Start Living Your Best Life: A Personal StoryThe only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows. ~Buddha
After I graduated from college and started earning a decent paycheck, I spent a fair amount of time flipping through glossy home decorating magazines and meandering through home furnishing stores.
I was “setting up house” for real for the first time in my life. It seemed very important that I get the décor exactly right because it would make an important declaration to the world about my personality and lifestyle.
But choosing just the right style was hard — because I didn’t have my own style yet. Well, no … I knew I must have one. I just had to figure out what it was.
While I may have known, even then, that I was not a round peg meant to fit easily into a round hole, I must have assumed that there were holes of other shapes out there that would comfortably accommodate me.
So I did a lot of experimenting and created several “model” homes with themes that sometimes came close to feeling like “me,” but more often felt like a strange stage set that I had wandered onto by mistake.
Waiting For Life to Happen
The timeline of my experimentation with those canned categories can be broken down into phases something like this:
- Architectural Digest Phase: white sofas and glass-topped tables with mirrors, silver picture frames and crystal decanters
- English Garden Phase: wicker, ruffled chintz and flowered tea sets
- Exotic Phase: Oriental rugs, Chinese Chippendale chairs, black lacquer tables and bright red dishes
- Bohemian at the Beach Phase: bamboo blinds, a platform bed with batik throws, fiestaware on open kitchen shelves and lots of wind chimes
During all those years of my life, I didn’t have one single clue as to who I really was. I was trying to create my reality based on photo layouts in magazines! No story, no plot — just a pretty full-color “spread” where I waited for my life to happen.
It wasn’t until my second marriage ended that I gave up on all that silliness and was finally able to create a real home for myself. I came back to Virginia, vowing all the way here that I would live my life my own way whether anyone else liked it or not. I was older. I was wiser.
I was tired.
I simply didn’t have the energy to work at creating themes for anything anymore. And at this point in my life, I couldn’t have cared less.
Every Day Like Christmas
The first thing I needed was a job. But instead of updating my resume, I threw it out. I didn’t want to be “employed” — I wanted a job I wouldn’t hate getting out of bed for every morning. I decided I would go to work in a thrift store, learn the ropes and then open my own.
I leased a one-room apartment with a closet and a bathroom that had been a motel room in the 1950s.
But having left the second marriage with little more than my clothes, my books and the beautiful antique vanity my first husband bought me for a wedding present, I had a lot of empty space in that 12′ x 16′ space. I borrowed a bed, set open my suitcases and went to work at the thrift store.
Every day brought wonderful surprises! Every day was like Christmas! Every day, boxes of housewares and bags of clothing and truckloads of furniture would just show up at the back door.
From cherished antiques to meaningless junk, we got a smattering of everything. There was no theme here at all — the recyclable cast-offs covered every era, every style, every different taste.
I started to acquire a few things — my room-size “Grammy” rug with big pink roses on a light brown background, a painted four-drawer dresser that fit perfectly between the closet and the bathroom, a small burgundy upholstered rocking chair and a framed Max Streckenbach print of big orange poppies.
Creating My Own Style
It had no theme, but I had no visitors because my apartment was so small, so there was no one to judge it but me. The only requirement for anything I brought home with me was that I had to love it.
Over the course of a few months, I began to get to know myself. I learned the colors and textures and even the contrasts that gave me feelings of contentment.
Sometimes I made a mistake and bought something that ended up being not quite right — I just took it back to the store and re-donated it. I didn’t spend much money on any given item, and the education I was getting was worth far more than it was costing me anyway.
I was finally creating a style of my very own.
To this day, years later, my home has no recognizable theme — no identifiable motif, no distinguishing design elements. My home is just a restful and comfortable place that reflects the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of the woman who lives here.
Unlike those apartments and houses of my younger days, it’s not meant to impress anybody.
I know that for some, decorating is a passion — that some people decorate their home much as a painter creates a work of art on a canvas. I admire those who have that talent and inclination, but I’m not one of them.
I was going about the whole thing backwards. I was trying to become someone from the outside in, when the inspiration I needed had to come from the inside out.
Now my home is a reflection of who I am, not the other way around. Instead of being just a focal point in a two-dimensional photo shoot, I bring the third dimension into it. It’s my life, and the way I live it is what that the play is about, not the props on the stage.