My favorite stories are the ones where thwarted women triumph. They are betrayed, but with the help of good friends, and by changing their surroundings, they find even more love and fulfillment than they thought possible. Is there a happier ending? I think I’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun about twenty times for this exact reason!
It just so happens that in Seattle’s Capitol Hill, one of those stories just unfolded.
But first, get cozy and rewind 15 years and you’ll see me ripping open a package in a parking lot. There in the torn brown paper and scrawling black ink is a favorite collection of poetry and a letter written on Georgia O’Keeffe postcards. It’s just what I need: the feeling that someone really sees me. It was from my dear friend Natalie, now a tenured professor, and co-curator of The Alice a gallery and event space in Georgetown. That package would lead to a lifelong friendship and one of my first organizing projects.
Now, fast forward 11 years: we’re eating pain au chocolat at Café Nouveau and it’s pouring down rain. Natalie is telling me that her long-term girlfriend moved out, and left the fur children (Basho and Pablo, named for the poets). The melted chocolate gets stuck in our throats.
More time passes, and before we know it we’re raising our glasses to toast her 40th birthday! Natalie says she needs lightness, she needs mountains. What I hear is that she needs change. I suggest we edit her bedroom to kick off this milestone year. So we begin as writers do, with a heuristic, a list of questions to discover what is hidden. What she wants is what many of us want in a bedroom: love, sex, a peaceful place to curl up at the end of the day. The discovery? None of those things are happening in that room.
So, on a shockingly sunny spring day last April, we edited her room. I knew she needed support to do this, and that she didn’t want to think. That was my job.
First, we took out anything that reminded her of her ex, and then we moved on to anything that reminded her of darkness. It’s amazing how many reminders of darkness and rejection we are capable of keeping! Out they went, one after another, and in the blink of an eye. It felt like hope.
Everything that belonged to someone else went back to them, everything that no longer suited her needs went out, too. In the midst of this, we also discovered that she needed a new ritual for her laundry, one that she would equate with time to read, and time to relax. So we created one. It included really pretty laundry baskets because that made her feel good.
I didn’t expect what would happen next. She realized she wanted to do more, and she now had the resolve to do it. Natalie cleared it down to the bones, and painted it the palest shade of pink, and suddenly the room was filled with light. She got rid of her writing desk because she realized she didn’t want to think about work in her room. Then, she did the unthinkable for a Ph.D in Rhetoric and Composition. She got rid of all her Literary Criticism! This room would be a criticism free zone. She kept only poetry. As she later said, “Sometimes it’s about figuring out what we need in our rearranging.” I love that!
Now we’re right in the present, and Natalie has fallen in love! It’s a good omen this time. She also picked up an extra class, which means she can save, and she isn’t dependent on a roommate. These are things she also wanted to change as we toasted her 40th.
If that’s not enough good news, she’s also made amends with her ex, who now takes the fur children half the time so Natalie has time to go on writing retreats and weekend getaways with her love. It’s a beautiful thing. And, just like Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, it started with Natalie saying,”This is what I want, and this is the space where it’s going to happen!” Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
So, what story will you create in your space? Let’s work together and find out! If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and subscribe if you haven’t already. You’ll help grow my audience and make my day!