Friday, March 5, 2010

Control and Stuff

Looking around my home, sometimes, I feel more like a guest than the actual owner. I can count on the fingers of one hand the articles of furniture that we actually purchased and brought into our home with intention. Everything else was someone else's cast-offs. Some of it is very nice, some useful but not particularly attractive, and some downright hideous (C's huge red recliner).

The artwork, too, is mostly all hand-me-downs or gifts (other than the excessive numbers of Sears photos of my kids that I have everywhere). We have Modigliani print-on-canvas that we inherited when C's grandparents moved to Florida over our "mantle." I like Modigliani just fine, but is it what I would have chosen myself? Probably not. In the same manner, we acquired an enormous original watercolor painting of a puffin and chick, which holds a central position on our largest livingroom wall, and which I've never really cared for.

My wardrobe as well consists largely of cast-offs (my sister cleaned out her closet a couple of years ago, and most of my "new" clothing acquisitions come from the annual clothing swap a friend of mine hosts). Even most of the clothes I have bought myself were purchased more because they were on sale than any sense of fit or style. I don't even know what my style would be, if I had one.

Part of our livingroom is C's home office, our computer he uses for work, day and evening, leaving me the wee morning hours for any writing or blogging I want to do. The desk it sits on, the printer table, another desk nearby, the CPU and all of the surrounding floor space are always piled with papers and energy auditing accouterments. The computer is set to automatically save to C's files and it can never remember my log-ins for email or blogger.

C and I got a digital camera for Christmas several years ago, but it quickly became part of his work gear. The camera I use to take pictures (for this blog and of life) is M's, and he takes pains to remind me of this on a regular basis.

The one area of the house that does reflect me is the kitchen. When I do spend money on something, it's usually going to be for dishes, linens, cookbooks, food (god, I don't even want to think about the feminist implications of this).

I'm trying to figure out what all this means. Am I placing too much significance on the material stuff around me and how that relates not only to my identity but how much control I feel in my life (whenever I start thinking along these lines I get a panicky sensation that "this is not my life!!"). Then there is the question of intention. I know I have for the most part let things happen to me, rather than going into them with full intention--I happened to end up in Maine, I happened to get this job, I happened to get pregnant (deciding to build a house while six months pregnant does not count as intention--the pregnancy hormones override any sort of logical thinking process). Even when I've gone into something with intention (deciding to get pregnant again) other forces have intervened (having two instead).

I'm not complaining. My life is fine. I have relatively few complaints. Yet I don't like the feeling that I'm just drifting with the tide, rather than steering my own boat. And I'm trying to figure out a way to exert some control without buying a lot of stuff (a new wardrobe! my own computer!). Ideas?


  1. I don't know. I think I think control is an illusion.

  2. Well, you could paint or redecorate. I say this somewhat hesitantly, because *I* can't do any of that, but you're much more artsy and crafty than I am! (That's a compliment...I wish I were!)

    I admire that most of what you have is recycled and reused though. It adds character (who wants a Pottery Barn catalogue house, anyway?). Most of what we have is used and borrowed, etc too!

  3. I felt like you were writing about me, until the part about the painting in your living room--ours is of two deer painted in the, er, venerable wildlife art tradition. The only people who ever comment on it are the ones into kitschy art.

    But all the rest...yup. Everything I have is secondhand. This is part choice and part just the way I am. The few times I've decided I had to go buy a new pair of nice shoes (not from Ross Dress for Less!) I couldn't bring myself to do it. Not in my makeup, and sounds like not in yours too. Anyways, this winter I realized I didn't have any nice sweaters. Everything from the thrift stores and clothing swaps was either a bad fit or acrylic. So I've been learning to knit and treating myself to nice yarn and making myself some sweaters and shawls.

    I definitely support you getting your own computer. Save up slowly, if need be. Buy it used, if you want.
    Call it a feminist issue and keep it in the kitchen. But you deserve that small space of your own.

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, and be well, Kyce

  4. you got me thinking on that one, andrea. i am all about reused, and especially up-cycled, but i know there have been times when a new, not-stretched-out, and wonky shirt has meant a lot to me. we always do a closet clean out before we buy, kind of like a trade. i like the idea of buying nice yarn! and definitely change the art!


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