Blaming the House

Ever get mad at your house?

Yesterday you liked it just fine.  But today?  One little thing … or many little things … or a gigantic thing … or every little wrong thing … sets you spinning.

I call this “blaming the house.”  It’s an easy target; it can’t fight back; it’s just there to receive — your love or your ire.

Here’s the thing.  Our house complaints may be well deserved but on those days when they seem especially glaring, consider this: home is a mirror of self.  So when we’re suddenly over-the-top cranky about something in it, there’s likely something about us that’s gnawing on our insides.  Every little wrong thing is sometimes just code for something else in my life is bothering me.

It’s so much easier to find external fault than dig deep for internal peace.  But guess what?  Home can help this happen.

We just need to find a way to give it a little bit of love, to fix one fixable thing.

In my post-fire rental — the house intended for a brief stay that’s turned out to be much longer term — there are some icky-awful-I-hate-it aspects not worth the time or investment to fix (and an eminently disinterested landlord).  I’ve called a truce with all the icky.  The truce goes like this: You’ll stay ugly and dysfunctional and I’ll pretend not to notice.

Until I do.

One Sunday morning something got under my skin, and I was banging around in the kitchen, grumbling about … take your pick … the excessive summer heat and the room’s abysmal air flow … or the sink with a too-small, poorly placed faucet (at a corner!) and the lack of sprayer … or, yes, I’ll just ‘fess up right now, the creepy, crappy carpet that seems a breeding ground for gnats.  The room is one gigantic, ugly, grimy, poor-performing mess.  Trust me, I’ve ruminated on potential small improvements — only to surmise that something nice would likely only spotlight everything worse. 

Truth is, this kitchen is about as far as one could get from the one that burned down.  The one I’d fully renovated and enjoyed for a mere six months.  The one I frequently referred to as “my happy place.”  This kitchen is a constant reminder of what was lost.

I know this.  For the umpteenth time, I have to just let it go.

Then, passing through the dining room, my attention is diverted to something else, and I’m annoyed all over again.

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There are ten mirrors stacked up in a corner of the room.  They’ve been there for weeks.  They were intended to create a mirror wall in the “one-pitiful-window-with-shady-urban-forest-on-the-other-side” dining room.  A wall covered in thrift store glass and gilt could add some pretty on the cheap while bringing in more light and the illusion of space. 

The largest mirror, centerpiece of my envisioned design, was simply too large and heavy for me to handle hanging by myself.  And I’d not been able to find someone to help me hang it.

This, too, was a reminder of what was lost in the fire: my easy-access, happy-to-help community of longtime neighbors. 

Tears welled as I contemplated just taking the mirrors, one by one, down to the basement.  Out of sight, out of mind. 

But just as quickly an idea sprung to mind — a cockamamie solution involving a coffee table as prop.  I started taking measurements.  I ran to Ace for additional hardware.  I leaned the lower row of the design against the wall; the upper row on the floor beneath.  I snapped the image with my iPhone for later reference, then moved all out of the way and brought in the coffee table.  

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Just as I was fitting the big mirror into place on the wall, one of my new neighbors showed up and helped me with the next big piece before having to leave.  Several hours later, all the glass and gilt made me giddy.  (And the next day, I had Barb over for coffee, and we gushed about the gorgeousness.)

Fix one fixable thing.  Your version of a Sunday afternoon mirror wall may simply be cleaning windows, inside and out.  Or rearranging furniture and art in a room.  Painting a hallway or maybe just opening up basement boxes to find an old family photo to splash some happy into your space.

When we’re not sure of our heart, home can be the best place to nurture it.  Repetitive motion — like painting a wall — can bring about a Zen state.  Moving furniture and art in a room shifts its energy.  A shift in energy can open the heart and mind to new possibilities. 

And giving some love to our personal space is, undeniably, showing ourselves some love.  What’s not to love about that?

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These days, I’m feeling less lonely in my new neighborhood and creating new spots in my house for happy places.  The kitchen’s not winning any prizes, but she got a lift when Dad sent me The Cow.  Now I’m pondering surrounding her with other farm and barnyard creatures.  Why the heck not?

I’m feeling a little lighter, and my whimsy is showing up more often, too.  Some crazy cats found their way onto that dining room wall of mirrors.

And hot damn, that wall is so pretty, bouncing light around and giving the room a changing glow as the days pass from morning to night.  I pass by it a gazillion times a day and occasionally stop and look at the image reflected back at me.

She grins and says, “You’re doing great, kid.”