I used to lie back on my bed in my childhood basement bedroom, pressed against the underground wall, and envision my perfect room. Simple things were what I liked: books, shelves, a desk, pens, etc. I pictured what I already had rearranged for the most efficient flow of movement (no more banging my shins on the bed) and large sense of space (I was often claustrophobic).
It was about escape, really. My room was the only place where I felt relatively safe. No one could touch me there. There would be hours during which no one spoke to me and I spoke to no one.
Holy crap, is this ever boring. I liked being alone, okay?
If I became really inspired, I would grab a piece of graph paper from my algebra binder and draw out the dimensions of my room. In order to avoid leaving my space, I used a roll of toilet paper cum kleenex and measured my walls and furniture with its squares. Each square was equal to one square on the graph paper.
I liked drawing in the shape of my room on the graph paper with a blue ballpoint pen and filling in its perimeter with the squares representing the furniture. It was tidy and simple. You know, all squares and symmetrical and stuff. I liked the way it made my brain feel to be able to wrap itself around all sides of a thing.
I sometimes tried to come up with my own art for my walls, but the experiments usually ended up being hyper-involved projects that were not wall-appropriate. One time, I made up an agricultural society in its early days of metal tools and built its settlement out of toothpicks. I even created miniature fake, hammered steel tools and season-based calendars out of cardboard, tinfoil, and india ink. It took me several weeks, and I eventually abandoned the project. Even I felt that my obsessiveness had reached strange new heights.
Sometimes I would go so far as to imagine a different rug from the hideous brown-and-ivory chaos that adorned my floor or new paint on the walls, but most of the time I was just happy to rearrange the furniture I already had. I was essentially happy with having my own space in which to read and write.
Hell, I could not even receive decent radio reception down in that basement, but as long as I could tune in a staticy Dr. Ruth Westheimer show once a week that I could only hear if I put my head between the speakers, I did not mind.
This is sort of what I have now. The kitchen in our apartment is smaller than our hallway, the bathtub is shallow, the walls are cracked, and we have an infestation of cats, but this place is warm, and I belong in it. There is a bonus Palinode, significantly better art than my old Kirk Cameron poster, the coffee table might only have cost fifteen dollars, but I can put it anywhere I want, and I write more and better than I did in that old, basement bedroom.
My satisfaction is a slow balloon.
It is this simple satisfaction that is all too easy to overlook. It is much more dramatic to weave over and back across the line like a drunk from this high to that low. If we behave like babies naïvely stumbling toward the nearest thing that grabs our attention, we can ignore our basic selves, avoid the responsibility of our own individual integrity.
Today, I will pursue my newfound, albeit fleeting, middle road of satisfaction in my shallow tub with a mug of hot coffee and a moleskine notebook, and it will be a fine, fine afternoon.
I am a participant in Holidailies 2007.