By Jessica Wall
One of my long-time passions is interior decorating. Although not formally trained, I often have the tendency to walk into a space and visualize what could be. I have always been passionate about seeing the beautiful aspects in things that others have overlooked. I especially enjoy bringing home the undesirable pieces of furniture that have lost their luster and shine (or maybe their luster and shine are hidden under layers of dirt and life) and breathing new life into them through paint, stain, and a little bit of imagination. Sometimes it is the mere process of transformation that is the most rewarding to me. That is being able to look at something and seeing it not for what it is, but what it has the potential to be. I love taking something that needs some work, and conceptualize what it might look like with a little bit of love, patience, and fresh perspective. I believe that all things, regardless of what they appear to be, have the capability to become something more.
This idea of transformation is powerful and can be applied not only to tired furniture or space, but also our everyday lives. As a wife and stay at home mom of two small children, life can get a little… well, overwhelming sometimes. I feel like I’m constantly being bombarded by society’s ideals of what I should be: loving, compassionate, creative, gentle, always happy; perhaps always waiting by the door with loving arms and a hot dinner ready at the end of the day. You know- the stereotypical stay-at-home mom. The reality however, is that this is not always possible- or even realistic. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I feel guilty about the way I handled my two year old’s meltdown, or the fact that I simply do not have it in me to read that wretched children’s book one more time. I would be lying if I said my daughter has never eaten macaroni and cheese for all three meals before. Sometimes the living room floor is still covered with the same train tracks at the end of the day that were there 9 hours ago when my husband left for work. Finally at the end of the day when he does come home with a smile on his face, it is often met by a wife who simply does not have it in her to greet him back with a simple smile, or has to force a smile and that sucks.
Recently I bought a bench online that was made from reclaimed wooden pallets (I had been looking for one for my kitchen table for about six months). It had been covered with a few horrendously painted-on coats of varnish, which were uneven and tacky in spots. There were nails sticking out of it and it was completely unsafe for adults to sit on- much less small children. As I looked at that bench, I started thinking about what it could be- with a little bit of vision and hard work. I knew it could be transformed into not only a functional piece of furniture for my family, but also something beautiful.
As I started sanding away the layers of varnish, I thought hard about those traits that I don’t particularly like about myself- or those negative experiences that can sometimes cloud an otherwise happy day. I envisioned the typical early morning temper tantrum as I am trying to get my two children out the door for the day- and how often I let anger take over and dictate my actions. I thought about how I often feel overwhelmed and start feeling defeated when the kids are screaming, the poor dog is staring at her empty food bowl, and I’m still wearing my pajamas because I haven’t been able to break away for long enough to even take a shower. All these feelings and experiences have a profound impact on not only how I see myself, but also how I believe my family members and others see me. If I am not careful I start second-guessing my abilities and feeling completely helpless.
So as I worked, something beautiful happened. Like the coats of varnish that revealed themselves as I sanded, those insecurities and feelings of self-doubt also became more visible and evident… and then fell away. All that grit and negativity- the feelings of inadequacy that all too often make me question my undeniable success as a mom and wife– disappeared. As I stood there, staring at a piece of furniture that was essentially naked and in an unfinished state, I couldn’t help but feel the bitter sting of vulnerability that comes with truly honest self-reflection. After identifying and facing those undesirable truths, I was now free to heal.
Brush stroke by brush stroke, I started to think about those qualities that make me, well… me. As I carefully applied the new paint, I thought about how many times during the day that my kids smile at me. I thought about how often I hear the words “I love you”, and “thank you sweetheart”, and what that really means… I am a human being with flaws. Sure I might get impatient and frustrated with simple things sometimes, but I love my kids and my husband- and they love me… all of me. They love those hugs and kisses, and those laughs we share on a daily basis. They love the everyday beauty in the small things; those endless reading sessions and dance parties, and even laying on the couch together after a particularly tough day. Life is not perfect. It’s messy and sometimes even ugly. However, when we’re willing to strip away the negative- and our perceptions about what we should be doing (or not be doing), we open ourselves up for a beautiful existence. When we are willing to see ourselves for what we really are, and stop making excuses or trying to justify our actions to ourselves, we can identify the ways we can make positive change in our lives. When we focus on the positive and build ourselves up, just like breathing new life into something tired and old, we become almost new. We know what has been- and can equally embrace what can be. Like a piece of furniture that has been restored or a space that has been redesigned, we are free to feel renewed and refreshed.
While potentially painful, this process of transformation allows us to invest wholeheartedly in ourselves. If we’re willing to accept that we alone have the power to change our situation, we experience immense growth and the happiness that accompanies feeling in control of our lives. Now I have a beautiful new bench that will always remind me of the fact that with some new perspective, a little bit of love and a significant amount of patience, the inherent beauty that lies within all of us- just like an old piece of furniture- can be revealed and we can shine even brighter.