Jack of Many Trades

Spirit of Place

Originally posted: 2018-03-24

I'm currently reading Love the House You're In by Paige Rien, which is about making the most of the place you're currently living. It's written for homeowners, so not everything applies, but it's doing a great job of two things: first, making me stop and appreciate the things I do like about our apartment, and second, making me stop and think about what's not working instead of just walking around it every night.

A couple of weeks ago, we reorganized the living room, pulling the couch out from against the back wall to make a sort of playroom for Bug. The goal was to move the loose toys from the middle of the floor, where I was stepping on them, to behind the couch, where I wouldn't be attacked by Peppa Pig in the middle of the night. It seems successful so far, but it (and the accompanying spring cleaning) had the effect of accidentally also making a nice division between the living room and the dining space. It drew our attention to things that we'd been overlooking.

Rien worked as a designer for HGTV but writes mostly in reaction to depersonalized "decor" ideas that seem... really common now that I've had it pointed out. I never thought about not seeing, for example, religion or ethnic heritage reflected in a home, but she's right. My pins for altars and my pins for home design seem to be in totally different worlds, even though an entire wall of my living room is basically all altar and shrine space. She talks at length about finding room in your house for what matters to you.

It's got me thinking about what I find satisfying, and it's got us tweaking the altars and the kitchen and the front hall to see what might work a little bit better. We're not planning to move. We don't have to settle for "okay I guess."

It can be complicated to find the line between settling and making peace with where you are. I think the difference is intention. Settling is being okay with the pantry being overstuffed because I'm busy and it's not that bad and besides the rice is almost done. Making peace is accepting that this pantry has stupidly deep shelves and we're renting so we can't pull them out but figuring out how to work around it. I suspect different people find that line in different places.

I need to make peace with the idea that my religious and magical practice are going to be constrained by my job and my preschooler who wants to stay up all night. That doesn't mean I should settle for not doing anything until my kid is in middle school. It means getting creative and finding other things that work.