I saw this copy of Interior Details while at Goodwill, earlier this week, and just couldn’t help wonder, “What’s the tradition?”
I’ve been lucky in my life. It hasn’t been perfect, but I wouldn’t change it. People ask me all the time—therapists, doctors, friends, well-meaning but ignorant relative—if I wouldn’t rather be normal. And while my illness has its ups and downs, or rather its UPs and DOWNs, it’s also part of me and I’ve learned to love me. So no, Aunt Silvia, I wouldn’t rather be normal. What the hell is normal anyhow?
But challenge or not, I still know I’m lucky. I have so much that so many others in my place don’t. I have a strong support system. My parents and brother will be with me no matter what. Even when I push them away or to their limit, I know that. We’re not rich, but I appreciate that I’ll always be able to afford my doctors and medications, even when I don’t want them. And I have a mother that’s been there, seen it all before…and probably got the T-shirt, knowing her.
I inherited my particular mental health quirk from her side of the family, from her. And because she’s struggled too, she understands, even on the worst days. But more to the point, she recognized the signs of my condition early and got me to the people I needed, got me stable…mostly.
She also taught me her coping mechanisms. Coping is an intensely personal thing and what works for one person might not work for another. A lot of her ticks make no sense to me (Precious Moments are creepy. They just are.), but one, just one we share.
When I’m up, when I can’t sit still, when I have energy that I just have to burn, redecorating my room helps. It doesn’t cure me. Doesn’t fix me or even my rampant emotional state, but it gives me a momentary focus. She taught me this. For her, it was the living room. I was forever helping her move a couch growing up. But I get it now. I understand and I’m thankful.
When I was fifteen, she gave me a decorating budget. I couldn’t spend willy-nilly; I always understood that to be irresponsible with it meant I would lose it. So, I only let myself spend it when I really needed to. Or rather, the only time I gave in and spend it was when I lost control. But it was a limited damage. And it helped. It helps. It’s not 100%, but it’s something, a floating board in an ocean of chaos.
We colloquially, and with the certain awe-inspired appreciation of survivors, call it our shared tradition. And it is. It’s something we share, outside of the rest of the family, but inside our small injurious bubbles.
I’m twenty-two now and in my first apartment (with about a dozen roommates). This month I’ve gone full Goth Bunny, lots of black and pink. When she sees it, Mom will recognize that I’m in a good place. What do you think, will the bed fit over there, between the window and closet door?