Barbara: I love my home. I certainly spend most of my time in it: I work in it, play in it, entertain, relax, gather my family in it. It is the centerpiece in my life. The constant. I love my home.
And yet, much like we sometimes do with other beloveds, I’ve started to take her for granted. It used to be that in the early days I would lavish her with attention. I’d make sure she had the latest lovelies. I would read everything I could on how to nurture her and bring out her best side (I had subscriptions to decorating mags, bought several other issues, and accumulated a pile of coffee-table books in her honour). I bought her flowers.
But I think I got tired of the responsibility. It takes energy to be an attentive partner. Energy and thoughtfulness and time. And I think, as the children got older and became more independent, that I wanted to put all of these energies into other things: namely, my writing projects. Into me. She was the one thing I felt I could let go.
Don’t get me wrong: she’s still lovely and clean and presents a good façade. These basics still occupy (a very small) part of my time. But she’s definitely getting shabby around the edges. Even things that I might have put off before because the money was allocated elsewhere (like in my kids), are only now being put off … because I don’t feel like it! If I want that sofa recovered, well, I’m going to have to take the pics, find the place, get on a waiting list, and send the sofas to refinishing school. But it’s too much work, I whine to myself, I don’t have the tiiiiiiiime. So instead, I continue to sprawl on the worn, busted seams, writing, reading, lolling, but not tending.
I’ve started to feel guilty about it. A few years ago, I kinda owned my negligence: this was my time, I didn’t have enough of it; I’d done so much on the house much over the years, it was time for a break; she was fine, fine with it, I tell you! I scoffed at the idea of restorations and changes; I let my magazine subscriptions lapse; I didn’t eye the gorgeous home deco books; I didn’t troll the net for decorating ideas; I didn’t envy my friends who were renovating. But, like I think happens in even very good relationships, one day your partner lets you know you’ve been too distracted, too negligent, and you wake up and take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror. “Good relationships are 2-way streets”, “You complete me”, “I see you”, “If I want this to work, I have to do the work.” I wasn’t living the platitudes anymore!
Now I just feel bad for the state of affairs. If my house were a person, she might cheat on me right about now. Or up and leave me. It’ll take some work, but I think I might need to woo her back. After all, I do love my home.
Deb: I think the difference between us in this regard is reflected in your comment, “But I think I got tired of the responsibility,” and I get it. But I think the difference between us is that the house care and feeding is such a joy to me, not a responsibility. It is another creative outlet in my life, something I do for recreation. I have always been crazy houseie! I remember painting and wallpapering my first apartment (and every single one that came after) and friends would question the fact that I was putting soooooooo much work and I guess money into something I rented. My response was always, “It’s my home!” As Barbara and I were saying a few minutes ago on the phone when we chatted about this, it is not only our home, but our workplace. And for me, if my head isn’t filled with the clutter and neediness of my home, my mind is free to work. Plus—COME ON! Who doesn’t love taking an old piece that has been in the cupboard and featuring it in a new place in the home? Or switching art around and seeing it in a whole new light? Or slipcovers for an old chesterfield??? Be still my heart. But be still in a perfectly appointed space!