Thursday, December 18, 2008

Where I Live

Yesterday, I had an important footwear-related errand to run, so, coming home from work, I was in an irritated rush to complete all of those just-got-home tasks - open important-looking mail, remove outerwear, discard junkmail, blow nose, put pumped breastmilk in fridge, hide scary-bill-mail, drink water, remove work clothes and replace with mommy clothes, pump more breastmilk, eat remainder of lunch PB&J, take frantically-whining dog for walk, check email, and pee, though not in that particular order - in fact, never in any particular order. (I know, Apartment Therapy, that I should have a "landing strip" and a logical order to how I conduct my just-got-home rituals, but I don't, OK? Now go away and stop making me feel guilty about not having a clever, wittily-colored or tastefully-neutral storage solution for everyfuckingthing I own. Holy pissing jesus, you know?*)

Somewhere in the midst of this whirlwind of mostly-nonsensical activity, I flung open the bedroom door, which we keep closed during the day to prevent the dog from thinking he owns the entire house, and was suddenly stopped in my tracks. As with many New York apartments, most of our apartment's windows look out on various airshafts, letting in little natural light. Shielded thus from street noise, always bathed in artificial light, our living/dining/kitchen space always looks more or less the same day or night, making it unsettlingly easy to forget that there is an outside world at all, that there is anything going on but one's own frantic activity. The bedroom, though, is different. It has two large windows that face 7th Avenue, which, this far uptown, is a broad, uncluttered thoroughfare with no high-rises to throw shadows.

Opening the bedroom door, then, I was arrested by the stillness of the room, the spill of natural light, the muted sounds of the street outside. The snarl of blankets because I now sleep on the floor with the baby, the pillows at the foot of the bed because my husband now sleeps backwards so his head can be close to us - these things sometimes distress me with their messiness, their haphazard, chaotic feel. At that moment, though, bathed in the gentle afternoon light, the scene felt quite different - peaceful, familiar, and most of all, ours. The blankets, the pillows, the little fortress of supplies - a small box of toys, a potty, a few clean cloth diapers - that I have set up at the head of the floor bed - all spoke mutely of our lives together, the way that we have all accommodated each other and grown together to become a little family.

Every day, everything I see looks different. Sometimes a certain scene like this
or this or this will drive me crazy with anxiety or shame, that horrible feeling that I have simply lost control of my setting. At other times, these things seem like nothing - an entirely unsurprising and undistressing consequence of the life that we are living, headlong, daily.
I am thirty-and-a-half; my husband just turned thirty-two. We are only just inventing ourselves as full-fledged, traditional adults, with baby, household, careers, and, each other, which last thing we always seem on the verge of forgetting. It is no miracle, then, that I re-see everything every day. I am in a constant state of deconstructing what I was/thought/felt before, in a constant state of reconstructing - or constructing, sui generis, anew - what I am/think/feel now. Looking at the disordered but deeply familiar bedroom scene, in the light and the sounds of 7th Avenue, I was pulled forcibly out of my mindless rush and set down in the middle of my life. "This is where I sleep," I thought. "This is where I live." And, counter to how it often works with such moments, I did not forget the feeling for the remainder of the day, and I still feel it now, sitting at my trainwreck of a desk, my baby asleep in the midst of the blankets on the bedroom floor.

*With apologies to my lovely Christian readers. Really, I am sorry that I am such an ass as to type things on the internets and think they are funny when I know well and good that they are actively offensive to a wide range of wonderful people out there. Although, tee hee. By the way, old friends with whom I discussed the issue, I bet you’re wondering what ever happened to me converting to Catholicism. And I will tell you: it didn’t work out. You know, I imagine that lots of people who really ought to be atheists temporarily charm themselves into converting from time to time. Like BOB DYLAN, for example, or ME.