A couple of months ago, we moved to a new house.
And not just any house; really, it’s a palace. Look!
There are few material things as important to me as the place I live. I will spend countless hours and dollars to make sure that the physical space I call my own is as beautiful, functional, and organized as it possibly can be. I simply cannot feel at peace or even focus on anything else until I do this; for me trying to do go about my business before it’s happened is like trying to go back to sleep in the wee hours of the morning when you really, really have to pee.
Part of this, I know, is because of my own background and childhood. I grew up in a house that was always messy, perhaps two levels below hoarder status. The floors were always covered with layers of read newspapers and dirty dishes that took forever to get to the sink and dishwasher, and every surface seemed to always be covered by geological layers of papers, plastic bags, clothing items, more dishes, and random items that had been brought in and not found a place to live.
I don’t blame my parents, least of all my mother. My mom, who all that constant cleaning work unofficially fell to (even now, few people say, “how can he allow his house to even get to that state?” while most would ask that exact question of a woman) was often depressed and overwhelmed after a tragically traumatic childhood. She literally did not have it in her to do more than she was doing, which was already a lot with two kids and a job.
My father seemed to simply not notice if things were clean or not; if he did, he certainly never thought that straightening up was a good use of his time. Like many men of his generation, he was simply used to his environment being taken care of by (female) others.
So for a while, I thought a messy house was normal, and that my grandmother, who we spent a lot of time with, was exceptionally, perhaps obsessively, clean.
But once I got to an age where I started spending time at friends’ houses, I realized that we were the abnormal ones. I would marvel at their neat living rooms and the way that dishes were immediately cleared off the table and washed, the couch clear of loads of laundry, the clothing neatly put away in the closets.
It still took me several years to realize that I could personally be the one to make this happen in my home – you’ve got to teach kids these things by showing them and then making them – but once I saw how a house (with kids, even!) could be, I was obsessed with making sure I’d live in such a place someday.
When we moved to Fort Worth suddenly for my mom’s job (I was 14), I made it happen for the first time, and it was like magic. What a difference having a clean, decorated space made! Everyone felt happier, especially my mom, and I was no longer embarrassed to have people over to visit; now I was proud.
I’ve been obsessed with making the various places I’ve lived in just so ever since; it is the first thing I do anywhere. A place that’s already beautiful helps, but even a windowless basement apartment can be made suitable and even charming. Because as far as I’m concerned, getting one’s physical space in an ideal state is basically witchcraft. What a difference it makes, what a cleansing of the spirit!
I have the confidence – I know – that I will always live in beautiful places the way I’m supposed to know and feel other things I want, “believing with the deepest part of my being” (a la The Secret) in things I want to bring about in my life.
I’ve talked about my worries around the concept of manifesting before, and about how I’m skeptical of the whole thing. The completely rational part of me dismisses it outright as bullshit. But the part of me (in everyone as part of the human condition, I’m convinced) that yearns to believe in magic and gods keeps popping up and saying, “Could it be? This looks like evidence, after all…”
And if it is, how can apply the kind of “knowing” I have around my living space to the kind of “knowing” I’d need for other things? I’m not good at believing things that I don’t already believe, after all, before there’s any evidence for it.
But I wonder. What if I worked on other parts of my life with the same confidence and sense of “this will get done, there is no question” that I did on this part? And how might I go about that before I really truly believe in the same way?
All questions to ponder…while I finish this rainbow mural in my kid’s room.