xoxo

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    1. Miriam, dear friend. How I've missed you, your garden posts and chicken updates, your thoughtful, kind comments. I wonder, "Are they traveling? How are the gardens faring, the hens, you?" Thank you... For giving happy memories of blogging connections and for coming by, again, to say hello. Your comment... Well, it's almost to dear to describe! Let's imagine that someday I can fill that spot at your table, and linger over tea and laughter with you and Elisabeth.

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  5. I've been thinking about your post for the last day and a half. It's wonderful, and real, and everything -- and captures the tension I'm always trying to navigate. I love the feeling when the house is clean, and the feeling is rare. I sigh and pine over the magazine/online photos of homes so perfectly and beautifully made, and have tried to turn over more new leafs than there are on all the trees in my yard, it feels. I think I envy the people with the "clean gene" -- those who just can't/don't/won't tolerate the mess and never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink. But at the same time I resent pretty much every minute spent cleaning when I could be living -- doing anything and everything except cleaning. I am for some kind of reasonable medium. It is stressful and uncomfortable when it gets so far out of control (at least, in the public spaces of home) so I try to wrangle it to a point where I don't feel guilty if I'm sitting down and mostly I just sigh and realize that the people I live with don't care; they want me to be happy and relaxed and to let it go. They don't see or resent the mess -- they make it and live with it without care, and they do make the effort to help out when I ask. And that, it seems, it just life. And that's what I always need to remember is awesome -- life, not perfection.

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    1. I have to say, I hope everyone that commented has found a moment to come back and read these comments, because I just love that we are sharing this conversation. If I find a pot of gold in the laundry pile, I will use it get us all together around my kitchen table so we can visit face to face.

      A clean house! Yes, that feeling of relief from the tension, from the anxiety, and disappointment of messes, of being out of control, is lovely. I love that feeling, and I want it... I am even willing to keep trying for a clean house. 'Turning over new leaves,' again, and again, and again... that's me, too! And yes: There absolutely must be a clean gene, and you describe it exactly right... keep going until it's done, and don't drop the ball. Amazing people, them! I am in awe of that mindset and stamina. Even now, my thoughts tap me on the shoulder, and say, "You could be cleaning your desk, right now, instead of answering each comment on this post. You could be cleaning your whole house in the time it takes you to take pictures, edit them, write your blog." And for two seconds I feel like a hypocrite or a lazy bum, or maybe it's longer than two seconds, but it's long enough to feel like a hard pebble forming in my shoe, tormenting me, and making me feel less inclined to move about, freely, happily. You know, I think we are lucky to have families, under our own roofs, that don't want us to suffer, that appreciate what is done, and don't get bothered by the rest. I would like to keep a cleaner home, but I would also like to just shutdown the thoughts tapping my shoulder and stealing my joy, my peace of mind. Life is awesome, and perfection is an illusion.

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