What happened to my decorating gene?


A few nights ago while driving home, we passed a house on a hill with its Christmas lights on.

Yes, it’s still February.

But I liked it—this house with its friendly glowing colors against the deepening twilight, alone amongst the silent huddled rows of ticky-tacky houses with their washed-out winter faces.

In college, I used to keep my Christmas lights up all year. It suited the time and the place, along with the glow-in-the-dark stars, the phone booth door mural (just me?) and the lamp that got the blue lightbulb. I’d switch out my posters, wall hangings, objects and trinkets depending on my mood and how I pictured everything co-existing. I’d even dust.

It took me four carloads to bring everything home after senior year.

But this is what makes up “atmosphere” to me: Color, harmony and beauty. If things were out of sync, I wasn’t satisfied until I’d done something about it. No low-level itch for me!

In the condo I’m in now with Mr. Ecoquisitive, we have our pictures and objects and trinkets, and thank goodness our tastes tend to coincide, but for the most part everything we have up stays up, and everything that never made it out of boxes has stayed in their boxes. No more do I pepper the ceiling with improbable stars. I get ansty if the Christmas decorations hang around too long into January. The blue lightbulb rattles around in a box with paperclips and a pencil sharpener shaped like a globe.

All right, so maybe I don’t need the colored lights or constellations, but when did it become too much of an effort to switch things up? How have I been able to ignore the warning signs when my environment needs tweaking? Why did I let things lapse?

I think it’s because I’m missing an important fourth in my “atmosphere” stew: Balance.

Marriage / co-habitation with someone brings its own state of adjustments and readjustments that squeeze out things you used to think were so important. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, it can be a very good thing, but it’s also just the way it is. In the process, your time becomes suddenly more precious. Some of the things that fall off that But I’m Important! train never get back on and are replaced by other things that you need more. Other things go away for awhile and then suddenly show up at the next wayside.

Metaphor-mixing aside, what I do know is that now that I’m acknowledging my need to spend time tweaking my environment, the next step is to DO something about it.  And that’s good, though I wonder what will fall off the train in its place, if something needs to at all. Balance is the sixth sense, wrote T.H. White, and I always thought he was right about that, especially if you take it as meaning much more than walking!

Now, if I could just find my dusting gene again…

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