The other day I got dressed for church (I know. Some Sundays that in itself feels like an accomplishment worth celebrating!) and my mind started wandering as it so easily does. As I was flipping through my closet, I heard a voice from my past.
“Your wardrobe is too beige.” The voice belonged to a woman who was a coworker in the process of becoming a lifelong friend. She said this 35 years ago when we worked across the hall from each other and both wore suits to work. We’ve always told each other the truth.
She was right. I wore a lot of beige combined with other shades of beige. I heard her voice that Sunday morning because I was choosing shades of gray to combine with other shades of gray.
It all started because we had a flash of wintry weather the day before that left the city a sheet of ice. It was better the next day morning, but since it doesn’t take much to make me lose my balance I decided to build my ensemble around wearing a pair of gray hiking boots with tread I trust to keep my ankles where they belong on slippery days. I found some pants that were a notch up from jeans but not dressy, so they’d work with the boots. Gray.
I also wanted a warm sweater. I work at home in a chilly office, so I have a lot of hoodies. Sweaters to wear to church with hiking boots, not so many. But I found one. Gray. Multiple shades of gray, but still gray. Authentic alpaca yarn from Bolivia, purchased personally by me while I was there on a work trip years ago, but still gray.
My family is used to hearing me say, “It’s metaphoric.” I often launch from something ordinary into greater meaning. (For me, anyway. For them, not so much.) That morning I started thinking that life can become monochromatic.
I have one friend who takes cooking classes at a little French cafe and also recently joined a bell choir to put some music in her life and to intentionally stretch herself. Another has taken up SCUBA for the first time, something she never expected to do, and is preparing for a grand SCUBA adventure in Mexico in February. I admire them both.
I, on the other hand, have trouble answering the question, “What are your hobbies?” I’m serious. When I had surgery on my shoulder a few months ago, the surgeon asked me that question in the pre-op appointment, and I sputtered before feebly saying, “I go to the gym. And I go for walks.” I realized I work at my job, I write my novels, I’m in a caregiving role with a family member, I look after the house and errands and meals and appointments and finances. Then I do it again.
And so many people do the same. (Well, except for writing novels, which gives me great blazing bursts of joy, I might add.)
So it’s true. I don’t make quilts or cross-stitch the way I used to. I don’t play the piano the way I used to (never much good at it, but I did enjoy it). I’m less fond of night driving that I used to be. Seasons of life change, and we change with them.
But that doesn’t mean we live lives with no color. When I bought new furniture for my living room a few months ago, I selected a couch in a color I never imagined I would like until I stopped in front of it in the store and suddenly I loved it. Not a sensible color, just one I liked. If I’m buying a water bottle, why not the bright red one to bring cheer to my desk? Why not hang a calendar of quilts to admire the artistry of others? Why not have an everyday wardrobe full of colors and logos that show my love for my Chicago Cubbies?
I may not have time or energy for massive artistic undertakings, but I can get creative in small ways and find satisfaction in them, like hanging three small abstract paintings my sister-in-law did, and which I love because of how they make me feel, on a small gate. Now I can sit on my bold-colored couch and look at them and think of them as a gateway to another place. (See? It’s metaphoric.) I also made a footstool by filling a drawer from an old dresser with stuffing from old outdoor cushions and covering the whole business with bright fabric that suits my living room.
I’m not a proponent of imposing shoulds on myself or other people, because everyone’s set of circumstances is uniquely complex. I don’t see myself becoming certified in SCUBA, for instance. I’m not even promising to find a new hobby. But I’ll definitely be looking for the places where color livens my daily life—metaphorically or actually—and I hope you’ll do the same.
P.S. Stay tuned. In coming weeks, I’ll be saying more about my new Tree of Life series. The first book, The Inn at Hidden Run, releases May 1.