I look around my room. It’s not the largest of rooms but I fit into it – just barely some days, when my clothing spills from the closet and my books pile onto the floor – but I fit. It is never sparkling clean but I am learning that I am not that person. As a young adult my mother would always tell me how tidy I was (and I suppose my natural inclination is cleaner than hers) and thus I gained the reputation of being a tidy person. For a long time, whenever my room was a mess I felt enormous guilt for not being ‘true to myself’, but I have learnt that there are many variations of tidy. My version lies in the range of what I call a comfortable clean.
Right now my room is on the messier side of comfortable. My clothes are all in their place, except the pile in front of my closet where I left the latest culls from the depths. My desk has only one pile of paper on it, left-overs from the school year. My bed isn’t made and has a pair of jeans at the foot, jeans I need to alter before I wear. Above my head are shelves that need dusting. They are dressed with about a third of my book collection. I miss all of the books that are lying dormant and unused in my parent’s tool shed. I want to bring them all here with me where they belong, being used and loved and read.
There are pictures scattered about my room, both in frames and stuck on my wall with sticky tack. The faces of my friends and family look down at me, while my man looks out from the many photos I’ve collected of him in the past eleven months, surrounded by pieces of paper with hand written quotes on them. Quotes from people like Leo Tolstoy and Frederich Buechner are side by side with fridge magnet poems I needed to immortalize and phone numbers for my brothers, the fortune cookie fortune I got one night that read, “Character is what you know you are, not what others think you have” (to which I added ‘in bed’ because that’s what you add to the end of fortune cookie fortunes). I have opening night cards, notes of encouragement and old theatre tickets, a reception invitation and comic strips that make me laugh. There’s a note from my love, a simple note – “Hope you had a nice day!, Love S.” – that showed up in my room for no reason one day, accompanied by a box of chocolate.
My sunscreen sits on my dresser beside my makeup, looking a little out of place since I only brought it out two days ago. A few stray hair pins make the dresser look cluttered, and a pencil that looks like it was carved out of a tree lays beside a candle holder, which for some reason makes me think of campfires.
In a vase there is a dried white rose that S. gave me almost a year ago, beside the box that the chocolate arrived in before I ate it all and a bottle cap from one of his beers that I picked up months ago and stuck into my backpack where it sat forgotten before I cleaned it out in a strange fit of detailed cleanliness two days ago. I look up and see the covers of the CDs he has bought me and I listen to the music that I have on my computer because he let me rip his music onto my computer, music I would never have heard of if he hadn’t come into my life.
My room is a reflection of myself, perhaps more deeply than I realize. Not perfect, like my thirteen-year old self so desired to be, with such a strong desire that I spent hours crying, wishing I was dead so that my search for perfection, my struggle for that unachievable goal could be over. Not clean, like my teenage self believed I needed to be, living up to a reputation that didn’t belong to me, a reflection of someone else that I was nevertheless striving to match. It is private, only opened up to a select invited few. Only a few people can enter at their whim and even then they knock.
It is filled with things that tell you who I am – what I fill my closet with shows how I see my body, a beautiful, sensual entity, filled with an overwhelming desire that I am discovering anew every day, and yet comfortable and able to move without restriction, elegant, young and full of life. What I read reveals my vivid imagination, my childlike love of fairy tales and my belief in the magic of the world, my desire to find hope and light in a world that often only offers darkness and despair. What I listen to informs my flexible changing emotional life, with music to feed my secret rage, my unconscious energies, my happiness and my melancholies. The trinkets I hang on to tell a story of a sentimental girl and a sacramental woman, relics of moments that I keep forever engraved in my memory.
It is filled with things that show you what is important to me – pictures of the people that I love, the people who I have risked with and opened myself up to. Words that inform what I believe and how I try to live. Images that have stuck with me for reasons even I cannot articulate. People who I admire, poetry that resonates in my soul, icons that feed spirit beside tools that keep my body tended to.
I sit, surrounded, and write and wonder how my room has shown my nature throughout my life. If I had a snapshot of my bedroom in every year of my life, would they show the change that accompanies growing up? Can a room capture the innocence of childhood, the confusion of adolescence, the settling of adulthood? What would change and what would stay the same? As I came into my own would my room mirror my journey into authenticity? Would there always be some hint of the real Rebecca even in the years where I was trying so hard to be someone else?
My room has always been there, a solid tangible place that I could retreat to, a place of safety where I could rest and find myself again in the confusion of growing up.
Sometimes having a place where I can go to simply breathe is all that keeps me, the deepest rooted part of who I am, alive. I am suddenly filled with a deep gratitude for this room that feels alive with so much of my soul, like a part of me, like a reservoir for who I am. I once explained my journals as a bowl into which I pour my memories so that I don’t have to hang onto them in my head anymore, an image I picked up from a world of magic I entered in one of my many books. Now I see my room as another bowl, into which I put the parts of myself that I cannot carry with me, the parts that I need to spread out so I can see them, name them and understand them clearly.
Maybe I’m crazy. For now I simply breathe and feel grateful for my craziness and the calm it brings me.