I love my office.
It is a conglomerate of antiques and hand-me-downs. The desk cost $20, bought on my birthday and takes four men to carry. On it stands a paper organizer thought to have come from a newspaper office. On that sits cast iron keys and a miniature basket on a crocheted tea towel I swiped from my mother’s house.
Just behind my computer screen is a shadow box with my daughter’s dress and other keepsakes from her short life.
There is an indigo ceramic vase filed with art pencils and a miniature tabletop dresser filled with brass nail heads and screws.
Finishing off the corner stands a yard sale lamp without a light bulb, a book stand purchased to assist in research and a telephone that could work if I had a phone line but gets better used by my four-year-old to call me a million times an hour to say, “Hi, how ya doin’?”
I like things. I am no minimalist.
The only unifying feature of these items is that I love them; they give me joy. I can see past the coupon card, worn-out pencil, plastic bag, used envelopes, packing materials, goods to donate and spring decorations that really need to get packed back in their box.
I know how these items came into my life, and I keep them as mementos.
I could reject the place for its salvaged carpet and mismatched rugs covering stains on the brown cement floor. I could fret over the unpainted rectangle on the ceiling where a fluorescent light once hung. I could lament the overwhelming amount of furniture that finds its way into this place because I am a collector of big things.
I could hate it for all those reasons. But I don’t.
Maybe a part of me even likes it like this.
I find peace in uncovering the beautiful I set out in the room’s design when I tidy it. Walking in here, sorting and putting things away set my frame of mind for the work I will sit down to accomplish.
I put aside the cares of the house across the patio and settle into the new, admittedly imperfect environment of my office, my little haven from home at home.
I planned a rousing column in response to the church fires that occurred around the country, some arson, some unknown, all of them hitting me personally, stinging my heart, fanning into flame the anger I feel about a world that refuses to see the gray.
Some things are black and white. Some things are right or wrong.
But not people.
People’s actions or ideas can be right or wrong, but at the essence, the person is a not right or a wrong. He is good. He has free will. He is complicated.
When we learned in adolescence that our parents were not perfect did we then reject them or “cancel” them? Did we reject friends who failed to remember our birthday for the third year in a row? Did we yell and scream when an aunt or uncle misspells our name? Arbitrary examples, I know, but the last two are ones we are more likely to brush off unless we are already angry about something else.
Resentment holds onto the wound, allowing it to reopen and be relived each time we recall it. So instead of an injury once, we are injured a thousand times.
We can shove down the feelings, put them aside or wait for circumstances to improve or we can deal with it, face it, and come through it, learning to love through the clutter not by ignoring it. We can understand that the clutter, the imperfections, might be part of what makes the good things about it so good.
If I remember right, the best friends are the ones who actually allow us to fail, who allow us to be fragile, and will still love us as if we were incredible.
That love is not a love in spite of our problems. The right and the wrong come in the package, because we are all in a state of becoming, moving one day at a time closer to the destination. The loving parent sees it. The lifelong friend sees it. The faithful spouse sees it.
Maybe instead of “love is blind” love actually sees the fuller, bigger picture.
Maybe we can think of that when we encounter someone, their belief, their practices, their mask-wearing or not wearing, their Trump-now or never-Trump.