When we bought our house two years ago, the kitchen was painted a burnt pumpkin orange and the previous owners had installed a black, ivory and gold backsplash that, though nice, wasn’t what I would have picked. Everyone who saw the kitchen said it was pretty but it didn’t feel like home to me. It made me feel like a guest in my own house.
When you feel like a guest, you walk differently, or at least I do. I found myself sort of tip-toeing on the hardwood floors in the mornings, so as not to make too much noise. When I caught myself walking like a cat across the dining room with a cup of hot coffee, I realized something about myself: I had always made a point not to be loud or offensive. I had been tip-toeing through life, a guest in not only this house, but my own skin.
You see, I’ve always been very nice. I think somewhere along the way, I confused being kind with being nice. They are not the same. Kindness has strength behind it; a voice. It takes some courage to be kind. Niceness tip-toes. It is very, very polite. When I looked back on various situations in my life, I realized that in trying to be nice, I had made myself less. My house reflected that, too. Everywhere I looked, I saw stuff that other people said was important but maybe not important enough to keep in their own homes; knick-knacks, second-hand furniture, things out-grown by other women who called on me to be the keeper of their shadows.
When I looked around, I saw everyone but me. If I couldn’t be myself at home, what hope did I have of going out into the world as my most authentic self? How could I possibly guide my daughter to be herself when I wasn’t truly embracing my own story?
At 28-years-old, I stood in the kitchen with a mug of coffee, staring at those orange walls and tile backsplash, thinking that I wasn’t quite sure of who I was or what I liked but I knew this wasn’t it. This wasn’t me. And this ordinary morning was a critical moment in my personhood. I had to choose if I was going to spend the rest of my life being a very nice girl who collected everyone’s hand-me-downs or a strong, kind woman with a clear sense of self. It wasn’t just about the kitchen cabinets but maybe if I started there, I could figure out the rest.
I put down my coffee and started boxing up all of the knick-knacks. When they were all gone, I took a deep breath. I hadn’t realized how much clutter, both material and emotional, I had accumulated.
Then I decided I should paint the cabinets. But what color? Well, I am happiest when I am ankle-deep in ocean water. Blue. The cabinets should be blue, I thought.
So I painted my kitchen cabinets without giving a second thought to whether everyone would think I was out of my tree for having blue cabinets. Blue cabinets made me happy. There could be a foot of snow outside of our kitchen door and I’d still think of being on the beach with my babies after seeing those blue, blue cabinets.
When I walk into this kitchen, I think of that morning when I got brave enough to make a change. It could have been a terrible mess but it wasn’t and if it was, so what. What is worse? Fixing a mess or never truly blooming in your own space?
Today, I’m making another mess. I’m working on making over our fireplace with a chalk-painted mantel, a pebble surround and a planked wall. Little by little, I am finding myself in these projects. They are strengthening me. And the stronger I get, the kinder I get; I worry less about being nice and find myself growing kinder.
So, in my very best Tina Turner voice, I’ll end this post by saying that we never, ever, ever doing nothing nice and easy. (Get me that wooden spoon, will ya?)
Yeah, I left a good job in the city, do-do-do!
Working for the man every night and day!
And I never lost one minute of sleep, yeah,
Worrying ’bout the way things might have been.
Big wheels keep on turning,
Proud Manda’ keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling,
rolling on the chalk paint!
(Yeah, I went there and I’m not sorry. In fact, I think I’ll finish all of my posts with this much soul.) Have a great day, friends. Make something. Be something.