Archive for the ‘Introspection’ Category

Return to the Expurgatory, now with vague but important goals

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

The past half year has been chock full of nuts. Or, rather, acquiring and trying to revamp a business while still doing most of the day to day work for it as well. Busy bee. But that’s not what we’re here to discuss. That’s just by way of lame excuses for not having been about.

In some way, this month marks a milestone. Or a turning point. I signed my lease for another year. But as I did, I thought, this will be the last year in this apartment. By this time next year, I’ll be ready to move on.

In itself, that’s not that huge a thing. I’ve lived here long enough to have lost count of the years — though I think this is something like my ninth. But along with the idea of making a change in one year’s time, I’ve bundled in, in my mind, the idea of it’s being a big change. Of really working to turn round my ideas of stuff and to get rid of a ton of it. I don’t know where I’ll move, or what I’ll do exactly, but it will be something different.

And that’s scary. But I know that’s what you’re supposed to do: embrace the scary changes. Take risks, challenge yourself, grow. Not be complacent without contentment.

I know, intellectually, I need to change and shake off the Victorian I was in my 20s and have clung to out of fear. But it terrifies me, in many ways to let go of the towers of books and Indian fabrics and bits of stained glass and candles. I’ve become a different and more modern person. I work with computers for heaven’s sake. But there’s a vast and complicated part of me that’s got its identity all tied up in quite a complex and very 19th century sense of style. It’s so complicated, I’m having trouble even explaining — the sentences won’t come out in a logical order — there are so many ideas and conflicts in my head.

I read the following on Miss Minimalist’s blog and it hit home in such an exact way that it is still traumatizing me a bit, days later:

Once upon a time (a long time ago), I had a fantasy self. She was an aficionado of antique chandeliers, vintage beaded dresses, fine china, and silver tea sets; I think she fancied one day she would marry a prince and live out her days in a British castle or manor house.

Charming as she was, after dragging her stuff thousands of miles in a cross-country move, I had to kick her out. And it’s a good thing I did—because even though I eventually married a prince (metaphorically) and moved to England (literally), my 400-square-foot flat would have never accommodated her lavish accoutrements.

Ironically enough, decluttering my fantasy self gave me the freedom and resources to turn my dreams into reality.

Do you have a fantasy self? And if so, how much of your clutter belongs to it?

She goes on to give other examples. But christ, that’s me. When I was 13 I spent a lot time trying to figure out how to marry into the royal family, even though none of the princes were the right age (or very interesting). Until I was in my late teens, I refused to read any American literature, thinking America somehow a corruption of everything literate. In college I sewed my own capes and Edwardian dresses and started the processes of acquiring things that any eccentric, artistic Victorian would be proud to fill their parlor with. Books books books. Bits, bobs, curiosities.

I was highly influenced by my art history studies,  my avid reading of early 20th century and 19th century novels, my obsession with Merchant Ivory films (and their like), and more than anything, my love for a certain gentleman friend who’s overstuffed, cabinet-of-curiosities of an apartment was the most magical place I’d ever been and the only place I ever really longed to be. Truth be told.

Then I went through a phase buying an selling little antiques (like sewing buttons). Mostly buying.

But it’s been more than 10 years now, since I shook off the majority of those obsessions — or let them lessen to fondnesses. I still love period films, and my friend moved into a house with his girlfriend a decade ago (lovely house, but it does not hold me in its thrall strongly enough that I need to live in a facsimile).

Also in there somewhere, I moved from my tiny studio apartment to where I am now, which is an entire floor of a large house, replete with basement and garage. And in my first year here, the horror vacui was strong and I filled the place without thinking. Oh and while I’m admitting things, I also got obsessed with driving around on trash night, looking for treasures — several between the wars armchairs I recovered, etc. etc.

I had all these ideas, as I furnished my house, that I would “entertain” and that to do so I needed certain accouterments (willow pattern china, an enormous carved dining table, an opulent, vaguely Indian living room. I needed to impress people. And sure enough, whenever someone comes to my apartment, they are in impressed.

But almost no one comes to my apartment. Because I don’t have my social shit together to actually entertain. (I also don’t have chairs to go round that table — all my chairs are so antique that they are wobbly and dangerous and uncomfortable). Anyway, the little itty bitty ping of pride I get when someone compliments my place — it’s nothing. I don’t know that it’s even palpable at all. It’s almost embarrassing. I don’t really care about that.

I wish I had people over in a comfortable, easy way. That would be of more value.

So now, here I am, in my late 30s, always having been a very artsy person with a very strong and particular aesthetic that involved filling every corner with complicated, old, dusty, odd things wondering what’s really me. 

I don’t know what the answer is yet. There’s definitely something in me highly attracted to simplicity. Some yearning. A longing for freedom. But I’m not really ready to quite go there yet. That’s why I have this year to figure out how to get from here to there and what’s comfortable for me, exactly.

I know I want to get rid of a lot of stuff — I mean, I have been, slowly and steadily for a couple years now. But I want to make a much bigger push this year, and see where I get.

I want to think about maybe living somewhere modern (I’ve always felt I needed to live in 19th c. buildings — between-the-wars at the latest). It all goes back, I think, to this pivotal period in my childhood when I was about 10. But I think I’ll go into that another day.

At any rate, this is the beginning of something. It’s going to involve a lot of expurgating, thinking and coming to terms with something pretty heady.