In August of 2000 my husband and I moved into our first house. We had spent 15 years in a small 1-bedroom apartment, and this 4 bedroom home with an office, full basement, and attic was like a palatial mansion to us. It was in pristine condition, and with no offensive decorating needing immediate attention. Except that is the upstairs bathroom. It is an odd little room built into the eaves of the house. I can think of many ways to deal with the awkwardness of the space, and not one of them is a big fat mid wall border featuring pink roses on a dusty blue background. It was just below eye level when seated on the toilet. So, I did the logical thing and started peeling it off as I sat there one day. This, as you may know, is not the way to do it. What remained was most of the border intact, with a big hunk ripped off taking part of the wall with it. Nice. My husband informed me that it would require wetting the border to get it off, to which I replied when are you doing it? His answer, you can do it. I didn’t. He didn’t. We ignored it. About 5 years later I went to the bathroom with a Sharpie and started writing on the wall. Help. What’s up with the hideous border? Paint me etc. I ended my bout of graffiti with this: Welcome to the bathroom of SHAME. Then my cousin Doug pinned a dollar bill to the wall with a note: Fund for the refurbishing of the bathroom of shame. That was last fall. We have started work on it, but it is a work in progress, which brings me to the real topic of this post.
I want to talk about lists, priorities, and reality. Like most things involved with being organized, I have been slow to embrace the list. It seemed to me that all I got from making lists was evidence of how inefficient I am. Even grocery lists challenged my ADD brain as I neglected at least one crucial item on my list, and purchased five things I didn’t need…look at all the pretty colors. To do lists for the house, ugh!
Clean the kitchen.
Paint the dining room…
Who wants to do any of that? I realized my self-defeating lists were self-defeating because they contained nothing I wanted to, or was capable of doing. I mean who really needs a list to tell them the laundry needs doing? Doesn’t that become obvious when you need to sniff your clothes before wearing??? Regardless, I spent years making these lists filled with tasks I had little or no intention of doing. To make things worse I applied this same defeating policy to things I did want to do. Like for example redecorate the bathroom of shame. Rather than commit to looking at paint colors this week, I would commit to painting the room, along with organizing my closet, painting a portrait, and cleaning said bathroom. Oh and lets not forget the laundry, etc… NO WAY!!! It’s no wonder I spent much of my time with feelings of failure, and even worse, doom. I mean a person that can’t even keep a bathroom clean certainly is not capable of a fruitful career, rewarding work, happiness. A downward spiral if ever there was one. Thankfully there was some piece of me buried deep within that knew this is bullshit. I have worked hard in recent years to dig those better parts of me up, to recover my true essence.
The other day I was tweeting or facebooking and I found myself making this comment. “My to do list is lifetimes long, but everything on it makes me happy!” I have to admit that took me by surprise. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but somewhere along the line I got it. I stopped having outrageous expectations of what I could, or should do. I stopped wasting energy on what I have to do, haven’t done yet, or know I won’t get to. Most of all I stopped focusing on what I don’t have, like a cleaning crew. While there are still things I want, I have everything I need to live well. The new camera will not make me a better photographer, and an apple computer will not eliminate the frustrations of internetery (nod to P:).
By putting a positive spin on things, I now have a to do list filled with things that excite me. Writing this blog for instance, or finding shows to enter, grants to apply for, projects to work on, make art, make art, make art!!! Not to say all this is easy. Writing tortures me oft times, but I still like it. Every week I cross something off the list, in no particular order, and add or remove things as needed. The list shifts and changes with life as it should. Nothing is written in stone. Especially cleaning the bathroom. That no longer makes it onto a list. The bathroom of shame is now in the midst of reconstruction and that is fine. I have many incomplete projects around the house, and more not yet started on the list. What I have come to realize is that this is my beautiful house. This is my beautiful life, (taking liberties with the Talking heads there) and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I am gone I won’t be remembered for my cleaning skills, but hopefully I’ll be remembered for my comfortable, and interesting home. So if you should come by here don’t expect the bathroom to be spotless, or the tchotchkes to be dust free, but I can offer an easy seat, and some good conversation. Someday I will be able to show you my refinished bathroom, and proudly displayed on the wall will be the above photo. Then we’ll go downstairs to look at the other bathroom in progress.
So there you have it. No formula for world peace, but a way to be content in an uncertain world. Now if someone can tell me how to manage a grocery list, that one still has me stymied.