changes, fear, home decorating, relationships

on living a memorable sort of life

The above is a panorama photo of about 3/4 of my room. On the walls is about 25% of the artwork I’ve collected over the years; most all of it, save for signed Broadway posters, is original (the least-original of the rest are numbered prints plus a legally purchased no-parking street sign from Chicago). I’ve never shied away from filling every square inch of wall space with things I find interesting or beautiful (or both), but as I grow older the adornments have become something more meaningful. It would not be hyperbolic to say they’ve become an extension of who I am, visual reminders of the places I’ve visited, adventures I’ve had, and (in many instances) my knack for seeing a random dusty watercolor on sale for 50¢ in a thrift store that I take home only to discover, with a little research, that it’s worth hundreds of dollars. 

There are the handwoven sea grass wreaths I bought from Gullah princesses selling their wares off of blankets in the streets of Charleston; the lithograph I paid $800 for in 2000 (my first-ever “real” piece of art) that remains the only thing of value left from my previous life that I’ve refused to sell, even though I’ve been offered as much as $10,000 for it in recent years; the rare concert posters; the posters from readings I gave when I lived in Chicago and had a reputation for shocking people with the things I wrote and then dared to say out loud; the inked drawing a college friend traded me for a pack of cigarettes; children’s art projects (including an original comic book my older son entered into an art fair and someone offered to purchase for $500 when he was only seven years old); various watercolors picked up at art shows and flea markets and street fairs and just because.

I was expressing to my boyfriend yesterday that I worry we won’t be compatible living together because this sort of space—filled to the brim with color and vitality and a little bit of chaos (there’s an actual legit interior decorating style called “layered clutter” that perfectly describes the aesthetic that makes me feel comfortable and at home)—is nearly the opposite of what his home looks like. And since he owns his place, were we to move in together, I would (whether it were explicitly expressed or not) feel as though I were visiting his space, not building a life together with him. (There are a few indications already, which I won’t get into, that make me believe there wouldn’t be much room for compromise.)

This is a very difficult conundrum. Do we just spend forever living apart to avoid this conflict? (I don’t want that.) Does one of us let go of our preferences? Am I being selfish when I say that I’m not willing to be the one who lets go? I spent the better part of 17–32 letting other people dictate the way I lived, and the past ten years have been glorious. I’ve received so many compliments on my style when people have visited my home, especially when I had my own place, so I know I have a knack for decorating, even if it is a bit off the wall and non-traditional; after all, could I myself not ALSO be described the same way?

I suppose this is an issue many women (and men) face when they’ve lived alone for a long time. I suspect that usually one person cares much more about it than the other and the person who cares less lets it go unless it’s about an issue that really matters to them (eg, a guy who refuses to have super girly bedding, which I totally get). In our case, though, I can already almost write the script of the conflict, and that worries me. Or maybe I’m not being generous enough.

One thing I do know is that I’m worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet and isn’t even close to happening. Right now I have a room of my own that’s decorated to my satisfaction and I feel happy and content spending time in my home. It’s good to be surrounded by so many memories of so many wonderful experiences, especially during times when it feels as though the universe is conspiring against me. Let me relish in that for now and worry about the future as it comes, if it comes.


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