I often explain, as I welcome someone new into our home, “Welcome to the Gaxclan, we are loud here, but the love is big.”
My husband Mark and I have two children and in addition to those wonderful kids, we have welcomed many bonus children into our home. Some of those young people come only for a night or two and many, many others — be it through foreign-exchange or a need for a soft place to fall longer term — participate in making this house a home of wildly varied personalities. Everyone is welcome to express themselves freely, to be exactly who they are here.
Last year, there were three young people living in the house, aging 18 – 22. They were living their lives in that bridge-time between being a kid and an adult where voicing their preferences is a big part of claiming their identities, and my house had become a cacophony of pop, rap, YouTube snippets enthusiastically shared with one another, computer games and the staccato of laughter and debate. The three of them were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing: living LOUDLY. But I felt I could not get a thought in edgewise and I desperately needed to escape the noise from time to time. In our sprawling, open-concept, mid-century-ranch-style home there really is no place to get away.
My master bedroom has no door (yup, that can pose some challenges with intimacy, but that’s another article) and is accessed by an open stairwell off the living room. While upstairs, you have a visual break from downstairs as there is no direct line of sight to the living room, but there is NO promise of privacy and NO buffer from the sound of whatever is going on downstairs. Going “up to my room” never really offers privacy or peace and quiet.
In desperation, I got creative.
Like a cartoon ‘lightbulb moment’ during an evening I seriously thought I would lose my mind to the noise, I thought of the one space at my disposal that had a door I shut behind me: a storage closet above the stairs that lead to the Master Bedroom. A space just tall enough for me to stand in, but I could not take refuge there as the closet was filled to the brim with boxes, and luggage, and overflow mementos… but if I sorted out what we still needed and shuffled all those items into space I had plenty of in the garage I would have 30 square feet to myself!
Weird, but workable.
I spent about a week sorting and storing the contents of the closet and then had a contractor friend remove the shelves, patch up the drywall, run in electrical and, bless his heart, put in a window that he had ordered for another job and not needed. That small window looks out over the roof of our home and into the trees and green space beyond it, and offered an inspiring scene of the birds in those trees, rather like being in a nest with a birds-eye-view. I knew, from the first look out that window, that I had found my place for peace and quiet, and inspiration, the place where I sit writing this, to you all.
I painted the room rose gold with a combination of pinks and copper and metallic gold. The effect is one that might overwhelm a larger space but in my 30 square foot ‘nest’ gives off a comforting glow that my daughter described as “womb like.” I felt a freedom to personalize this room in a way I never would a shared space in the house, and I gave in to the desire for the feminine and brought in florals and flourishes that I had not thought to decorate with since I merged my life with Mark 30 years ago. I laughed out loud, seeing for the first time, the allure of a ‘Man-Cave’ and ‘She-Shed’ as a need for a space that is not a compromise but rather a balls-out claiming of a space for one’s own pleasure.
My nest holds my computer, my stationary, my private papers and endless promise.
I am liberated. I matter enough to myself to claim something FOR myself.
My husband was, and remains, very supportive of my efforts to create a space for myself and I wonder now if he saw that in my taking a step toward reclaiming MYSELF. I would be one step closer to uncaging the woman he fell in love with and married, but had pretty much lost 22 years ago to the round the clock job of mothering our children. He loves, admires and supports both the woman and the mother, and I am very grateful for that.
My kids were initially insulted and maybe a little resentful of the time, space and resources that I was dedicating to just me. I know that is natural and I rode it out with them as I have to own that I brought that on myself, having never before showed my family that I would go to any length to indulge my own needs. Their learning curve, and mine, was steep and we are still figuring out how to accept one another as adults.
I know that few women reading this will have a small storage closet to convert into a nest for themselves, but I urge you all to claim something.
Take up some space. You deserve it.