This post has a lot to do with deeper thoughts, but it also relates to my process in decor and design so hear me out.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the things that make us “US” – the processes and facts and influences that inform who we are as individuals. When I look back on my 35 lived years, there are most of the usual external highlights – school, significant relationships, marriage, moves, jobs, etc. But when I think about who I am at the core, what makes me tick & what I think about & what I feel, it’s the “lowlights”, the struggles or conflicts of my life, that have carved out so much of what makes me me. And I have a feeling you can probably relate – because the more people I talk to at a soul level, and the more church services and spin classes I go to, the more examples I hear of pain, struggle, or discomfort being agents of growth and change.
Two things I always hoped for as a kid (and PRETTY sure I’m not alone in these) was to fit in/belong, and to “have a great life”. I had pictures in my mind of what this would look like, and most of my choices as a teen (and into my twenties…and let’s face it, now into my thirties) were responses to these two desires. But I also heard and read so much about “be unique” and “find yourself” and “just be you” and the idea of getting in touch with who I really was at the core….and I had really no idea who I was or how to find myself. Don’t get me wrong – I think the need for belonging is a core human need, one that’s healthy and good and never goes away; and the drive for making your life into your “best” life can be an agent of amazing accomplishments and beautiful things. But for me, these two desires seemed to be in conflict with my thoughts on my own identity – and it wasn’t until I wrestled with them that I started to get an idea of who I was – what I truly liked and loved, what I wanted out of life, etc.
I’ll probably dig into this a little deeper in a later post, but for today, I want to land on this: some of the things I value the most about my life and who I am now are the things that make me different or unique, the things that make me stand out from the rest of the crowd. This flies in the face of an 18-year-old Susie looking around at everyone and desperately making sure she was wearing what everyone else was, liked what everyone else liked, never disagreed with anyone for fear of being rejected, etc. And all of the struggles and pain and discomforts I’ve experienced in life (i.e., the things that were absolutely NOT included in my mental list of “how to make a great life”) have influenced and changed me in such positive ways that there’s no way I’d be saying how much I love my life now without their presence in my life.
When I started seriously considering blogging, my first thought was “THERE ARE ALREADY SO MANY BLOGGERS”, followed up by “THERE ARE ALREADY SO MANY INCREDIBLE BLOGGERS SO WHAT ON EARTH COULD I POSSIBLY CONTRIBUTE?!” And of course I still one hundred percent think both of those things all the time. But whenever I’d chat with my friend about her painting efforts, she’d say the same thing about herself and I’d tell her she was crazy, because of course there are other artists out there, but no one does HER art, and that makes it valuable, because it’s hers and no one else’s. Naturally, she turned that back on me, and with the significant nagging of several dear friends and 17 decades later, here I am finally trying it out. And every single day I sit and think I need to scroll through a bunch of other blogs to get inspiration for my own (or to make sure mine looks okay, or to make sure I’m doing it right – hello, 18-year-old Susie!!)…but then I think about what I have to offer, and I come up with only one answer: myself, and what/who/Who is inside of me. So I have a choice here, to try to make myself seem like a bunch of other successful bloggers whom I admire and love and wish I were more like, or to try to be honest about who I am and what I’ve got to offer. (I’m really hoping to try for the second one there, if it wasn’t obvious.)
Okay, home stretch here, and by home stretch I mean let’s connect it back to home decor like I promised. If you read my last post about the plaid room, you know I love a good challenge, and specifically, I love the challenge of taking something that “doesn’t work” design- or decor-wise, and tweaking it until it becomes something that DOES work, something beautiful. BUT, I haven’t always loved that challenge – it’s a trait in me that was born of necessity, that came about through lots of annoying, imperfect, ugly, not-ideal situations. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this one, either. Clearly, decorating on a budget “forces” you to get creative. And there have been myriad wedding and baby showers that have been booked in not-ideal venues, forcing me to look for ways to turn an ugly feature into a pretty decor element (or somehow cover it up for less than $10). And of course there’s always the crowd favorite “my husband/wife/significant other is a person, too, and has certain thoughts and ideas and FEELINGS about this” that dashes our hopes of bathing the entire first floor in dusty pink paint.
So for me, when I’m facing things as potentially catastrophic as wall-to-wall carpet and wood paneling (ahem, both very real factors in our home), the question is – can I somehow work with this to turn it from the worst thing ever into something more appealing, or even something kinda awesome? I’ve made the decision to face this challenge in many ways here in our home, most often out of financial necessity, but often as a response to heart priorities (Scott loved the wood paneling, so we agreed to give it a year, and now I love it, too. Nieces (or friend’s kiddos) coming over is pretty much our favorite thing, so we’re keeping the carpet for now, because it’s softer and kinder to their hurtling and careening little bodies. That kind of thing.). It’s often tough to choose those things in the moment – not only because I SO NEED HERRINGBONE WOOD FLOORS IN MY HOME RIGHT NOW, but because I’m fairly determined and stubborn, so if I wanted something badly enough, I could probably figure out a way to have it. BUT! If I’d persisted in painting my wood paneling white like I initially wanted to, Jerry Brown the Giraffe wouldn’t exist. And then I would never have posted a picture of Jerry with the wood paneling and some plants and a desk, and that pic would never have been reposted by Domino magazine’s Instagram account a year or so ago, and that little extra social media re-post ego boost that got me thinking “maybe people other than just my friends might like to see pictures of my home” wouldn’t have been a thing. I guess what I’m saying is, what if the thing we hate the most becomes the catalyst for something beautiful and amazing? What if something that makes us really insecure turns out to be the very thing that makes us stand out, helps us love who we are, makes people notice our art, or gives us a voice to speak? And what if we MISS that chance because we’re so busy hating whatever it is and trying to change it?
I could talk about this for hours, because I’ve got so many amazing people in my life who are living this out in so many different ways…but this isn’t necessarily for them, it’s for you. And for you, it could mean anything from “don’t worry about that weird thing in your house that you can’t change, just roll with it and know that I’m right there with you!!” to “I know you hate ____ in your life right now, but what if it turns out to be responsible for one of the best things in your life?” Or maybe something else completely different, but related. Whatever it is, know that you’re not alone. I’m on this journey too, and I’ve got stuff in my life right now that I’d change in a minute if I could. But since I can’t, I’m choosing to let it inform my art, my process, and my life in a creatively positive way…I’m praying Jesus makes something beautiful out of it…and I’m breathing a little prayer of gratitude that I’m alive and that you are, too.