I bake my own bread. This winter, I’ve learned to make a multi-grain loaf that I like. It’s rich and dense and I like it very much. This morning, I set up bread dough, brewed some coffee and dragged myself to Sears, where I walked around and around and around the paint section like I died and went to Martha Stewart Everyday. Since Sears had just opened, I had a tough time finding an employee to help me figure out what I needed for what I wanted to do. I found a couple of people at a bank of cash registers and one came to my rescue. She limped and most of her teeth were missing, yet she took one look at me and spoke to me quietly. I said I had a dark blue closet I wanted to paint the lightest green we could find. She limped to a spot and pulled out a card to test my resolve. I said that looked fine. She told me she couldn’t choose colors for customers. I said I picked it, and that happened to be the right one. She helped me find primer and painters tape. Emboldened by these successes, she asked if I wanted a plastic tray liner. I allowed as that might be an excellent idea and we added that to my merchandise pile.
Other customers appeared in the paint department, a married couple who spoke incessantly about how she was unable to keep from spending money without his help. This was supposed to be hilarious, I could tell. They were accustomed to an appreciative audience for this routine. I was busy with my welling emotions and the paint expert addressed them crisply and professionally. They bought laundry detergent while I looked away. I announced that I was off to find painters tape. The salesperson directed me without skipping a beat with the other customers. When I returned, the other customers had gone, and it was just about this time that I realized the paint expert had been treating me with extraordinary gentleness. She gave me the materials I needed, advice I needed, and told me a very funny story, which I desperately needed. When we finished wrapping up my paints – I had to keep this secret from watchful neighbors – I mentioned I needed a throw blanket. She directed me to a cart, the elevator and the basement. I thanked her. In the basement, I found a cocoa-colored throw and a small green rug for my kitchen to replace the one I recently discarded.
Tata: Guess what! I painted my bedroom closet.
Siobhan: That’s great.
Tata: I dumped everything on my bed and painted the closet a green indistiguishable from white unless it’s next to white.
Siobhan: That sounds…strange.
Tata: It was, but not like when I realized people at Sears were speaking to me gently. Apparently, I look really bad.
Siobhan: Remember I said you looked like you’d been punched in the face a whole lot? Well, you did.
Tata: That’s what happens when I cry my eyes out for a month. But now I have a new kitchen rug. And guess what else! It’s recycled!
Siobhan: Look at you, helping the environment by redecorating!
Tata: Yeah, if only I’d driven my solar-powered unicorn coach to buy latex paint.
Don’t let the scale fool you: this bag of clothing and shoes on the floor is about half my size. Out it goes with no regrets. The other bag is just junky stuff I no longer need. It’s a bit of a test of my relationship with the cosmos:do I believe what I say, that the lighter I travel the better? Yes. I believe that. Does it serve me well to hold onto material things I have outgrown? No, they weigh me down. They cause heartache. If I want a tranquil home, I must refuse to dwell on the sad weeks and remove evidence of suffering. If I want joy in my home, I must prepare a place in my heart for it first.
And that, friend, requires a lot more elbow grease than you might think.