This is my House.

Imagine that you’ve lived in the same house your entire life. You know every creak in the floor, every loose nail, every sticky door, every view from every window. It may not be a perfect house, but it’s yours and it brings you great joy and comfort.

One day, you look and there is a door you’d never noticed before. Confused, you open the door and step into a room that you didn’t know existed. It must have been there all along, but somehow it escaped your attention.

You hate the room. The air is hot, there are no windows, the walls are painted a color that make your eyes hurt. You try to turn around and leave but the doorknob won’t turn. You’re trapped in the room. You start banging and screaming, but no one comes. You’re scared. You sit on the floor and wait.

Eventually, the doorknob turns on its own and you run out into the rest of your house. You go from room to room, but they all look different. Nothing has changed, not really, but it is as if someone came in and rearranged everything just one inch to the right.

The door to the new room stays open. You can’t stop going in, trying to figure out why it’s there, what its purpose could possibly be. You try to decorate it. You punch a hole in the wall with a sledgehammer to make a window. You see if the room can be removed; it can’t. It would damage the structure of the rest of the house. You try to move. It won’t sell.

Some nights, you sleep in the room. You can’t stop thinking about it, and so you give in and stay there. You start to understand it; the wall color stops hurting your eyes, and you can see the reflection of the moon on the far wall.

Eventually, you visit the room less and less. It becomes just another room in your house. There are days when you spend a lot of time there, and days when you don’t visit it at all. Everything in the rest of the house shifts back, just one inch to the left. The house settles, and you realize that the room was a part of your house all along.  So you make space for it in the love you have for your house, and you learn to live with it.

You may never love the room itself, but you accept it as a part of the whole. You can see how it brings out the beauty of the rest of the rooms; the views are more spectacular, the glow of each room seems brighter in contrast.

This room can be a scary diagnosis, it can be a death, it can be a divorce. It can be unemployment, mental illness, aging parents, financial ruin.

For me, the room is the chronic illness of a child.

Our houses are filled with rooms. When a room is discovered that we don’t want, it is tempting to close the door and pretend it isn’t there; or to spend all of our time in the room and forget about the rest of our house.

It can take away any joy that you previously found in the other rooms. Your favorite chair isn’t comfortable any longer. Your bed becomes lumpy and hard. Your stove burns your dinner night after night. So you go back to the new room, to wallow in the sorrow the room has brought you.

Then, one day, you don’t. You realize that the other rooms haven’t changed at all. The only thing that changed is how you’ve perceived them. You look at your house, and realize that even though you wish the new room wasn’t there, it hasn’t ruined everything the way you thought it did. It changed your house, but it did not burn it down.

I’ve been trapped in a room, and it changed the way I saw my house. The door is open now. I’m able to walk into the rest of the house, and see all of the things I loved before the room appeared and changed everything.

I still visit the room; I may be in there all day, or I may only stop by for a minute or two, but it is becoming a part of the house, instead of the center of it. The sun shines through the windows, and happiness leaks through the cracks in the floor to make it glow.

Illustration courtesy of “La Vie Électrique” by Albert Robida, 1890
Advertisements