I am drawn to the renewal, the newness, the hope promised by each show, whether the program is about a complete bathroom redo, a couple finding a new home (in Paraguay!), or the transformation of a drab house façade into a spectacular one. The message is clear, and it is optimistic: things could always be better, and we can help you make it so.
But isn’t this message of hope, when you turn it on its head, also one of dissatisfaction? You see, with these lovely HGTV images in my head as I move through my house, I am constantly aware of the ways in which my home doesn’t measure up – the piece of furniture on its last legs, the paint color that isn’t quite right, the window coverings that don’t match our bed linens. Even small things annoy me – the photo or wall art out of alignment, the coaster left out of its case, the spot of leaf or mud on the floor.
So these whispers of “this isn’t it” and “it’s not quite right” that are always tugging at the edge of my consciousness, while hinting at the possibility of renewal, are also a constant reminder that my house, as it is now, is not good enough. My home thus feels, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, “permanently provisional.” There is always more to be done and additional improvements to be made, before I can fully embrace my home and put my energy into living and entertaining in it, rather than fixing or improving it. This – the state of my home now – isn’t it.
If I am honest, I should note that I also, at times, live my larger life in this permanently provisional space. I think many of us do. We hold back from doing the next thing – going back to school, training or interviewing for a new job, entering fully into a relationship – until it feels right, until we lose weight, until we make enough money. Sadly, many of us spend our entire lives waiting until the moment is right and the way is clear, “stringing and unstringing [our] instruments,” as Tagore writes, “while the song [we] came to sing remains unsung.” We wait for all the obstacles to be overcome, to be good enough, so that we can start our real life.
New flash. The obstacles are our real life.
My maternal grandmother lived through the depression, the tragic early death of her first-born child and two world wars. Her early life was very hard. She could have given up, waited for things to get better, to be just so, before she really committed to living and growing.
But throughout her life my grandmother greeted every day with the attitude of the opening line of her favorite poem (by Kalidasa): “Look to this day: for it is life, the very life of life,” and she lived each of her days to the fullest, hardship and all. My grandmother saw very clearly that life doesn’t start on the day all your obstacles are overcome; quite the contrary, any life worth living is lived in and among these obstacles.
So my quest for the perfect home is an illusion, isn’t it? I will never come to a place where every little thing in my house is ideal, where my home feels good enough. There will always be some knick-knack out of place, some wall or window covering that is not quite the right color, or some piece of furniture sorely in need of replacement.
And so it is with my larger life. If I wait for everything – my bank account, my relationship, my body – to be perfect, in order to start my real life, I will truly miss its unfolding. I don’t have to, nor should I, wait to be stronger, wiser or richer in order to truly live. This, where I am right now, is my life. This is it. I am good enough.
As the exceptionally wise philosopher and poet, Dr. Suess, notes:
“Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite,
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting perhaps for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil or a better break
or a string of pearls or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls or another chance.
Everyone is just waiting.”
What are you waiting for?
Don’t put off your life. This is it. Start now, and go big.