How to Dwell

How to Dwell

You could say I’ve been carrying the word “dwell” around in my pocket for a little while now.

Once upon a time, I thought dwell was a peculiar word. Had I been asked to prescribe a physical form to it, I might have chosen a dark and sporous mold. I was under the impression that it meant to live as a hermit. And not the Boo Radley, kind and courageous type of hermit, but more of the long finger-nailed kind. While my apartment is a tad eccentric and also filled with sweets, please don't start referring to it as they did to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory (“nobody ever goes in ... and nobody ever comes out.”)  So before you think that my 2016 resolution is to become a recluse, allow me to explain.

If given the proper chance, dwell is actually a marvelous word. At its core, it is a fairly neutral word, devoid of offensive meaning. And thus begins my two-part New Year’s Resolution.

Dwell: 1. To live as a resident; reside.

One of the most deliciously anticipated nights of the year on my calendar is an event affectionately referred to as “Progressive.” This glorious night is a multi-course, migrating dinner party with my three best pals from high school. To explain all that Progressive is and all that Progressive entails could be a blog post all on its own, so lest I ask too much of your time, dear reader, I will only expand upon one conversation, a conversation around organizing.

As I stand before you right now, I am the opposite of a minimalist. Not quite a hoarder, but I do tend to emotionally attach myself to items easily, because you just never know. Remember those mystery grab bags at Claire’s? If you are at all sensible, you wouldn’t. If you were me, you would beg any human holding a purse with actual money - instead of just the capacity for exactly one lip smacker and the transferrable power of making a seven year old feel older than seven - to purchase one of these grab bags for you. These mystery bags contained a surprise selection of usually strange, inexpensive, non-useful items whose novelty generally wore off within about a week. I bring the subject of Claire’s grab bags up because I STILL OWN PURPLE GLITTER EYE SHADOW FROM ONE OF THEM. If purple glitter eye shadow could talk, she would tell you that tidying up does not come naturally to me.

This one progressive conversation centered around a theory from Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, that you should hold each item you own in your hands and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t, thank it for its service and set it free. Then when only your most joy-giving belongings remain, arrange each item to be visible and accessible. My messy home is not quite the sanctuary that I know it could be, and what this discussion taught me is that the toll of keeping unused items around is greater than throwing them out. The consequences are mental as well as physical. To live as a healthy resident, to best reside, I will embark on the radical tidying up regime, throwing out one joyless sock at a time.

Dwell: 2. To exist in a given place or state.

The idea to examine how and why we exist stemmed from a moment during Progressive. Progressive is beautiful. The glittering tablescapes filled with fancy food and special occasion china are enough to leave a lasting impression, but the true elixir of the night was the pure celebration of love through friendship. I would argue that the catapult to nights like these is not in the opulent food and drink, but rather the notion that a moment should be, will be, and ultimately is wonderful. Six years of repetition taught us this was where we wanted to be. Leisha, Leah, Katie and I all passed bread and thoughtfully chosen gifts around the table, but the most important thing shared was the ebullient conversation.

Dwelling in the moment frees us to find exuberance or rest amidst of the effervescent chaos that is everywhere. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what dwelling well means to me, so for now I will simply try to take ownership of each and every moment.

So here’s to a new year: one devoid of meaningless physical objects but brimming to the top (of a champagne glass) with authentic dwelling.

[Photo by Juliette Kibodeaux.]


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