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Soul Displays

by Sep 24, 2022

This won’t come as a surprise to most people who know me well, but nesting is my earliest memory.  I loved setting up my Fisher Price Doll House and arranging my stuffed animals so everyone looked comfortable and got to be next to their bestie. I’d tidy all sorts of spots with cozy trinkets. Things I’d found or made or loved. Shoeboxes with felt for my trolls; rocks, sticks, moss for tree-houses that my dad built, and little nooks in the back of my closet for hiding and reading.  When I was volunteering or in a waiting room or babysitting or at a library, I’d wander around creating little bits of order. Organize a shelf of books.  Group the craft supplies. Fluff pillows. At diners, I’d arrange the jellys, creamers, and sugars so they looked happy.  It wasn’t something I stressed about or needed, it was simply fun for me to create little changes that made a tiny space on this earth a little more beautiful because I was there. It more than likely verged on OCD during a few rough stages of my life, but for the most part, it is simply what I’ve come to know now as self-soothing.  Truth be told, I’m relieved that this part of BC Kelly is working right now.  It really does make my soul unreasonably happy.

I come by it honestly.  My mom is a rearranger– and her mom before her…  We all like to move things around, make pretty displays, and admire them for a bit, knowing everything is temporary. Nothing is forever. Even walls. It was always my favorite when we would change my room.  When I’d wake up to the feeling I was in a whole new space and then I’d get to spend the next days shuffling treasures, making my nightstand both functional and adorable.  Moving plants to better light.  Adjusting fans and blankets for the seasons.  In college it got more unhinged (as life generally does).  My room-mate loved rearranging too!! and our dorm rarely spent a few weeks the same way. The first time my life-mate saw my attic bedroom was when I wanted help with a vintage couch that I’d rescued.  Once we had our own house, I’d switch whole rooms!  And toilets!  And the response was simply, “How about if I make another pot of coffee first”.  My kids have mixed experiences with this part of their life.  My waterchild LOVES it.  They come home and excitedly look for all of the big and little things.  And we discuss the pros and cons and how long until we think it will want to move again.  My firechild is less enthusiastic and more resigned.  They just shout things like, “Mama– if I was peanut butter, where might I be happy today?”

My home has always been a fluid concept.  We moved a bunch as a kid.  I didn’t have a childhood home where I spent decades of my life.  Instead, I had a few boxes that always came with me, but more importantly a bag.  My bag always has what is needed, but also ambiance and order and a quirky collection of items that reflect my soul. It helps me feel prepared and grounded and comforted– my tether and a piece of home.  Not piles and piles of stuff.  Just a few thoughtful items that I might be glad of later.  My waterchild’s concept of home is even more fluid– any base of operations is home.  It could be our towel on a crowded beach.  It could be a booth at Chuck E Cheese.  It could be the backseat of a car.  We’d be camping without another person in sight, and our tent would be home. Everywhere we go, we take the first few minutes to make things a little more lovely.  A little more comfortable.  A little more safe.  Our home became wherever and whenever we were at peace.  The rest of the world might be chaos around us, but in this little tiny spot, we were at home base.  No one could tag us.  We could take a minute to breathe.  Our soul-home connection is strong — we both recognize how creating small spots of order and beauty is intrinsically linked to our feelings of peace.

Now that the outside world isn’t working, my real life house has become a true refuge. There is no sense of obligation to its care, only gratitude that I get to convalesce here.  I get this whole little place to nest to my heart’s content.  I’ll be honest, a lot of it is a mess, not quite as tidy or clean as it has been during some seasons (although a lot better than others); But — I don’t really notice it.  I mostly rest but occasionally, I find something hidden that should be in the light.  Or I store something that doesn’t spark joy. And when I’m in the storage, I find something long forgotten but loved and cherished to take its place.  Big things or projects aren’t realistic, But!  If I look at just one little area!  I love making sure every item in one little area somehow goes together in my mind– and is in a place where it can be useful, admired, and appreciated.  It is all relaxing and delightful and a little comedic– because my brain is jumbled and we are on an endless loop of scavenger hunts.  But thankfully, after decades of consistency, we all have a pretty good idea of WWKVD (What Would Kelly Valli Do?).  And eventually it is always found to a small chorus of us all saying, “Of course!  That is exactly where it belongs :)” My home feels like it is part of the family.  Like it is part of the team taking care of me.  And in return, I get to take care of them by creating little displays that are a beautiful reflection of the happiest parts of my soul. A compilation of objects that were often thrifted or gifted or rescued or inherited or found on an adventure.  It is like I am a curator of my own life.  Relics gathered from a variety of places but displayed and grouped with purpose and intention. And it makes my soul happy.

It won’t take Freud to figure this one out.  But photographs are not good for me right now.  Honestly, my vision is super wacked and faces are hard for me to focus on– at all– but also, looking at pictures doesn’t bring me comfort and remind me of the people that I love.  It makes me feel loss and even some guilt and shame. I think of the funerals and celebrations and life that I’m missing.  The pictures I’m not taking.  The events and connection and experiences that I can’t even imagine right now. And then spirals into a place of loss and grief where I feel like I am letting the world down with my absence. Which I know is crazy, not a productive line of thought, and frankly pretty egocentric.  I am unwell.  I am not choosing this.  And the world will keep revolving without me, at least for a little while ;). If my lens is too wide, it all becomes over-whelming and exhausting.  But when I’m able to adjust my view to just now and this delightful little space directly in front of me, then I’m able to breathe and relax and be at peace.  So I’m slowly taking down the photographs, thanking them for their service, putting them in storage for now, and instead showcasing treasures collected from decades (and generations) of fulfilling life.  Because those things make me feel at peace right now.

This loophole in my mystery chronic illness feels like a true gift.  I know it is weird.  That I’m finding joy in being this unwell.  But it also just feels right.  I have so many happy memories in this structure! These 15 years have housed so much!  I’ve always known everything is temporary, but it is almost like the Kelly of my first 48 years knew that someday this would happen.  And I’d be grateful.  That someday I would get to be a queen of my own modest suburban estate.  Someday, this would be my prison and my paradise.  I’d have subjects who happily bring me food and medicine and gifts and offerings.  That someday –I’d put aside my busy aprons to instead haplessly lounge in a rainbow of kimonos.  Someday I would take leisurely baths in a mint condition 1964 pink cast-iron tub that fits me like to was made for someone 5’1″.   Maybe someday my curtains won’t be drawn because I can handle a little more light.  Maybe someday, my front door will be open again to accept visitors and noise.  Maybe I’ve not thrown my last garden party that over-flows with food and sangria and laughter and music.  But for now, those aren’t even goals.  For now, I am so perfectly relieved that I’ve got this nest where I am at peace.  I can live like this for now.  And so can my home-mates.  In fact, I think they rather like it.  Or maybe we all just like it a lot better than the alternative.

In the real world, everyone has been so respectful about my boundaries. I know that it must be weird to have a self proclaimed matriarch, spreadsheet master, primary selfie taker, party planner –just gone.  I miss her too.  I’m not sure if I’ll come out of this cocoon and have a new life similar to BC– or if this is my new life or if this is the best it will be…  But whatever happens, I do know that connection is important. I miss people! and I know it would make my soul feel better if it felt seen by your soul. With communication over-whelming and my senses all askew, there is one constant thing that brings me joy.  And it is these quirky little displays around my life. Very much like when I’d put order to things as a kid. It was never for praise then either.  It was just because I liked making places a little more lovely because I had been there.  I would always think when I was leaving about how I bet all of those items are so happy now!  And that they are grateful for me, even if no one else notices.  It feels like that again.  Like it is pure and easy and without obligation.  And it makes me happy.

I decided to make a new instagram account for my birthday.  I’m not sure, but I THINK, it might be fun and manageable for me to post a picture of these functional but quirky little spots in my home that make me happy.  These little pieces of my soul that are on display, even if only for a moment.  A specifically curated compilation:  Some from grandparents and great grandparents or childhood or handmade — some are gifted or thrifted or rescued or passed down or found on an adventure.  They are from all sorts of people and stages of my life– they contain a history and stories and memories and happiness.  When I look at them, I don’t feel loss, instead, I feel connection.  And it seems like it might be nice to share them.  For now, writing the stories and reasons seems over-whelming and not fun.  But who knows. Whatever I’ve got going on in my system is exhaustedly ever-changing.  And maybe, this will be another loophole?  or maybe I’ll post 3 times and decide that it isn’t working. Please don’t feel like you need to follow, this isn’t about followers or likes or comments but if you are interested: https://www.instagram.com/kellysanshercamera/

Just so people understand– I’m not ready to communicate IRL.  My brain literally feels like I’m midway through Still Alice.  Hopefully it isn’t permanent, but it isn’t great right now.  That said, I know it will be nice to have some memories from this super weird stage of life to look back on.  And who knows.  Maybe someday my vision will clear and so will my mind.  In the meantime, I really really hope that wherever you are– you too can find a way to experience a tiny spot of beauty, calm, peace, joy… and home.  Even if everything else is chaos and the world is crumbling around you.  I hope you are able to create even a tiny ant-sized contribution to making even one little part of this world a bit more beautiful – even if only for a moment.  Maybe it is at a diner or palatial estate or suburban split-level or hospital bed or only in one tiny corner of the mind.