Because we live in the woods, our yard is very beautiful and our house – particularly during those times of year when all the leaves are on the trees – can get very dark. Probably for both of those reasons, our house was constructed with many windows. We have eight windows on the first floor alone, plus an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows in the Sun Room and five sets of sliding glass doors.
When we moved in, every single one of these windows was covered by blinds.
There were heavy wooden horizontal blinds hung above each window, and vertical blinds to cover the sliding glass doors. It was kind of the previous owners to leave us their window treatments, which were in good shape and had probably been installed with much effort and expense.
One of the first things I did after we moved in was to remove all the blinds from the first-floor windows.
Okay, I didn’t remove the blinds; at the time, I was busy unpacking, painting, nursing a three-month-old, and supervising two rambunctious toddlers. But when my parents, who were helping us move in, asked what I wanted to do about the window treatments, I said, “Take them all down!”
A friend recently lent me a wonderful book of essays by Shauna Niequist called cold tangerines. In an essay titled “basement,” Niequist makes the case that our homes are like mirrors for our selves: the rooms we love the most often contain qualities of who we’d like to be; the rooms we hate the most reflect facets of who we fear we are.
Yes, this is going to be a metaphor for my life. Because it’s like my house knew, even before I did, the kind of life I wanted to lead.
I’ve realized over the course of this year that I want to live a life that’s open, unobstructed: a life without blinds. I’ve spent so much of my life with the blinds drawn, trying to hide parts of myself from the outside world, trying to protect myself. But you know what? It’s a lot of work having to continually raise, lower, and clean those blinds. And they get in the way of my view; it’s hard to see clearly through my blinds to other people, to the beautiful world outside.
Writing has been a major — if not the major — step towards taking down the blinds of my life. This past winter, I started writing (and publishing) more of what I was really thinking and feeling. I admitted that I wasn’t perfect, with perfect kids and a perfect house. I wrote honestly about my faith for the first time ever — something I’d always been terrified to do for fear that people would assume I was going to start judging them or trying to convert them. These were all big steps for me.
I’ve been amazed by the grace with which people have responded. My favorite thing about writing — and life — is that it allows for so many “You, too? Me, too!” moments. Because trying to write as my honest self is very, very scary. It’s scary for the same reasons that some of my family members were horrified that I had no blinds on my first-floor windows: “But people can look right in and see you!” gasped one relative.
Of course, it’s much easier to live without blinds on your house than to live without blinds on your life. My response to “But people can see you!” is: What people? We no longer live in Manhattan or Berkeley; for much of the year, we can barely see our neighbors’ houses through the trees. Somebody would have to go to an awful lot of trouble to look through our windows. And even if they did, So what? They’d see a family, going about our normal, loud, crazy, loving business. We’re not cooking meth in the kitchen or torturing chipmunks in the living room.
It’s much harder to apply that logic to my life.
I’m writing this as a prelude of sorts: within the next couple of days, I’m going to publish one of the most personal things that I’ve ever written.
I’ve written about what happens when you end up living in a college town that’s almost an exact replica of the town where you yourself attended college: the thoughts, memories, and emotions that get dredged up. To leave out this aspect of our move to Vermont would be a major omission.
Don’t get too excited or worried: this is a big deal for me, but that’s because I’ve been living with the blinds drawn for so long. There are no bodies in our basement, no fourth Gong child stashed in our attic, no secret bank account in the Caribbean.
I’m going to publish this piece, and then I’ll probably go back to writing about our mice and bugs and wacky daughters. This blog is about our life, and our life these days is mostly about mice and bugs and wacky daughters. I’ve no interest in starting down a path of gratuitously emotional soul-baring.
You see, as much as I want to live an open life, it’s important to set appropriate limits. I removed all the blinds from our first-floor windows, but I left up all the blinds on our second-floor windows. Not because that’s where we cook the meth or torture chipmunks, but because there are things we do on the second floor — where most of our bedrooms and bathrooms are — that are and never will be anybody else’s business.
So there you have it: my philosophy of life, writing, and home decorating all wrapped up in one little metaphor. It’s a little scary, a little less safe, this life without blinds. But the views are amazing and there’s a lot less upkeep required.