Today I woke up at 7 to Frida’s gentle nudge of my hand that was hanging over the side of the bed. I let her out, then woke up again sometime before 9 to let Diego out and to feed them both. Birdie the cat met us at the door. She is the most polite so got fed last.
For three years, I’ve been living with a heavy balloon of guilt over my head. If I wasn’t working on the book, I felt I should have been—so any carefree moments have felt stolen, not taken. Today, however, I’ve chosen to do what I want to do all day long.
This is a lesson that Mexico has been teaching me. You can’t delay the good moments, because tomorrow you may not be here. Do it now. Mañana means either this morning, tomorrow or sometime in the future. You get to decide when it is. So, esta mañana, I woke up, had my smoothie and decided to try to make my house more comfortable according to what I want to do in it.
A year or two ago, I came to an interesting insight about my house—one you would think I would have done something about a long time ago; but you know, we get busy. We overlook. We make excuses. So it was that I, whose pet “house peeve” is unused spaces, had for years rarely made use of the largest space in my house—my living room.
This was the room I had expended the most time and energy in putting together, yet I used it only when company was here. My time alone was spent in the art studio below or in my bedroom where my computer setup was. Guests had described my sala (living room) as comfortable, colorful and inviting, yet to me it was a room made sad by disuse.
Then, in a flash of inspiration, I thought of a solution: a six-foot-long, one-and-a-half foot deep workbench on wheels, built out of a beautiful light wood, to put in the living room! I merely moved the couch out into the room into a more intimate arrangement with the other couch and the TV and put my workbench in front of the sliding-glass doors to the terrace. It has a matching two-foot-wide stack of drawers that are usually stowed under the table but, because they are on wheels, can also be moved out to use as an additional horizontal surface and/or to make room for another person at the work station. In the drawers are tools, paints, jewelry findings, glue and other art supplies. One drawer is devoted to computer and writing supplies. A huge slide-action commercial paper cutter sits to one side, made beautiful by means of a colorful Lacandon basket, candles and a plant that also serve to soften the effect of the blade and ruler. My laptop is in front of me, my printer sits to the side, a pull-out breadboard-like surface pulls out of the top of my drawer stack to support another laptop if I need it for research.
It is actually a perfect work environment, and I now let whole days and weeks go by without entering my studio or unpiling the chair that sits in front of my desk in the bedroom. This “new” workspace is where I’m sitting now. My view is of the lake, Colima volcano, two dogs stretched out on the patio, lots of green plants and a small kidney-shaped pool and hot tub now littered with the flowers and leaves of the Virginia creeper, bougainvillea and thunbergia vines blown by an unseasonable wind.
For the past few years, there has been an extra big chair no one ever sat in standing between the part of this room used as a dining room and the part used as a living room. It was a solitary chair, built too high to be of comfort for a lounger or reader or TV watcher; but It is a beautiful chair I couldn’t bear to part with and there was no other place in the house to put it—or so I thought.
Today, I moved that chair to my work station and it is now my work chair. I moved other objects into its place—a dining room chair, a pedestal with a sculpture on it—and then went on to rearrange three other areas of the room (including the drawers in my work bench) to make them less cluttered and more functional. I’ve spent all day doing this, but now the room feels right. I’m sitting in the chair now, giving it the respect it has never had since I first had it made. I put it on a Oaxacan rug so its metal feet don’t scratch the tile. I can put my feet up on the wooden rail at the back of the worktable and it no longer matters that the chair is too high. With a pillow at my back, it seems to be made for this task. I feel happy. I love objects that are both utilitarian and beautiful, and this chair now meets both criteria for the first time in its life.
Semana Santa (the week leading up to and including Easter) is a time when nearly everyone in Mexico takes a week-long vacation to either the seashore or a lake—and around here, the lake they go to is Lake Chapala, where I live. I can hear the sounds of Semana Santa all around me: a boombox somewhere far away, more cars driving down my street at a faster pace than usual, the voices of big families celebrating together all day and all night long, the Nazi wail of a siren announcing some church procession or visiting Virgin, dogs strange to the neighborhood barking, barking, egged-on by revelers; but not my dogs, at least—so I have no responsibility to scold.
It is so satisfactory that I have been able to spend the entire day making my home more livable without having to experience any feelings of guilt. I was slightly depressed yesterday, but I think today I’ve found the cure. Yes, do what you should do and must do, but remember also to do what you want to do!!