There is NO Shame in Happiness

bathroom of shame

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.

Do laundry.

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.

Fast forward…

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.


About gwyn michael

A wife, friend, and Mother with no children. A lifelong artist, explorer, and seeker of knowledge. A determined creator with a unique and endless vision. A passionate lover of life and all it brings, light and dark, funny and tragic. Hopelessly optimistic. A Painter, photographer, crafter, student, teacher, writer and more. Inspired. Imaginative. Involved. Curious. Creative. Just a little bit crazy, in the good way.
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6 Responses to There is NO Shame in Happiness

  1. Charlie says:

    Great story. I remember when I was drinking, we lived in a group house…the toilet had no handle, so we fashioned one from an orange coat hanger…and that’s how it stayed…even tho we lived a few yards from a hardware store.

    In the living room of that same house, there was a wall where we wrote all the names and phone numbers of the local take-out joints. After we moved out (and I sobered up), one of the hardest habits to break (other than drinking) was writing numbers directly on the wall. Even now, with a cellphone, I have the urge to scrawl at least one restaurant number on the wall.

  2. Sarah says:

    I love that story. 🙂

    Interesting musings on The List. I know I should make lists and never do…then I feel a failure for not making the list in the first place. LOL.

    The trick is really to make lists of reasonable things, you are right. Pete even asked me to make a list for him of things I want him to do and I have yet to do *that*. 😉

  3. Eleanor says:

    Oh Gwyn…… You go!!!

    I am so happy that you are spending your time creatively. That is what you do best :))

    BTW….I make a list for grocery shopping also, and I can’t seem to follow it either. More often than not I forget to take the list to the store!

  4. Great writing! I was smiling and connecting with your statements throughout. Lists might be great for preparing for a gallery opening or something like that, which might require some structure. But in life, well, you pencil things in, you never put them in pen – that way, you can change along with all the curveballs that life throws at you. I never thought I’d want to go see a surfing competition, but here I am, putting it on my list of things to do in the coming years. I’m glad you are going about doing the things that you enjoy!

  5. Gwyn, you write so damn well, I had no idea, literally!

    I mean, I unscrewed the removable skull cap from my cranium and there was no idea there, just a broken kazoo, an autographed picture of Jesus from the Seminal Figures of the Bible Action Cards collection and someone else’s to-do list.

    If there’s anything more useless than a broken kazoo, it’s carrying someone else’s to-do list around in your head: “Take the aardvark to the vet.” — I don’t even OWN an aardvark!

    Now excuse me while I re-seat my skull wig.

  6. Gwyn, oh how this post made my head spin. I am a chronic list-maker. I even put items on the list that I recently DID so that I’ll have something to cross OFF the list. 🙂 Earlier this year, I read a book called “THE TO DO LIST” – it’s a collection of real lists … and it’s a fascinating read.

    Again, I found something in your writing that just WHACKED me upside the head: “and purchased five things I didn’t need…look at all the pretty colors. ”

    It’s the LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY COLORS part … I am a self-confessed and self-professed MAGPIE … hence the name of one of my blogs, I Am Princess Magpie. All things pretty. All thngs colorful. All things sweet. Vintage. Darling. Lovely. Edgy. ALL THINGS – creative. I cannot resist. They call me, like a siren’s song from the rocky shores. I. AM. AN. ART. SUPPLY. ADDICT. ESPECIALLY. MIXED. MEDIA. ART. SUPPLIES, WHICH. CAN. INCLUDE. ALL. SORTS. OF. RANDOM. ITEMS.
    There, I’ve said it … again.

    I too am a Talking Heads girl – and you have inspired me in a big way to make MY to-do lists … lists of things that make me happy; that make me smile; that excite me (in a good way). YAY, Gwyn.

    That’s some powerful blogging you are doing. Thank you.

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