Around Christmastime I was scrolling Instagram when I saw Ingrid Michelson in picture with her family all wearing matching, gnome-Christmas jammies. I am not impervious to Instagram marketing, but also not normally heavily influenced by influencers and celebrities on social media. But these gnome jammies! Even for the dog! I had to have them. I searched gnome jammies on Amazon and immediately found the exact, organic cotton gnome jammies available in R’s size, my size and the dog shirt. I ordered, they arrived, and we wore them without much fanfare or even a photo (so here is Ingrid for reference).
At each moment of this process (the initial desire, the order, the wearing of the jammies) I saw myself like I was watching this process externally. I thought, You are ridiculous. R doesn’t care about what’s on his jammies or your jammies. This is the crazy consumerism of Christmas!
The dog jammies didn’t fit my pint-sized purse dog so they were returned. And the Christmas magic dissipated into January. I’ve thought about these pajamas in retrospect. Why did I want them? Did I accomplish my purpose or was that senseless, impulsive spending, or something else entirely?
And then I forgot about the jammies until I was getting River ready for bed and I pulled out the organic cotton gnome jammies about a month ago. These are my favorite! He delighted. We talked about how soft the cotton was and he remembered that I had matching ones so I put them on and we reveled in how wonderful our gnome Christmas jammies are.
That was the beautiful moment I imagined for myself when I saw Ingrid and her loved ones dotted with red gnome hats and Christmas colors. I imagined something beautiful. And once the frenzy of Christmas wore off, we could see the beauty.
I could tell a similar story about Rio, our energetic fluff ball. I’m still not sure that I’m a dog person, but when I decided to get Rio, I imagined something beautiful. Something that R and I could love on together. One of R’s favorite places to be is on my lap with Rio. The three of us tucked in together—it feels beautiful.
And that’s got me thinking, what is the best reason to do anything? There is so much advice and guidance and coaching. Google is a resource for almost any problem and can supply evidence to support and refute whatever advice is out there. I think that’s the challenge we now face: How do I listen to myself in the age of endless information and advice?
That leads me to my next story. When I was first married I lived in a laundromat. It was an apartment built in what used to be a doctor’s office and then a electronics repair shop in the same building as a 1960s laundromat. The apartment was filthy when we first moved in and we worked to clean it up as well as we could. We even found large carpet remnants in our dumpster on occasion to cover the dingy, white carpet on our living room floor (carpet—like manna from heaven!).
There are lots of stories to be told about laundromat life and this is not the place. But I’ll share one. About a year after we moved in, the toilet overflowed in the laundromat, spilling poop water over the floor and under the wall into our apartment. The laundromat toilet overflowed fairly regularly because, it seemed, laundromat patrons were terrible at deciding how much toilet paper was the right amount to flush. I came home from work and discovered the mess. It had soaked into the dingy-white living room rug. I mopped up the vinyl tile bathroom and kitchen.
When my then-husband arrived home, he transformed into a hulk-type character and, in an act of impressive decisiveness and strength, removed all of the living room furniture and ripped up the entire white-dingy rug in what seemed like ten minutes. This felt significant as the place was technically a rental, though we didn’t pay any rent because we cleaned the laundromat to cover the cost of our rent. What’s more, we helped ourselves to boxes vinyl tile left in the storeroom of the other laundromat we took care of and within a weekend, completely replaced the flooring in three rooms.
I remember how good it felt to have this apartment that always felt kind of icky, finally feel like home. It felt beautiful. And then a few months later, we moved.
We moved several times, at least once every 3 years or so for school or work after that. And each place we went, I remembered the laundromat. How I didn’t want to wait months or years before making the place my own. We always rented inexpensive places so this was difficult sometimes. But I understood that time is precious. Damn. Time is so precious. And I want to spend it creating something beautiful.
And maybe creating something beautiful is my best reason for doing anything. Maybe that’s what underlies all of my little desires. The big desire—to create something beautiful.
Side Note: This is not a blog post endorsing interior decorating or gnome jammies or impulse buys or Ingrid Michaelson fandom. Those things, all being worthy pursuits, are not the kind of beautiful I’m talking about.
So I bought a house. That’s right. A. Freaking. House. Four exterior walls. All my own. A yard, a kitchen, a fireplace, a garage. I am one part enamored with myself that I can do this as a single mom in San Diego. One part humbled that I have a career that let’s me do this when so many women in my situation have endless financial struggles. And two parts terrified of crossing one more threshold into adulthood and independence.
I’ve been doing a lot of mental gymnastics around these four parts and my reasons for taking on a house at this moment when the economy is so uncertain and I have underlying cancer to consider and all the reasons why I could be justifiably terrified right now. But I think this is where I’ve landed: It’s going to feel beautiful.
And again, I don’t mean in an interior design way. It’s going to go deeper than that. It is going to be landing place for R and Rio and me for many years. The place where we can rest and work and play and dance and fall apart and laugh.
There’s so much I can’t control. But I can make something that feels beautiful. And maybe that’s the best reason to do anything.
PS – Since I know you’re going to ask. I’ve decided not to post pictures of the exterior, just for my own privacy reasons. But I’ll share pics of the inside once we are settled!