Building a Space for One Another – Setting the Scene of the Story
Before my children were born I created a space for them. I secured a warm home, set up a new-born bedroom. I painted and cleaned. I made quilts and chose clothing, bought story books and a baby bathtub. Acquired toys and binkies, diapers and burp cloths. We prepared a space for them to come into the world that would provide love, care, warmth, cleanliness, and learning. We created their secure base. Stay with me, we’re going to talk about the power we have to set the scene – set the stage in which our story plays out.
Stories are our lives in language. Welcome to the Love Your Story podcast. I’m Lori Lee and I’m excited about for our future together of telling stories, evaluating our own stories, and lifting ourselves and others to greater places because of our control over our stories. This podcast is about empowerment and giving you, the listener, ideas to work with in making your stories work for you. Storypower serves you best when you know how to use it.
When I was newly married, like really newly married, still unpacking boxes into our first little apartment, I was so nervous about being domestic that I called my aunt to get her opinion on if I should buy this little copper tea pot I had found at a department store in the mall. It was pretty groovy, but I wasn’t sure about creating a home. “Sure,” she said, “You are creating a home, a space for both of you. Your husband will appreciate what you build.” Okay, I thought. And I bought the teapot and I placed it on the stove. It’s hard for me to get back in that 24-year-old mind, I’m not certain what I was so nervous about, but at the time domesticity was not something I aspired to. Since then I have come to love the responsibility of creating a comfortable, clean environment that is filled with things that make me happy and have meaning to me; a place that provides safety and comfort for my children, my friends, and any family that decide to stop by. I keep the kitchen bright, the candles lit, the floors vacuumed and my selection of hot cocoa, tea and cider at the ready. I don’t have that copper teapot anymore, I’m not sure where it went. I also don’t have the nose ring I had put in when I had my first son – also an attempt to fight of domesticity. It’s been a process.
I want to talk about this subject today because I don’t think it gets talked about much. It’s something we do, some of us do it on purpose, some of us just sorta live where we’re dropped, some of us are too busy with life to focus on how we’re living, but I think purposeful living and the power that comes in creating atmosphere and place is something worth a twenty-minute conversation. It’s the basis for many of our stories– scene and set I think can make a big difference in the energy of the story, the happiness of the characters, and the delight in the space that you control.
Spaces of light or darkness
I got to the point where nesting, creating the space for my child to come into the world was rich and purposeful. But it must be noted that as the days of our lives unfolded after that initial preparation of his baby room, we still continued and continue to this day, to create space for one another. Every day it’s still going on. We have the power to create all types of spaces. Imagine spaces of creativity, possibility, spaces of love and warmth, acceptance and support. Spaces of learning and work, struggle and overcoming. Humans also create some pretty horrible spaces for each other. We so easily create spaces of stress, of unrealistic expectation, of bitterness, of revenge, of depression, of abuse, of chaos and filth, of crudeness…our options range from all the negative influences and emotions we struggle to manage, to the light-filled spaces of love, joy and possibility. Here’s the point of today’s podcast – YOU have the power to create the set your life scenes unfold in. You have the power to create a space around you that nurtures love and acceptance of the people in your life. You get to set the scene for your story. You do that in lots of ways. It’s not about money and what you can buy to surround you. Most of the really meaningful parts of creating scene are about meaning and purposeful creating. One of the first things to consider is that the things you let into your home also create those spaces of light and darkness. Media is a big one I’ll throw out for discussion. TV shows, Netflix, Cable, music, YouTube, video games– all of these things set a tone, a mood, an energy. You’ve listened to hard, crude music and you know the energy that creates. Compare that with something that creates positive energy for you. TV and movies can uplift and inspire while they can also very quickly delve into crudeness, pornography, humor that degrades and dark themes. Media has power over our moods, over our perceptions, over our life views and we also get to choose what we let into our homes and what we put in our minds. That’s not an arbitrary thing either. What goes in dictates what comes out. You want light, hope, inspiration in your daily living – make sure that’s what you put in.
The American Association for Community theater defines the set designer’s job as: All the scenery, furniture and props the audience sees at a production of a play that make up the set design. The set designer’s job is to design these physical surroundings in which the action will take place.
When a set designer begins to create the layout of the set one of the things they are doing is setting mood and atmosphere. They do this with the layout of the set as well as with the items that are chosen to be present in the set, or in other words the things we place around us. I love fresh flowers, yummy candles, books, music, and dancing. So I place these things in my living space. I buy myself fresh flowers when no one else does. I fill my house with yummy scents that make it a warm and homey place. I have book shelves with books, but I also have a chair I sit in to do most of my studying and it’s surrounded by books, notepads, highlighters, sticky pads. I make sure that my children have access to books, book shelves, library cards. My son loves music so music plays daily and we sing and dance around the house, despite the fact that most of us are in different keys. Alice Walker said, “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.” Yes….I feel that, do you?
When my children were growing up I subscribed to Kid’s National Geographic magazine for them every year. Filled with pictures of exotic animals, games, and stories they raced to the mailbox when their magazine came every month. I provided them with reading materials, games and excursions so they had positive options to choose from. This was my choice – something I actively designed and created. I think that’s where the power of this discussion comes into play—the simple realization that we have the power and responsibility to not be passive users of our space, but to create spaces around us that are filled with things that have meaning to us; that reflect our values and the values we want to pass on; that make us smile because we love that painting, that super soft couch, that chai tea that we always keep stocked in the cupboard.
I have a bulletin board built into my kitchen wall. It’s a large cork board and I put pictures up of our adventures. I change them out every season with new shots. –Early on, in my twenties, when my friends and I were setting up our homes, I noticed one friend who put pictures of herself and her husband all over the house. It wasn’t just in the living room, no from the back of the toilet there was a picture of them smiling on some beach. They were in the dining room, they were in the hallway. At the time I remember being shocked but impressed. I think it might have been her home that made me come to realize how wonderful it was to remind yourself daily of adventures and good times. I’ve continued to do this – keep pictures up—because I feel like it solidifies memories. On down days it reminds us we have good times. Sometimes the people in the pictures would be lost in a memory of the past, but since they are on our bulletin board they are more front and center in our lives. We remember the people more actively that come in and out of our lives. This is one of the ways I personalize my home.
In his TED talk, Grahm Hill, a writer and designer and the founder of LifeEdited, makes a case for the idea that simplicity in our living and our ownership of “stuff” and happiness are tied. He talks about how we have 3x the amount of space that we did 50 years ago, but that we fill it up and then branch out into storage units. He points out that our happiness levels also flat-lined in the last 50 years. Early on in his history, he sold a company for 10 million dollars. He was young and he started buying stuff to fill that void that we humans often try to fill. After awhile it started to drive him crazy, so he got rid of it all. He now lives in a super simple 420 sq. ft. apartment that uses the spaces with the precision of expert design that created it. He has fold-down beds and fold-out desks. Big windows and lots of lights set the scene that feeds him. It’s all designed to save space and minimize. Nearly every wall opens up to reveal dining tables, storage or closets. He says, “Our point is less, but better. We’re not saying no stuff, we’re saying have great stuff that’s really versatile and that you really love.”
When he said that last part it clicked with me. Back in the days of that brass pot, I was decorating a home with things that would set an image – we built log furniture and so I bought things that fit with the décor: cabin style stuff like moose candle holders and Indian blankets. But often those things had no meaning. They just matched – it was just stuff. Since then I’ve come to realize how wonderful it is when you surround yourself with things that actually have meaning to you. When the poem on the fridge is one a friend sent in a letter and it means something. When the plant on your shelf is one you rescued when a friend moved. When the pasta bowl set is one you won at a ski race not something you bought at Bed, Bath and Beyond. You get the idea. When you surround yourself with things that have meaning to you, that remind you of people and experiences that are about YOUR life, then the scene you set is all yours.
Like Grahm Hill, I’m a firm believer that less is more. Our energy is tied to the things that we own, that we have a stewardship over. Twenty years ago when we sold our house to travel around the country for a year we dumped everything in storage. No matter how far we traveled I could feel my tie to all those belongings. It might sound weird, but I could actually feel them. And every time I clean out and haul boxes to Good Will I feel a release of that energy. I think there probably is something to Grahm’s argument that simplicity and happiness are linked. At the beginning of January in episode 15: 5 Challenges for 30 Days, one of the challenges was to get rid of one thing a day for 30 days. It’s a fun way to start clearing “stuff” out that you don’t need, and if need be, replacing it with something that you really love.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on creating our living spaces. What’s worked for you? What hasn’t? Go to www.loveyourstorypodcast.com and go to the Contact Us page or leave your comments under this podcast. We can keep the discussion going.