Blog Post #4: ‘ Home. U.S. ‘
This has been on my mind for a while as I’ve tried to gather and articulate my feelings in these uniquely challenging times. Impeachment. Caucusing. The depth of unbelievabe divisions amongst us and our world. Looking and working ahead to select the person who will lead us into the next chapter of our time as an American community. This is on my mind.
My life’s role is to make space beautiful. Defined by it’s user, interpreted through my skill.
When all is staged and ready, many would say that ‘ home ‘ is defined by sofas and chairs and tables and lamps and wallpaper and hardwood floors… the things that make up a three dimensional space. This is accurate. It’s not entirely true.
There is something much greater happening in our definition of a beautiful home… bound between the seams in the upholstery, obvious in the air billowing in the drapery, pervasive in the fragrance emanating from the candles. The intimate spaces of our homes reflect the people who inhabit them.
The furnishings only create a backdrop for our most intimate self, and our most intimate relationships, to come together. Home is where we connect. Intimate space where we are more ourselves, in all our truths, than anywhere else in our day-to-day life. The only place we truly put away our costumes and take off our masks.
The past four years have been challenging for us as a culture. All of us blanketed in the enduring warmth of our American flag. It seems we always, ultimately, share the same concerns and same focus on the future. Yet, now, we are more toxic in our interactions than we’ve ever been. There’s nothing new about members of our families at odds with one another. Child abuse and spousal abuse have been around as long as we’ve been walking upright. Neighbors shunning one another and building taller fences is nothing new. Fear of the ‘ other ‘ based on color, origin, faith – seems built into our animal DNA. And we will never, all of us, agree entirely on issues of economy, health care, business, employment, and other pressing day to day issues. Yet, now… Now, we seem to be emboldened to display our uglier sides, with vigorous righteousness, in to all the public squares we move in each day – both literal, and digital.
With sadness, and a great measure of disbelief these 50 years on, I look back at the home I was raised in. Sad. And in measure, ashamed and embarassed.
My childhood home looked of-the-moment. I remember the huge suede upholstered sectional in our living room with the corner parquet topped planter table, accessorized with the open based porcelain lamp that had trickling water inside it. Au-couture for the ‘70’s. I loved it. From those seats you could see the macramé plant hangers with shell knots on the patio with cascading spider plants in variegated greens. Stucco walls. Cottage cheese ceilings. Rust shag carpet. While the look of things mirrored what was happening in the magazines at the time in the grocery store checkout aisle at Gemco… the discord within these spaces was pervasively hidden in plain sight – like the Playboy magazines in the end table drawers.
As I write these words I read them… again and again. Just the way I had to listen to them for eighteen years. I feel like a very heavy, lifeless punching bag… taking angry violent punch after angry violent punch. Again and again.
These, and many more, were the words that rang out in my household growing up. Spewed daily by an angry man with a challenging past that exacerbated the issues of the moment. Supported by a voiceless woman, often the literal punching bag on the receiving side of all this toxicity. Willingly, doing nothing about it. Framed more broadly by grandparents and aunts and uncles who all believed this language. That everything it represents, was not just accurate – ‘ right ‘ in the eyes of God – but warranted. Raising children to carry on in the same path.
I don’t know how my brother and I managed to hear a truer voice of God in those pews and aisle at Saint Catherine’s so clearly above the firestorm and vitriol of all of this, but we did. Thank God.
Evolving through my adult life, my faith informs me in very simple, and in no uncertain terms, we are all – ALL – children of God. Each of us made in his likeness. Perfect. In our perfection, as a human family – some 8 billion of us now, we hold hands, embrace, and walk this walk of life together. When there is someone hungry, you feed them. When someone has no home, you provide shelter. When someone is ill, you offer compassion and relief. When someone is in need, you extend what you have to lessen their burden. You break bread with everyone – EVERYONE – at your table.
That same table that is in your dining room. The one you walked to from your front door. The door you entered coming and going from the community you actively engage with every day. Where there are children of every color, race and faith – your children.
I want to invite all of us to not just believe these truths. But to give them voice – screaming at the top of our lungs as we need to – to change the course of where we find ourselves today. Refusing to accept the life draining punches of the punching bag of violence. As we do, I want to invite all of us to look at our homes. To go room by room, piece by piece, and confirm that the intimate space we have created, does, in fact, reflect the greatest version of ourselves. And if it doesn’t, that we deny and eliminate the toxic vitriol and turn toward a greater light within ourselves and within our most intimate spaces.
When we’ve completed our housekeeping I want us to remember to bake something for someone who is hungry. To open the door when the bell chimes and have a bed on the ready for someone who has lost theirs. To have fresh clean folded blankets in a basket to wrap a child on our doorstep who’s overcome a journey you don’t want to ever contemplate.
I want us to dig deeper when we define home. I want us to think bigger when we vision ourselves in these intimate spaces. I want us to build homes defined by pattern and texture and color and history… but to eliminate the labels that tear any of us individually down or apart from one another. And instead take our humanity in all our various DNA strands of design and decorating and strongly turn them to US.
At every human interaction remember that you are looking into the eyes of another human being, made perfect in the likeness of their creator.
We’re already there. We just need to remind ourselves. Stand tall. And dance.
… and sometimes look to a neighbor if we need some guidance.