It’s a massive category, for sure, but in this big, broad world of comforting “things”, what would you say generally brings you the most comfort?
I’ve been thinking about it (comfort) recently, because it’s another one of those things that keeps me here, and when I say keeps me here, I mean “encourages me to remain an active participant in life.” It takes effort to die, you know… it takes time, thought, and energy to kill yourself prematurely, but it takes a lot more effort to continue living, so why do we do it? What entices us to willingly and thoughtfully CHOOSE to stay here?
We’re arbitrarily born, but then something causes us to remain here, in these bodies, on this earth… molded by seemingly senseless and undeserved sets of predetermined talents, faults, preferences and circumstances that we inexplicably find ourselves bound up with. Why? Why stay?
I’ve boiled it – the motivating factors for my active participation in life – down to a few (times two — four) “top reasons”:
- People. I both love and abhor them. That makes sense, doesn’t it?
- Animals. They are the most magical creatures on this planet, and I ONLY love them.
- Art. From reading and writing to music and nature, I adore creative expression.
- Curiosity. I love meeting new experiences, gaining new knowledge, and going on adventures… why dip out early when that would mean missing out on SO much?
And recently, after hitting the 2-month mark of grieving Bruster’s death, I’ve been mulling over the subject of comfort. When I’m sad, or stressed, and WANTING to dip out early, what (or who) do I seek comfort from? What is comfort, and what does being comforted mean?
Comfort (n): a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint.
Comfort (v): the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress.
We all basically knew that, but sometimes, it’s nice to examine the phrases lying underneath a word.
Personally, I find comfort in…
- Adventures (from biking to and from my favorite little coffee shops to venturing into the Midwest and partaking in edibles solo, getting out of the house and my own mind affords a tremendous amount of emotional and spiritual relief)
And, as minute as they sound, I’ve noticed (5) little things around the home that have also added to my level of comfort recently:
- storage cubbies
- a water pitcher
- a coat rack
- personalized wall art
So… working from the top to the bottom of the list, what on earth have storage cubbies done in terms of soothing my soul?
#1: storage cubbies
I first spotted them about 6-8 weeks ago while perusing wares inside of What’s on Second (one of my favorite antique shops in Birmingham). The owner — a gentleman with white hair and sparkling eyes — had them piled on top of each other in the display window and was featuring other “for sale” items on and in them. I usually visit his shop with the objective of finding a cool black or chrome ring, some kind of Doctor Pepper memorabilia (I don’t drink the stuff, but it reminds me of Bobby), or a rare treasure for one of my closest friends, but when I saw the cubes, my attention was instantly diverted.
I stepped closer to them and located the price tag; $25? That’s not bad AT ALL, I marveled. I approached the front counter and told the owner I was interested in them.
“They’re so cool! Where did you find these things?”
“The old Parisians!” he divulged proudly.
“Ahhhh… neato! And is it $25 for… the whole set?” I asked hopefully.
“Oh, no — $25 a piece,” he clarified.
“Oh, okay!” I nodded cheerfully, slightly bummed. It made sense, though; they were REALLY cool cubes. I did the math in my head; buying one would seem silly, and two would, somehow, seem inadequate, but leaving with three would cost…
You cannot blow seventy-five bucks on some storage cubbies. Go to Target and find some five or ten dollar equivalent of them, an inner, critical, boring me commanded.
Obedient to the voice, I told the owner I’d think on it and left.
A month later, I was STILL thinking about those cubes. It’s funny — the ridiculous things my mind chooses to fixate on: rocketship-shaped trashcans and vintage cubbies. ?
So I re-entered What’s on Second one Saturday morning and, to my delight, all of the cubes were still there. I greeted the owner, propped my elbows on the counter, and raised my eyebrows at him. “So… I definitely want to purchase some of those cubes, AND I was wondering: If I were to buy two or three of them (instead of just one), would there be any kind of discount?”
He pursed his lips and squinted his eyes, deep in thought.
“If not, it’s totally cool… I’d still wa–”
“If you bought three, I’d discount the price to $20/piece.”
“REALLY? Awesome!” I exclaimed. “I’ll take three, then!”
I left with three cool cubes, positioned them in the hallway at home, and then – not feeling entirely complete as a human being – asked Charlie to return the following week. “If they’re still there, please buy two more and I’ll pay you right back!” I texted.
When I got home that evening, there they were; two more ridiculously fly vintage cubes.
“Did he remember me?” I asked Charlie curiously as I was stuffing a pair of shoes into my new storage unit.
“Oh yeah! He said that few people have the imagination to appreciate things like the storage cubes, but that you did.”
His compliment surprised me. “Huh! The imagination…”
What I like about the cubes: The colors are fantastic, the shapes are so totally retro, and they add a fun and cheerful burst of color to the hallway. I look at them every morning when I’m leaving for work, and then again each evening after returning home. I like having a place to store my shoes, but I also like the place itself. My shoes have a home, and so do I.
Plus, I can put ANYTHING I WANT on top of the highest storage cube! A candle, a plant, a box of cereal…
#2: a water pitcher
I always bring a glass of water to bed with me, and every night, I worry that – in the dark, later on, when I’m reaching FOR the glass – I’m going to accidentally knock it over and spill water all over my phone and other writing desk contents.
“We should get a pitcher of some kind,” Charlie suggested one day, and it was another idea that my mind randomly decided to fixate on.
“YES — a water pitcher. That will solve all of life’s problems!” I agreed wholeheartedly.
So I stopped into Brass Bear late this Saturday afternoon and discovered this beauty tucked away in a corner. I brought it home, Googled “how to clean pewter”, and after an interesting apple cider vinegar-wheat flour-salt bath, it’s enjoying its re-purposed role as Jace’s Favorite Water Pitcher.
How does possessing this water pitcher calm my spirit? Welcoming it into the casa has achieved three things:
- I no longer worry about my cellular device flooding and destructing in the night,
- The nozzle on the pitcher is perfectly shaped for watering the plants in my room, and
- The process of pouring water into a cup has become sooooooooooo muchhhhhhhhhh FUN.
#3: the coat rack
I spent five months searching for the right coat rack. I am not kidding. That’s about as much time as people spend looking for a house, or a partner, and meanwhile – as reasonable folks were contemplating these critical life decisions – I was deliberating over which coat rack was right for me.
I have a strong preference for buying clothes and furniture secondhand (for a few different reasons; a. the pieces are usually more interesting and durable, b. they’re priced well, and c. I love the idea of using/wearing something that has someone else’s memories embedded into it), so I visited thrift shops and antique stores and Craigslist posts weekly in pursuit of my ideal coat rack: one that was minimalist and chrome.
And I had NO luck. Damn all of those wooden coat racks!
“Have you tried Amazon?” Charlie asked one afternoon.
“Amazon? Ehhhhh,” I grumbled. “I’ll check it out, I guess.”
And guess what? Turns out, my ideal, soulmate of a coat rack was $89 and, to my honest disappointment, brand spankin’ new.
And what, exactly, does the coat rack do for me, emotionally-speaking? It welcomes me home each evening, and bids me goodbye each morning.
Evening: “Hey, Jace! Nice to see you! Let me take your coat.”
Morning: “Have a great day, Jace — don’t forget your coat!”
I like feeling welcome, and it’s important to me to feel like I belong. I feel like such an outsider in this world, and sometimes, that Amazonian coat rack is friendlier and nicer to me than many of the humans I interact with.
#4: personalized wall art
When Chris and I married and leased an apartment together, we furnished it sparsely, accepting donations of scrap pieces of furniture from family members and church friends rather than purchasing our own. Instead of wasting money decorating, we figured we’d save up for a down payment on a car, a down payment on a house, and fun, “indestructible” Kong toys for Bruster.
When we moved into our first house, though, we decided to invest a bit more of ourselves into the place, and as far as wall decor was concerned, we were about as basic with it as everyone else: cliche wall hangings from Bed, Bath and Beyond and World Market covered the walls. I just finished donating these unwanted items earlier this year.
Since our split and the beginning of my “creative makeover of the home” initiative, I have painted the walls colors I like and then hung on those colored walls pieces of art that I thought were neat and thought-provoking. The living room walls, however, I chose to leave bare.
“I’ve got two gray frames sitting out in the garage,” I told Charlie last December. “They used to hold generic printouts from Michael’s — with one picture reflecting two trees in a body of water, and the other displaying a sterile shot of a Eucalyptus leaf.” I rolled my eyes. “MY plan is to take lots of cool and fun pictures while I’m in Colorado, and then to blow up my absolute favorite shot.”
“That sounds wonderful! What about the other frame?”
“I already have a picture chosen for that one — the image of the girl in New York.”
And here they are — my pictures on the walls.
How do the pictures help? Before settling onto the couch and tuning into Master of None, Broadchurch, or Parks and Rec, I look up at these pictures late at night (aka at 7:00 PM) and remember the adventures I’ve gone on. They conjure good memories, remind me that I should be more confident and trusting of myself, and challenge me to go on new adventures. Win, win, win.
About three years ago, Chris brought a plant home from Whole Foods… one that the company was, apparently, going to throw away. I was delighted.
He set it up in the nook upstairs and, while I remembered to water it occasionally, he was mostly responsible for it staying alive.
When he left in December of 2015, he took electronics and music gear and clothing with him. We sold the furniture and split the profit. I kept my clothes, my two guitars, an outer space painting some friends from New York had painted, and Bruster… and the plant.
He found a girlfriend (one I wasn’t at all impressed with) and, when she came by the house late one evening, she pointed out a few things she liked to Chris.
The next day, he was asking me if he could have the purple tapestry in the old master bedroom — one we’d purchased from Urban Outfitters.
“Sure,” I shrugged.
“She likes it,” he explained.
And then, within another day or so, he asked if he could take the plant. She liked it, too.
I expertly concealed my sadness. “Sure… just come by and grab it whenever you have some time.”
But don’t you remember bringing that plant home for ME? I wanted to scream at him.
They broke up so quickly after pairing up that he never did swing by to grab the plant, and I was so happy. I began watering it and enjoyed looking at it now and then, as I passed by it in the hallway.
In the spring, I asked Charlie to move it outside. “I think it will enjoy the fresh air and sunshine,” I surmised.
And it seemed to, but the day Bruster escaped the fence and got killed by the piece of shit motherfucker in my neighborhood, he left a strange parting gift for me: a destroyed plant. He tore off its leaves and bit at its delicate stalks, leaving the plant upturned in the middle of the yard. He’d never touched it before.
The plant was painful to look at. It seemed completely appropriate to just toss it and move forward with life — clean the yard up, and buy another plant that didn’t have such poignant memories attached to it — but I couldn’t bear to… instead, I asked Charlie to bring it back inside.
“Okay! We’ll put it back into the pot and mix in some good soil,” he offered kindly.
The plant is now perched beside the open window in my room, and guess what? Its stalks are growing new, bright green leaves. The plant was, for a good minute there, pretty broken, but not beyond repair… like most of us are, or will be, at some point (or at multiple points) in our lives.
The plant… helps you feel better? Are you sure it isn’t just a depressing reminder of Chris and Bruster?
There are times when the plant can make me feel sad, serving as a reminder of the ghostly companions I’ve lost, but more often, it’s a comforting friend to me. The plant is mending, like I am, and on gentler days, it reminds me that I was lucky enough to experience the unique loves of a wonderful best friend and an absolutely magical dog in this lifetime. They’re no longer with me, and while that is sad, it’s also okay; we’ve simply parted ways. Chris is continuing on with his journey, I’m learning to navigate mine, and Bruster has moved onto some other expression of life… I hope he cries less in this one. 🙂
So, in conclusion, if you haven’t already, try to strategically position cheerful items in your home. Things that will remind you of the good times behind and ahead, and that will remind you that
- you are an authentic being, BURSTING with creative potential,
- you are fun (and useful),
- you are welcome in this world,
- you’re on an ENDLESS and unpredictable adventure, and
- you are always capable of healing, and when you allow yourself to heal, you become a brave and bright beacon of hope to those around you.