For the past few weekends, my husband and I have worked on updating our den. This is a project six years in the making. Way back in 2005 we started planning for this room. I wanted the den to be bold. I wanted the den to be red. We started collecting color chips and taping them to the wall. After much back and forth about which shade we liked, my husband bought the paint. For one reason or another, it wasn’t the right time to get started. So I went about buying other items for the den -- a decorative mirror, a wood curtain rod, sheers and curtains -- and squirreled them away.
A few weeks ago, we decided it was finally time to paint. I excitedly told a friend about our plans for the room. I described the burgundy red paint and the silver mirror with small, vining red flowers. Imagine my shock when we opened the paint and saw an orange red like the color of creamy tomato soup. We pulled out the mirror. The flowers were actually geometric designs consisting of red bars with a circle in the middle. No vines anywhere. Apparently over the years my memory of these items had morphed.
How like life that is. As we deal with struggles like bills, job stresses, relationship issues and parenting challenges, it is easy to fondly recall a different time and place in our life. The desire to return to that point can distract us from our present, sometimes to the extent that we make ourselves miserable in the here and now. There are times I long for the carefree days of my youth, when my parents handled all the bills. I miss my hourly job as a cashier that I had as a college student. I wish my kids were still infants so I could enjoy baby cuddles once more.
But were those times really that good? If we are honest with ourselves, even the wonderful times were not perfect. Being a youth at home meant power struggles as I moved toward independence and my parents wanted to maintain strict rules. My cashier job gave me spending money but would never allow me to live on my own. Having infants also meant sleepless nights and comforting crying babies who did not understand what was happening around them and could not tell me what they needed.
As we look back, we tend to minimize the bad parts and amplify the good. The energy we spend reminiscing keeps us stuck in today’s problems. Bottom line: The past was not always perfect and the present is not usually as bad as we think.
It took four coats of paint to evenly cover the den walls. I had my doubts but once the paint dried, the color was beautiful. The mirror looked great. A watercolor we’d had for years complemented the bold wall.
We’re not done yet. There are some minor repairs to make. We still have to hang the curtains and purchase a few accessories. The den is not the room I imagined six years ago. It’s not even the room I imagined six weeks ago. But I’ve accepted that I won’t have that room. Instead, I have fallen in love with the den I have today.
Charlotte Ehney has served as the President of the Greenwood Writer’s Guild from 2009 to the present. She is a participant in the Greenwood Poetry Circle. She received an Honorable Mention for her short story “The Game” in the 77th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition (Genre Category) and an Honorable Mention in the Fifth Annual Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards for the story “Full Circle”. Her poems “The Prophet” and “Bedfellows” were displayed at the Greenwood Arts Center during the month of June 2010. Charlotte’s poems have appeared in the column “Birthing the Writer Mother” on LiteraryMama.com and in Thump magazine.