“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” –Pierce Brown, Golden Son
Every year, I pledge to spend more time outdoors. In my quest to fine-tune everything about my life as I have aged, I have come to realize that being outside just hits all the right buttons for me. It calms me. It energizes me. It inspires me. Quite simply, it fills up my soul with all kinds of beautiful light. As I have become more aware of this magic, I have increasingly made these pledges to put myself out there more often, to find the fresh air and let it do its thing upon my spirit. I don’t have to do much—though I do love the action—but rather just be in it. Just be in “the room where it happens,” so to speak, though that magical room is no room at all. In fact, it is everything that a room is not: unbound, uncontained, limitless. For me, there is nothing better than to feel limitless.
So, I make myself promises and plans to get out more, to allow fewer excuses for staying inside. I do it in every season, even in the terribly long, dark, and cold Winters of Minnesota. Those are tough every year (though I did better this time around). I do it in our brief Autumn and Springtime, too, trying to squeeze every last little bit of warmth out of the season before Winter and then trying to make up for lost time by immediately pouncing on any early Spring day that offers a glimmer of Hope in the way of sunshine (or even just relatively little wind). I mine it for all it is worth.
But my season is Summer. I love the warm air filling up my lungs, the light breeze caressing my cheeks. I love the heat, and I love the shade. Summer does it all for me. So, of course, that is when I really crank up the demands regarding the fresh air. I want to be outside all day long! I feel pent-up if I am not. That fresh air is like a drug that I want more and more of.
Alas, living in this Land of 10,000 Bodies of Stagnant Water, my Summer outdoor hours have always been limited by my least favorites creatures in all of Creation: mosquitoes. I loathe mosquitoes. Earnestly, passionately loathe them. Aside from the buzzing, pestering nuisance in the moment, the disgusting smell of repellant, and the bites that make me itch nonstop for several days afterwards (and make my children swell up like fleshy melons on their skin)—each awful in its own right—it is their very direct role in keeping me indoors during my season that incites my greatest hatred. But it is more than hatred. It is resentment. I resent that they are keeping me from what my heart and mind know to be rightfully mine. I belong in that enchanting night air. It is my element. Each breath is like food to my soul. To be denied that has always felt disturbingly wrong to me at a cellular level. It is the one aspect of Summer that leaves me feeling contained, and my finicky soul cannot abide by that. I am not to be bound. My happiness depends upon it.
All these years, I have been vaguely aware of this but have felt helpless to do anything about it. I have placated myself by spending as much daylight time as possible outside. I have even gone from being a natural night owl to an early riser so I can be up and out in the early part of the day in order to capture more of it, thereby tiring myself out by the time darkness arrives so I can tell myself I am not missing much indoors. I guess that deep down, though, I have known all along. I still feel that longing for the cooling air of night, the sounds of the insects, the shine of the moon, and the faint glimmer of starlight high above suburbia. It has become clear that I will not feel completely at Peace and at home unless I can bridge that gap to carefree fresh air at any hour.
At my childhood home, we used to have a back deck on the second level with a shabby concrete patio underneath. In later years, my parents put some walls up and screened the large window spaces, making a three-season porch with a big hammock inside. I spent every Summer night reading and writing in that hammock, basking in the intoxicating nighttime air. It was glorious. I have longed for its equivalent ever since.
Well, a few decades later and ten years after living in my current house, I am finally about to get my wish. My wonderful, tenacious researcher of a wife, after begrudgingly submitting to the idea that she is stuck living in the cold of Minnesota until her kids are grown, has become determined to do Life in this house right. So, rather than hide inside from the mosquitoes with me and miss her beautiful Summer evenings, she found the one contractor who could screen in our entire deck–sides and roof–creating an outdoor living room. Fresh air, views of the night sky, all the sounds of nature, but without those evil mosquitoes hunting our blood when the sun begins to set. I had spotted a house with one of these screen rooms a few years ago and have been fantasizing about it ever since. I even asked the guy who owned it, but he had no information, and I didn’t think we would ever make the investment anyway, even if we could find someone to design and build it. But here we are, deep in discussion. The designs are done, and if all goes well with the weather gods and contractors and such, it will be built before the swarms of mosquitoes arrive for the season. Did I mention my wife is wonderful?
I daydream about it all the time now. I picture myself typing away on my laptop while lying on my hammock under the stars, listening to the crickets. I envision game nights by the fire table with family and friends. I see my wife and I sharing a quiet evening with our books and the fresh air. I imagine outdoor sleepovers with the kids under the full moon. Did I mention that there are no mosquitoes in any of these visions? Only Peace, Joy, and Freedom. Limitless.
This screen room fits me like a glove. I haven’t even been in it yet, but whenever I think about it, I feel the biggest grin spread all the way across my face. It is a contented grin, a satisfied one, like, “Yes, this hits the spot.” I laugh, as it reminds me of the sappy old line from Jerry Maguire: “You complete me.” Maybe it’s sad to say that about some aluminum posts and a bunch of screen, but hey, I feel it. It’s a game-changer in the way I feel about my home.
I am always looking for little things that I can insert into my daily existence that rub my soul the right way. I want not only the things that I do in Life to resonate with my heart and mind; I want the things I touch, the things I see, the spaces I occupy to hit me there, too. I know it when I feel it. I am talking about resonance: that which “rings true” to my very essence when its chord is struck. So I test things out, and when something feels like me—like me at Peace—I adopt it. I make it part of my home, part of my world. Part of me.
Obviously, it would be great to have an unlimited bank account so I could buy anything I want any time I felt that pull. After all, in my experience, luxury items tend to feel pretty darn good. Intoxicating, even. But that is not my financial reality. I have to operate within my realm, and I am pretty cheap by nature, anyway. So the screen room is a huge deal for me, budget-wise and Peace-wise. It is a game-changer—and I want to believe it is going to be worth it in the long run—but it is not the kind of soul booster I can treat myself to very often.
With that in mind, I seek out the little items and little ways make my space feel more homey to my whole being. I have hundreds of family photos on my walls; I enlarge the ones I especially love. I hang other Nature photos I have taken; they remind me of my favorite places and my joy in creating. I drink my tea and hot chocolate out of only a couple of mugs of a certain style that feels right in my hand and right to my eye; the same with my water cup. I only like to hold certain types of pens and pencils. I keep just the right configuration of pillows around my body in my bed. I like my towel to be a certain color and texture. When I get a say in paint color for rooms I will spend time in, I use that resonation test. I own multiple hammocks and an anti-gravity chair (and someday a plush recliner), so much do I prefer to recline rather than sitting upright. I have a certain spoon I use to eat my ice cream, nothing like the spoons I use the rest of the day. All of these selections are things that just feel right to me. In a way, I suppose they are my method of treating myself in almost every moment of the day. Not in a fancy way, but in a catered-to-my-soul’s-care way.
They are my idiosyncratic ways of making my space mine, and I am guessing that you couldn’t find another person with strong feelings about all of the same things that move the needle for me (an ice cream spoon?). Everyone has different things that their soul latches onto, different ways that bring Peace in through their senses. I can imagine people for whom it might be a spice organizer. A desk. Drapes of a certain color or fabric texture. A fitness room (or corner of a room). A meditation spot or religious shrine. Throw pillows. Floor-to-ceiling book shelves. Framed quotes. A compost bin. Great sheets. A fruit tree. Surround sound. Special light fixtures or cabinet pulls. Hardwood floors. Exposed brick. A double oven. A change of stain color on the trim. Glassware. A wet bar. A ping pong table. A certain blanket. House plants. A dressing table. A solid, sharp kitchen knife. Family heirlooms. The perfect chair. A reading nook. A workshop. On even the smallest of budgets, the options are truly endless.
I hope your space is filled top-to-bottom with things that make you feel the way my visions of the screen room are making me feel. Even though I said it will complete me, I have no doubt that I will keep searching for more, keep fine-tuning all of the spaces my life touches to make them simultaneously invigorate and calm me. Maybe by the time I have it all right, it will be time for me to retire to the beach (the right beach, of course, with the right lounge chair and the right towel, the right sunglasses)! Something tells me I will continue this soul quest until the day I die.
How about you? How can you make your living spaces resonate more with your soul? Open up your journal and take a walk through your home. Which parts of it feel the most homey to your senses? Do the staple items in your sleeping space—sheets, pillows, blankets, lighting, wall color, and art—make you want to snuggle right in every time you enter the room? Is your pillow special to you? Does your configuration of blankets and pillows feel like it is custom-tailored to your sleeping style, or is it pretty generic? What could you change to make it more welcoming and restful, more personal? How about in your bathroom? Does your toothbrush make you want to brush your teeth (mine does)? Do you have certain towels that make you feel specially cared for? Does your shower space—and the products in it—bring you Peace? Does the light feel right to you? Would a dimmer switch provide a level of control and variety that better suits your particular tastes and moods? Is there a certain level of cleanliness beyond which you become agitated? How well do you do at keeping it in the comfortable zone? Does your kitchen suit you? Are there specific dishes or utensils that are your favorites? Is there a specific small appliance that is a special treat for you (e.g. a blender, an espresso machine, a waffle iron)? Do you enjoy hanging out in your kitchen, whether for cooking or socializing? Are your cabinets and walls the right color for you? How about your family room or living room, wherever you are most likely to lounge and read or watch television? Do you have a special spot? What makes it yours? Do you nap there also? How does the texture of the furniture affect you? Is there another space in the house that you feel especially at home in (e.g. an office, a guest room, a workout or meditation space)? What makes that place soothing to your soul, beyond just what you do in there? Is it the seating? The color? The light? The décor? How about your outer spaces? Do you have a patio or deck? Are they happy places for you like they are for me? Do you have special lounge chairs or a hammock that are your jam? How about a fire pit or table? What could you add to make it more meaningful to you? Do you have a yard? If so, are you happy there? What is your favorite thing about your outside space? A certain tree or garden? The grass? The view? What connects it to your essence? In all of your home space, what is the biggest splurge item you have purchased just because it feels good to you each time you interact with it? What is the simplest thing that deeply resonates with you but that other people might not even notice or care about? Which colors give you the best feelings? How does light affect your experiences? Are textures important to you (e.g. sheets, towels, furniture, flooring, utensils, etc.)? Is there something specific that really stirs your soul (like my fresh air)? Does your home and the way your currently use give you enough of that special ingredient? How can you infuse more of your home life with it? If someone you care about visited your home for the first time, do you think they could feel your energy in its different spaces? Can you? Leave me a reply and let me know: How can you make your home touch more of your soul?
Live in Peace,
P.S. If today’s letter resonated with you, please share it. Let’s care for ourselves by being true to ourselves!
P.P.S. If this way of digging deep into your life to find out what makes you tick feels right to you, consider buying my book, Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth, at your favorite online retailers.