Okay, I just paid my credit card bills for the month, and my blood pressure is still within normal limits. Phew. Glad that’s over. Now it’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m in downtown Springfield. The television in the living room is still on. My friends Anne and Andy are asleep. Their three cats are God-knows-where. Most importantly, their books are organized.
My job today was to “feng shui” Anne and Andy’s bookshelf. Like me, they love books, and most of them have been piled-up in no particular order, along with several knick knacks and such, on the bookshelf in their hallway–and it’s been that way for years. Anne said, “Please help,” so I said, “Sure.” Here’s what we started with.
Okay, I thought, this might take a while. (I was right.)
The whole project took even longer than expected because I moved books and knick knacks from the living room to use in the hallway, which meant I had to redecorate the living room too. More than once I thought, I don’t know what to do, but I just took it one step at a time. First I found a bunch of colored glass bottles in the desk in the living room, pulled them out, and decided they needed to go on top of the desk so they could be seen. Then I added the glass bottles from the top of the bookshelf, and a theme became apparent–blues, greens, and browns. I didn’t take a before picture, but here’s the after. I just love it–it kind of makes me want to own things again just so I can arrange them.
The furniture in the living room is neutral–grays, wood, glass, and metal–so I kept the color on the shelves to a minimum. A little red, a little green. I placed the heavier objects (books) toward the bottom of the shelves and the “lighter” objects up top, since I didn’t want the shelves to feel like they were going to topple over. Also, I added some larger books to the coffee table because I think every coffee table needs large books. Again, no before picture, but here’s where we ended up. I didn’t put the cat on the couch, but I do think she complements everything quite nicely.
Finally I went back to the bookshelf–the original project. Shit, I thought, I just used up all the good books in the living room. What am I going to do now? So I started digging around in the guest room (my room when I’m here) and found some Raggedy Anne and Andy dolls, which I paired front and center with a Raggedy Anne book I found on the bookshelf. Then I grouped the non-fiction books together (yoga, martial arts, home decor), the fiction books together, and the vintage (old) books together. When it was all said and done, after four hours of work, here’s what happened (from a different angle because you can see better).
I don’t know if anyone else gets excited about this sort of thing, but I sure as shit do. It’s almost orgasmic to me to make everything pretty, get stuff “right where it belongs.” I mean, being anal-retentive and hyper-organized can really drive you crazy, but if there’s a benefit to being so fucking picky, this is it–you can have nice bookshelves!
This evening I helped Anne and Andy and their staff tear down from today’s wedding and set up for tomorrow’s. We swept and mopped the floor, rearranged tables and chairs, added tablecloths, and restocked the bar. (Can you imagine actually living above a fully stocked bar?) When we finished, we ate leftover cake from today’s wedding. Who knew you could get the best part of a wedding without having to attend one?
Just because it’s pretty, here’s what the cake looked like before.
Here’s what it looked like after. And no, I did not eat every piece of cake in the photo–but I did eat two of them.
This afternoon Anne said she thought it would take us four hours to tear down and set up the ballroom. Well, most everyone helping had worked plenty of times before, so I guess they had it down to a science. All the tables and chairs got moved to one side, then the floors were cleaned, then everything was moved back. One table at a time, two chairs at a time. All the while, Anne and Andy played music. I whistled. Then all of a sudden, we were done–in about two hours instead of four.
Tomorrow the couple getting married and their friends and family will take over. One by one they’ll pour into the ballroom and decorate it. One by one they’ll come back after the ceremony, eat food, drink beer, and celebrate. Before midnight, maybe two hundred people will leave the ballroom the same way they came in–one step at a time.
I suppose our entire lives are lived this way–one step at a time. We brush our teeth, we make the difficult phone call, we go the funeral, we eat two pieces of cake. (Well, some of us do.) So often I start projects like redecorating a bookshelf or writing a blog, and then I get overwhelmed and think, I don’t know what to do next. But without fail, something happens, I do something, even if it’s just scratch my head, move one blue book from here to there, or write one word. There, that’s one word that wasn’t there before.
Byron Katie teaches that most of our suffering or stress (but only all of it, she says) is caused by our believing thoughts that aren’t true. Something terrible happens–maybe someone dies–and we think, I don’t know what to do. (She asks, “Does this thought bring peace or stress to your life?” My answer: stress.) But then we cry, or eat a casserole, or get up and go to the bathroom. So the reason the thought “I don’t know what to do” is untrue is because, in the moment, you do know what to do–you’re doing it.
There’s a wisdom underneath everything that moves us and even the planets at its own infallible pace.
It seems that this is the way life progresses–moment by moment. Projects go undone for years, then one day they get finished. You live your whole life single, then one day you’re married and there’s leftover cake. We get so worked up, so stressed out about the little things, the big things in our lives. We think, I don’t know what to do. We think, I can’t wait. And yet there’s a wisdom underneath everything that moves us and even the planets at its own infallible pace. I suppose we forget that we too are like the planets, part of a larger universe that is always proceeding one step at time, never in the wrong place, everything always right where it belongs.
Quotes from CoCo (Marcus)
"If you want to become who you were meant to be, it's absolutely necessary to shed your old skin. Sure it might be sad to say goodbye--to your old phone, to your old beliefs, anything that helped get you this far--but you've got to let go in order to make room for something new."