As the new year rolls on, I’ve been thinking a lot about space and spaciousness, inside and out. For starters, after years of living larger, this sweet little house still seems so small to me and I was worried about cramming in four more people when my family makes a mid-week overnight pit stop to take a break from their long commute. However, right across the street, an even smaller place is happily housing a family of four, including energetic twin 8 year old boys, as well as their friend who has lived there for many years. Long ago he made a tiny house-ish addition where various home sharers lived off and on. Now he lives there himself while the young family uses the main house, where they fitted two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room and a kitchen in a space smaller than my former bedroom in our Big House. They’re happy to be here after living under a terrifying political regime in Venezuela and they find that little house to be a haven of peace and comfort.
Happily, a little burst of New Year reorganizing has created some new places to be in our small house, some of them very fun. After moving so many times in recent years, once my daughter and I got here, we set the house up to our satisfaction and pretty much called it good. Four years later, looking at the space with fresh eyes helped us try new configurations of furniture that allowed unsuspected spaces to open up. My creative grandkids have some appealing ideas for making cozy corners to sleep in, places so fun to inhabit that the kids decided to trade off each week so they get a chance to be tucked in to each sweet spot. By day, we now stack four mattresses on our little daybed, making a princess-and-the-pea-sized pile that doubles as an indoor slide when the kids are feeling frisky. The cats also love to scale the heights and survey their territory from on high, admiring the improved view of busy birds in the garden.
Things are opening up inside me as well. I’m co-facilitating a large-ish Senior Center book group as part of the all-island social justice book club and steering that rich, deep conversation is being a good way to stretch my own ideas and put my imagination to work. We are reading STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism and You, a Young Adult version of Ibram X. Kendi’s STAMPED From The Beginning “remixed’ by Jason Reynolds. It’s an engaging book that offers many talking points which spark great conversations and interior dialogs as well. Realizing yet again how much my own world view has been shaped by twisted history is prompting yet another round of personal revisioning.
During my girlhood years, New England’s colonial history was presented as progressive and positive, with happy stories about helpful, generous Indians eager to share their land (!). Even as a kid, that seemed unlikely, on a par with the cheerful, smiling turkeys we made for Thanksgiving table decorations in elementary school art class. Despite growing up in a time of great social turbulence and feeling ardently opposed to much of American foreign and national policy for most of my life, I still bump into pockets of resistance, finding little nuggets of racism hidden away in my thoughts and beliefs.
Cut Off Or Welcome In
That kind of sudden self knowledge can trigger deep defensiveness, a common response that can shut down a conversation right quick. My family of origin was big on emotional cut offs; cross one of us and you are history, with no recourse and no second chance. Such a moment of insight, however uncomfortable, can also offer an opportunity to open up our inner doors and windows and let in some fresh air and brighter light. When I feel that defensiveness kick in for myself and others,I’m finding it useful to step back and take a breath. Instead of calling out our mistakes in a shaming or blaming way, it feels more useful and healing to simply sit with that very human behavior a bit. That makes space for considering how rearranging our mental and emotional furniture might make room for more light and fresh air. Onward, right?