When I was in junior high, I was obsessed with attics. Driving or walking around our small town, I would always peer up at the older houses, my heart leaping with joy when I saw a window peeking out below a steep roof.
Now the mania has subsided, but I still love houses with secret nooks and crannies. Why did I begin to crave attics at the age of 13? What is it that still pleases me so much about what modern architecture has abandoned as wasted space?
One position I take when I am coveting a beautiful room or an old-fashioned dress, or a mountain view, is to try to first of all enjoy the experience that I am having now of it, even if I don't own it. But secondly, I try to feel the experience that it is giving me and see if it points to an aspect of my inner life that can be developed further.
For example, thinking back, I know that at the age of 12 or 13, my family had just moved to a new state, and I was at the end of childhood, staring into the abyss of adulthood. Perhaps my deep yearning for attics was the concrete expression of a longing for magic and mystery, for secret passageways into the childhood world of the imagination or for a clubhouse to call my own in an unfamiliar town.
I'm not trying to psychoanalyze here and mine my childhood traumas in order to fix myself, though that can be helpful, too. I want to use this realization now. And it's empowering.
Last night I watched First Knight, a movie about Guinevere and King Arthur and Lancelot. Throughout the movie I was wishing for dresses and hair like Guinevere's, but when I saw Guinevere's room, with paintings on the walls and little arches... I can't describe it, but I wanted my house to be like that. And then I thought, what if I don't need to buy paint and remodel in order to achieve that? What if the magic of it has nothing to do with material things. Maybe beautifying my house with the means and the decorations that I have, with love, is exactly what I should be doing, not copying someone else.
And even more, maybe what I need to do is to fill my inner reality with bright windows and pictures of birds at fountains. I feel I'm not making sense. But maybe if in my heart and in my thoughts and in my attitude, there is a freshness and a beauty. Maybe if in my prayers and in my dealings with others, there is love along with hidden corners of treasure or empty corners in which to share a secret. If there is that peace and energy and faith and joy that that room conveyed to me, then I will have that room. I will live in it everyday, wherever I am.
It takes a lot to strike a balance between admiration for others and originality, between following sage advice and trusting your instincts. But I do believe that when our heart yearns for something with a pure energy and beauty, it is a sign for us. Sometimes we have to look past our immediate impulse (buying that product to make our life better, copying someone's something) and go deeper to find that inside, we already carry the magic that we seek.