Shelve the Shoulds
‘Good on me for being able to find anything’, I try to keep telling myself, instead of, ‘this place should be tidier’. I’ve decided to screech to a mental halt every time I hear myself say, or think ‘I should ….’ and banish that thought, as much as possible. I want to replace ‘I should’ with ‘I need to….’ or ‘I want to’.
I’ve moved into my own flat after quite a time of personal turmoil and pandemicky (it is so a word) upheaval. It has a room for a daughter or friends to come and stay, and a builder mate and his excellent henchfolk have helped me bring a little bit of its 1930-ness into the modern era (unblocked plumbing and a working stove, you say? Looooxury!) and it has a tiny garden for zootling or snootling as the whim takes me.
I feel like I’m finally getting back to being more me, with my bits and also bobs around me. Wanna see where I work? Here’s some pics of a couple of corners of the office: a very old painted dresser made of wood offcuts and bits of fence from at least the 1890s (I can tell by the newspaper clippings pasted on the other side). I found a book about other people who display things on their dressers by photographer and writer Simon Griffiths, and I put that in the middle. I change the display every now and then, as if I was a curator in the Museum of Me. I was told it would be very uncool to paint it. I painted it.
The ye olde antique sequinned fan up the top I bought from a lovely woman who runs the second-hand outfit La Grosse Toile, because it reminds me of the vaudeville artistes I researched to write a novel. Also up top on the other side top is a photo of my dotter and goddotter with Crazy Straws, along with the rubber hot water bottle a great invention of the 20th century.
There’s a glass bowl from my friend Annie, ceramics by a brilliant artist friend called David Pottinger a pouch with a writerly font pun about being bold and not regular, a dancing stick painted by a Warlpiri women from Kintore, knitting needles in vases, a two-volume English-French-German Italian Spanish and Yiddish dictionary (I don’t need it but I love it: the Yiddish word for chatting is schmuesn, hence schmoozing).
And my very favourite teapot and cups given to me by my former publisher, the powerhouse pal, Julie Gibbs. And oh, that’s where my measuring tape and pocket knife are. I just keep them around to pretend I have handy skills.
Inside the doors of the dresser is a jumble of work papers, reciepts, and other piggledy upon higgledy unmentionables. Partly hidden is a bottle of fabulously named ‘Devil’s Pot Black’ ink from Landgridge art supplies, because I want to get into doing some art work again, not to sell or because of a deadline, but for the fun and sensuous pleasure of it. Might try using some fine paint brushes, too. I should learn – aaarghhhh, there goes a should – I want to learn how to paint, not to be good at it, but just to enjoy it.
In another corner of the office, I’ve used coloured washi tape to tape up some favourite drawings and artwork, which serve as inspiration. They’re by some of my favourite illustrators, the late British cartoonist Ronald Searle, New York’s Maira Kalman and local lad Oslo Davis. They’re taped up at my eye height and I can just stop and stare at them.
I feel so grateful to have ‘my own space’ again. I can choose to be alone, have icecream on toast or watch the Great British Sewing Bee. And maybe all those simultaneously. Wishing you a coming year with many momentary islands of peace and as few ‘shoulds’ as you can be getting on with.