I recently looked around my office in between mad attacks of my computer keyboard and realized I hadn’t changed it in seven years.
A lot has happened in the last seven years of my life; among them, my son grew about 10 feet, I became a yoga teacher, four of my kids left home, one came back and is now leaving again, I learned to cook vegan food and I entered my fourth decade. I’ve re-connected with old friends, publicly acknowledged my checkered past, atoned for my sins, and decided I kind of like myself.
I found my spirit, opened my heart, and stopped sleeping with one eye open—mostly.
And yet here I am, in this room that used to be my step daughter’s bedroom, which we painted a garish lime green at her 15 year old request, and which has remained that same green, burning into my retinas no matter how many pretty mirrors or prayer flags I hang from the wall.
This room, years ago, was my step-son’s room, back before he moved into the basement, before he died. Then, it was an even more horrible color, a dismal shade of grey derived from a mixture of all the other paints left over from painting all the other rooms in the house. My husband made do with what he had back then—he really couldn’t afford a gallon of paint.
After Bobby moved downstairs, my step-daughter upgraded from her shared space with her little sister into this room, a room of her own. Obsessed with all things girly, she wanted it bright pink, which by then, we could manage to do for her. The green came later, when she was shedding the shell of her childhood for a new, bold persona, which she still wields like a shiny sword today.
My office, like the kid’s bedrooms, has moved from place to place—at some points disappearing from the map of our house entirely. I first used my closet, which sounds bleak but is, in reality, a nice big space with sky lights and hardwood floors. I had to give that up when I got pregnant though, because it was the only viable spot for a nursery, so I moved to the second bedroom in the basement.
As soon as I got that all organized, my husband left his job at The Board of Trade and opened a flooring business based out of our home. I got kicked out of my office again since his needs were much more pressing than mine. It’s not like I was doing any writing anyway with a newborn perpetually swinging from my hip.
At 16, my step daughter decided to move in with her mom and for the first time in a donkey’s age there was an empty room in the house. My son, by that time four or five, was finally in pre-school, allowing me the liberty of doing things beside chase rolling sippy cups across the floor and rounding up Jenga blocks and dominoes—for a few hours a day anyway.
So into the green room I went, spastically typing every chance I got, much more worried about the work than I was the decor.
But as I said, things are different now. My son is almost 10, the sippy cups and Jenga blocks are gone (though the dominoes remain), and I have an actual job writing. I realized I could make a few changes, and thought, by George, some changes will be made!
I mulled over which color I would choose. Obviously green, pink and grey were out, and so was yellow (the whole rest of the house seems to be yellow), white and black. That left neutrals (no), red (too bloody), purple (already used that in the basement), and blue. But what color blue? What is the finest color blue in all the world? And then it hit me…Robin’s egg blue.
In no time, that iconic shade was singing songs of spring to me from the newly glossy walls of my space. I loved it…until I realized, this color blue on an interior wall makes it look as if I was at the bottom of an empty pool.
Oh well. Determined to soldier on, I bought a set of vintage curtains from Etsy in marigold yellow with a geometric print in off white. I wheeled in my Buddha statue, complete with piles of malas hanging from his sacred neck. I ordered two prints—pages from illustrated Indian books from the 1950s and found a beautiful quilt to drape across the bed which serves—depending on the time of day, as my work table or the dog’s bed—to hide the riot of dog hair which proliferates there.
I put it all together, prepared to be thunderstruck by the cohesion, the luxury, the richness of color and texture, only to realize, it looked almost exactly the same as before.
Somehow, this extravagant blue had the same effect on my rods and cones as the old hideous green. Not only had I not essentially changed anything, I had wasted time and money not changing it.
With a heavy sigh, I returned the curtains, the prints, and the quilt. I hung up the original curtains, a garish orange, slung the old brown quilt across the bed and left the rest of the walls bare.
I have lots of lovely rooms in my home, rooms that I am proud to open to strangers, but I realized, this was not supposed to be one of them. This room, where I work, can’t be flawless. It can’t be, because the things that happen here are so strange. This is not a place where I come to take solace in a facade.
I’ve decided I rather like this color, in all it’s inappropriate Floridian glory, the un-festooned walls, the streaks of old orange fabric at the window. In a place this poorly conceived, I am free to think whatever I like, without fear that it won’t measure up.
So here I sit, in this room which has served my family in so many ways, hoping for the clap of thunder that is enlightenment—or at least a decent idea for an article.
Perhaps I will hear it, perhaps not, but my willingness to disregard the call to perfection certainly must have sharpened my ears.
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Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Bryonie Wise