I walk around my new neighborhood, and all of these homes look so interesting and deliberate, and I want all of them – manicured or wild, maintained or dilapidated. Each says something to the people who lives there, and those walking by. I revel in the way that people have made these structures and landscapes particular to them.
I have become someone who is actively constructing her environment- I think for the first time. I now want the art to color-coordinate, the chairs to match the table and the flowers to bloom. I think I am finally getting what other people have always understood about needing their environment to match their interior understanding of the world – or maybe just needing the exterior to speak to them in a particular way.
The interior and exterior are both landscapes. We spend our lives in constructed spaces. Places where someone made choices – about what to include and exclude, what to feed and water, and what to tear out by the roots. I’ve been ignoring the ways I passively managed my personal spaces, while condescending to those who spent so much time actively constructing theirs – I think because I grew up hearing what rooms should be, not what they could do.
Something about this dammed pandemic -living in one box, waking and sleeping, for 18 months – shifted my focus. I spent weeks making this new apartment my own, in every way I could think of. And now that the project is mostly done, I miss it.
Maybe I am in this new phase because I happy with my interior landscape? I always thought that the place to change your reality was inside, and the outside was something you pushed against or dove into or whatever, but the world-bending went in one direction.
I have always been more of the mind than of the body. I know that much of my attitude comes from growing up with little power to affect the world around me – but I realized early I had power over my thoughts. So I worked hard and steady (and still do) at walking that garden, planting new dreams and removing dead ideas.
I reject any rule that says fashion or tradition dictates how my living room should be decorated or arranged. But functional can and should be beautiful. A space that is set up to support the life you live, not the expectations of others, is something to covet. Readers should have comfortable places to sit, with good lighting and place to put their tea. Painters should have a room with easy -clean surfaces and stunning views (and again, good lighting). All rooms are built spaces, so they should be built to support those who must exist within them.
It’s a feedback loop that can be exploited. As a young person, the lack of basic necessities caused me to look inside, which kept me from spending time on the outside, until I cared very little for anything but basic functionality. But a welcoming environment can calm the interior and allow it to grow in new ways, which then can reach out and alter the exterior in new ways, ad infinitum (hopefully). I really enjoyed setting up my new apartment, for the first time in 27 moves. I feel like my home is no longer a static thing. The spare room has many configurations, each based on the current need for that space. This can and should be true for every room in the house (and the yard).
My friends are happy I’ve finally decided to care about what my house looks like, and for many people it seems like something I should have done all along. But the truth is, I was happy in my head. I always pictured it as an either/ or. But like all binaries, it’s a lie. There is no interior that exists beyond influence of the exterior and vice versa.
I don’t have to have a mortgage or a million dollars to build a space that increases my joy, where I can be the self I want to be today.