“Jesus, P___, You’re going to get everyone sick!” screamed Fiona.
Indeed, P___, ( whose identity here is withheld) had arrived for our Christmas revelries with eyes rimmed with red, and green snots festooning every sleeve. He lay on the break room couch, surrounded by a sprinkling of dirty snow colored tissues and several beers.
“I’m fine.” he grumbled.
And so began my strange and unexpected New Year’s gift, and the subject of this blog post.
The day after Christmas I developed a fever. As my body waffled between burning and freezing out the germs, I lay in bed, dreaming that I was travelling to Panama, then to an iceberg with penguins, then Madagascar, then the Swiss Alps….For the next three days, I watched Netflix, re-read Sherlock Holmes stories, and snacked on the occasional piece of Christmas chocolate.
I truly can’t remember the last time I did “nothing” for three days. I imagine that not many other folks can either. Like myself, many of my artist friends have a regular job to make money, then spend as much time as humanly possible trying to “make it” in the art world.
This leads to a feeling of never having enough time, especially to accomplish your artistic goals. Even worse is the feeling of guilt when you do decide to occasionally spend time with friends. Shouldn’t you be spending every possible minute working to become a master of your medium, to poetically convey the joy and mystery of the human condition, to conquer the business of art world in all its dark vagaries? (sigh)
Toward the end of the third day, I rose, Lazarus-like, and threw off my bed clothes. Although still not fit to be out in public, I felt a (feverish?) desire to clean and rearrange the bedroom. I had really been wanting to do this for weeks, but had always opted to go to the studio instead. Being sick gave me the perfect excuse to stay home. And why not? I was lucky enough that my employer had taken some time off during the holiday. It would be now, or (possibly) never.
Fortified with a wee bit of “medicinal” whiskey, I started with the ceiling. The cobwebs I had studied while lying in bed, under my illness induced delusion of being Sherlock Holmes, were dismantled with one swish of my broom. I dusted the the trim around the windows, wiped off the blinds, and cleared off dresser. I rearranged the furniture into an attractive and easy to clean “U” shape, that made the room look two times bigger. Feeling warm from the whiskey and exercise, I gazed upon my half-completed room. Suddenly my world seemed awash with possibility! With the ferocity of a machete wielding hunter, I dispatched anything that disturbed the new and unbroken horizon of my ordered universe.
When it was all done, I stood back and felt the peace and tranquility of walking into a bedroom that was clean and organized. I couldn’t believe how good it felt, and how long I had been denying myself this basic comfort.
There are things in life that one knows intellectually - say, for example, that it is good to make one’s bed in the morning. That a calm and uncluttered environment promotes calm and uncluttered thoughts. That, conversely, a dirty and disorganized environment produces anxious thoughts, and a feeling of insecurity. It is quite another thing however, to know something “in your bones.”
My New Year’s gift, courtesy of P____ and some airborne illness, was the realization that how I lived at home reflected how I thought about myself in the world. On some level I must have decided that a clean and lovely room was the mark of one who “had their act together.” Coming home to a sloppy room every night just reinforced the fact that I did not. It took three days of being confined to my room to realize this “in my bones.” While I certainly did not relish being sick, I am sincerely grateful that I had the experience because it provoked in me a minor epiphany. What if I were to just settle in, and start organizing my space- like if I actually had my act together? Yes, it would take some doing, but I could already feel the positive effects of having a clean bedroom. What if every room became a place of calm and refuge?
The day after my minor epiphany I awoke with a fresh fever. Clearly, the dust and exercise worked against the whiskey, proving too much for my defenses- but I didn’t care. I watched an episode of Marie Kondo’s “Tidying Up” on Netflix, binged an entire season of Monty Don’s “Big Dreams, Small Spaces,” and made plans to organize the rest of the house.
“Knowing in my bones” has become my personal euphemism for maturity. I am hopeful that these fresh lessons will aid me in the inevitable challenges throughout this new year.
Next up, the kitchen!