It started with a red table. I was online browsing outdoor furniture when this little wrought iron side table caught my eye. I surprised myself when I added it to my cart and was even more impressed when I actually purchased the thing. The color scheme in my home can be broadly summed up with one word: white. My floors, walls, sofas, kitchen cabinets…all white. My sheets, white. Countertops, tile work, bookshelf, you guessed it, white. Sure, the kitchen table is black, the den rug features a gray gradient, and there’s a smattering of natural wood and brown leather, but white is by far the predominant color. (Feel free to check my Instagram if you’d like more assurance.)
I bring up décor a fair amount on this blog. For some it might seem misplaced since the overarching topic here is better described as chronic illness, healing, or maybe even the illusive wellness. I’ve come to learn, however, that our lives and our physical states are not separate entities. Where I stand, medically speaking, is entwined with my mental health, my social life, and every other facet of who I am, and that is all reflected in my home. From how clean and organized it is (or isn’t) to the throw pillows on my sofas, the physical space I occupy is a mirror image of where I stand.
I didn’t realize this connection until I began working with a shaman. She helped me see that I was using my white, pristine home to feel a false semblance of control over a life to which I fell victim. At the time, I didn’t understand what exacerbated my symptoms, and I didn’t know what I could do to feel better. I’m a person who likes to have a firm grasp on life, however, so I put all this energy into compulsively regulating my environment. I created a space that calmed me because I didn’t yet know how to achieve that feeling on my own. I carefully curated a personal haven when I wasn’t sure where else to turn.
Whenever someone entered my home for the first time I could practically predict their reaction. The intentionally under decorated, clutter-free, and monochromatic design wasn’t what they expected, and whether they liked it or not they often commented. “Wow, your place is so peaceful/chill/calm!” And, in case the visual impact was insufficient, the smell of essential oils that I frequently diffuse provided the second hit I needed to convince them that I was peaceful/chill/calm. The truth was, however, that I wasn’t any of those things. Hell, I’m still not. I don’t think anyone who knows me would ever use one of those words to describe me. But conveying that inaccurate vibe was important not only to convince others that I had everything under control when I did not, but also to trick myself into believing that everything was fine.
I don’t need that artificial assurance anymore, however, at least not to that extent. Generally speaking, I’m calmer, more at peace with my health, and, dare I say, happier than I was a year ago. And if I didn’t realize it on my own, it would be difficult to ignore the various ways that color is working its way back into my life. The multihued spines of my books are now outward facing on the shelf rather than backwards so that I only see the white pages. I own articles of clothing in colors other than white, black, gray, and navy. I planted a garden and now see flowers and green from my windows rather than the faded brick that was there before.
And then, of course, there’s that little red table. Sure, the chairs flanking it are teak, and the decorative pillows (on backorder) feature black and white stripes, but you can’t expect me to change everything overnight. What would be the fun in that?