A few months ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was thinking about turning the boys’ old nursery into a room for me. I had made zero plans toward this goal; I think it had crossed my mind a few times as a nice idea. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in this conversation – I may have blacked out – but twenty or so minutes later, I had a to-do list, a shopping list, and a deadline. Jen was coming over the weekend before July 4 to paint.
I didn’t get all the things on my list done, but Jen was gracious. She helped me move the behemoth of an old buffet that we’d used as a changing table and dresser to the middle of the room, and started patching the drywall. I wondered aloud if someone would come get the thing if it were free. Try it, she said. An hour later, the buffet was gone. A couple had claimed it more or less as soon as I posted it.
“It’s a nice buffet,” the husband said. “Why don’t you want it?”
“It has outlived its usefulness in my life,” I said, “and I want the space more.” I’m not sure he understood, but they cheerfully carted the mahogany beast out through the garage, as happy with their bargain as I was with mine.
Jen did the edging and I followed with the roller. It only took a few hours, given dedicated focus and the absence of all the male members of the household for the day. We ate Nutter Butters and Doritos and talked through some of our stickier problems as we worked. When Jen left to go home, the room was in much better shape, and so was I.
In the weeks since, I’ve obtained and assembled a bookcase, and moved the desk where I wanted it. It’s not quite done – I still want a reading chair with an ottoman – but it’s usable.
Other than the bookcase, nothing in the room is new. When I finished putting it together and vacuumed up the bits of debris left behind by the home-assembly kit, I stood in the middle of the room and looked around.
“Well,” I thought, “with a cross on the wall, this could be a monk’s cell.”
I was delighted. The thing that matters to me most about this room right now is not what is in it, but what it NOT in it.
There are not stacks of books in the bookcase. There are two, and they are there because at one point, there at that desk, I needed them. I am determined that that is how I will fill that space; with things I need. Not with things that migrated there because they had no other immediate home.
There is nothing on the walls, not because I dislike art, but because so far no art has grabbed me by the throat and told me that it needed to be there. I have not hung the walls with things that are pretty just so that the walls are not bare. For now, the bare walls are what I need to see.
There is no laundry in this room. No stains on the carpet. There are no unwashed dishes, no unmade dinners, and no uncompleted chores. It is clean and uncluttered and sunny, and I can shut. the. door.
You may not need a monk’s cell in your life right now, but when I walk into this room and shut the door, I can feel the tension drain out of my shoulders.
I have some things I have been wanting to do, and they have been hard to do sitting at the kitchen table with the laundry room and the oven in my peripheral vision. They will still be hard, I think, and I might not be able to do them. But I’d like to try.
At the very least, maybe I can write to you all more than once a month.