Over the last several weeks I have been embarking on a project to increase my wall art. I’ve lived in this apartment for five years now, and it is about time that I make the walls my own, instead of just putting a few things on existing nails leftover from someone else’s decorating.
It is a bit strange that there are any leftover nails, since the apartment was rehabbed before I moved in, but either there was a laziness about my apartment’s painters, or the nails that stayed were deeply embedded and left after some effort for removal failed. But regardless of why they remain, I have used them for my own purposes, and put up a few pictures in the places that had some hardware already installed.
When my daughter and I moved in here, I had recently had surgery and couldn’t lift anything, so friends and family loaded my belongings on one end of the move, and nearby family unloaded those belongings and placed the heavy things in the places to which I pointed on the other end. And while I am very grateful for the help that I received, once we were alone in the apartment that first evening, it still seemed overwhelming. Unpacking each box and placing everything where it would come to belong was arduous, and more so because I wasn’t supposed to carry heavy things, and I own too many heavy things. Even the boxes of bedding become heavy if you pack tightly enough—and I packed tightly enough.
So, turning the bare space into home took a long time. And filling the spaces where we had left items behind also took time. I’ve always used moving as an opportunity to purge, and I got rid of a lot of things before the packing even took place. But over time, I had furniture and shelving and décor to make this house a home. Except the walls.
I don’t know if it is the habit of moving every year for many years, or my own feelings of not being able to put roots down, or not having the energy to measure and countersink and nail that has kept the walls mostly bare. I suspect that it has more to do with the feelings, but I can’t always find reasons for what I do with precision.
I do know that I have somehow shifted my thinking, and I want to cover the walls with items and words and pictures that make me feel comfortable and at home.
But, like all the projects around here, this one is about a quarter of the way to completion.
I have the habit of not finishing things. And it isn’t because I am lazy … though I can claim fatigue and illness keep me from getting things done. It probably has more to do with boredom. I start a thing excited about the process of doing and with great expectations for the final product. But hours or days or months down the road, I don’t find it fun, and I don’t care about it much, and I completely lose interest.
This habit results in all sorts of unfinished projects. In a corner, there is a bin full of denim and denim strips that is meant to be a braided rug. On my drafting table lie two unfinished canvases that are meant to be art over my bed. In another two bins there are piles of fabric that are to be used for quilt making, once I can figure out how it is that I used to sew—clearly it is not a skill that I remember with ease. There are coasters my mom painted that never got a coat of varnish as her dementia began to affect her art, which are still waiting for that coat of varnish. I have a ball of yarn still wrapped around knitting needles in a bag, a potential scarf with multiple holes, because I suck at knitting, frankly. There is a pitch fork setting on the landing where I requested the landlord leave it, so I could plant a row of lavender bushes along the side fence.
I clearly don’t discriminate. Sewing, paper crafts, photo albums, gardening, and painting all sit unfinished and create disarray in my office/art studio space. I have tried to work out, time and again, why I lose interest in everything and complete almost nothing. And I have no answer better than “I am an innovator”.
It is true. I am an innovator. I have all the ideas and little of the follow-through. If I could be paid to think of new and interesting ideas, I would never have another financial struggle. I am extraordinarily gifted in brainstorming, creating, and starting things. I am really bad at the finishing of those things.
And while I don’t know that innovation is the full reason behind me not completing projects, it does point to some truths about me that should not be ignored.
I lose interest. I need to be drawn into a thing, and it has to keep revealing itself as new and interesting. And I suspect this applies to all of my life.
The other day I had a second date with someone. As we talked over our cups of tea, she told me the same story she had told me on date one. She repeated the same information not just once, but twice, in one date—and the second date. There should have been new things to talk about on date two! And, just like that, I was disinterested not only in the repetitive stories, but also in the person telling them. I wasn’t drawn in. She didn’t reveal herself in new and interesting ways. I even wondered if she was dating so many women that she didn’t actually remember to whom she had expressed what stories. And our own story has likely ended because she told me hers twice.
That might seem harsh to some—especially those who are very accommodating and accustomed to routine. But it doesn’t seem harsh to me, because that is how I approach all sorts of things. I need that interest and I need that newness and I need things to change. The reasons behind that need are vast and complex and numerous, I suspect. The reasons are also, likely, contradictory—adding to the cognitive dissonance and dichotomy that I am prone to struggle with in life.
I think that I might always want change because I am afraid of stability, and I am afraid of endings, and I am afraid of stasis. But I am afraid of those things because I want those things. (Yes, I am aware that makes no sense.) I would love to end the moving and find security and become a permanent fixture in a space of my own. But I don’t believe that I am capable of that ending and finding and becoming, based on the events of my past. I’ve lost faith in the idea that I can be home.
Security was very much lacking in my youth. And not because I wasn’t offered a loving home or my needs weren’t met, physically. My parents worked hard to provide for me, and I am ever grateful. But I also felt captive and wanted to escape my childhood home, my town, my church, my school, and more. I never felt home and safe and whole in any of those spaces. I still don’t. I might never feel home and safe and whole in those spaces. And because I didn’t feel home and safe and whole, I longed for that. I looked in all sorts of places for that feeling. I think a few times I came close to finding that feeling, but something always stepped in the way, and restrained me as I tried to reach out for it. Every time I thought I had found wholeness and a place to call home, it was torn from me or shattered or inaccessible. And every time that shattering and tearing happened, I became more convinced that I wasn’t allowed to feel home. I would never be whole. I would never stay.
So, I keep moving, and I don’t dare to finish the projects and put the things on the wall. I fear that the moment I claim this space as my home, it will be taken from me. And that threat looms larger given my financial stress and disabled status. I don’t trust that this is home. I don’t trust that there will ever be one for me. I’ve lost much of the hope that I can own a home, or feel at home, or ever be whole. And my projects are like my soul—not complete.
I think there is some comfort to be found, however. And I think that comfort comes in the starting of every new project. I believe that the constant beginnings mean that I am still fighting toward the idea that home can happen, and that wholeness can be found, and that art installation isn’t necessarily a death sentence for the walls around me. I trust that the new projects are proofs of the security and ownership and stasis to come. I believe that one day my longing will be answered with fullness, and all of these projects can be completed—even the project that is my soul.
It might still take some months or years to complete the rug and the quilts and the art pieces for my walls. And maybe some of those projects will be crossed off the list and the materials discarded or repurposed at some point. But many of them will one day be finished and added to my home.
I have created a comfortable space here, in my spacious and sunny Westside apartment. And even if it isn’t my permanent home, I am determined to claim more and more of it, for the time being. I have finished some projects—building an amazing desk, creating a peaceful and inviting yoga and meditation space, curating the perfect guest room items to make others feel welcome, putting together the bits and pieces that come in the box of pre-drilled furniture items. I think I can safely say that I will complete more projects over time. And I think that I can safely say that I will work through the challenges of wholeness and home that present themselves as I work on completing those projects.
Hopefully, at some point, I can find enough peace and wholeness within myself that I don’t feel the need and longing that creates strife for my spirit, and makes me fear the loss and lack that accompany insecurity. I still work to keep new ideas of a beautiful future at the forefront of my mind. I work to keep on creating and brainstorming. I imagine the home of my dreams. It isn’t extravagant and it isn’t large. It is just comfortable, bright, and happy.
And there are lots of finished projects on the walls.