Thursday, August 16th, 2012...10:35 pm

Remodel: Week 14

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My favorite class in grad school was  a literature class where we applied the philosophy of space to 19th century literature. My final paper for the course, where I applied Bachelard’s theories of appropriated and unappropriated space to Wuthering Heights and Mill on The Floss, began:

Despite being amorphous and ethereal, the concept of home plays a significant role in shaping a life.  Of all spaces it is perhaps the most formative and critical in defining the self.

I’ve been thinking about space a lot this week. Literal space – here in the house that is growing smaller as it struggles to expand. Figurative space – space for myself, space for Ken and I, space for each of my children on their own, space for my fears, space for personal growth, space for change.

Back to school does this to me. I feel my life closing in. The time for all the things that summer allows begins to take on that amporphous and ethereal shape. I want to chase it down. I want to hold on tight. But I can’t. And like the characters in the books, I find myself feeling temporarily homeless – stuck in a space that I don’t want to claim, that I’m not quite ready to appropriate as my own.

Bachelard’s notion is that “a house constitutes a body of images that give mankind proofs or illusions of stability.” This week, for me, it is all an illusion. Each breath of this return to work week has been hard. Each meeting I sat in, every conversation I had was a lie. I wasn’t there. I was in my head, trying to parse out how and when the stability will return. When Miles will stop crying at drop-off. When waking up and cooking breakfast in the makeshift garage kitchen will become routine. When I will reach that point when I can once again maintain a comfortable balance of space and time for mothering and self and work.

Bachelard argues that the aspect of the familiar is part of the essence of home, and that we render even the unfamiliar houses familiar by reading them as we did our original house: “After twenty years, in spite of all the other anonymous stairways, we would recapture the reflexes of the ‘first stairway,’ we would not stumble on that rather high step,” he writes. He argues that the space of a home extends into the figurative realm of memory and family. So each night I float back to the image of the place where we became a family, where Ken created a comfortable and bright and beautiful space for us all to grow together. I build my house of my trust, my faith that he will make this a home to grow in once again. I hug on my babies and build my house of their hugs, their breath, their laughter and tears.

Home, because it is so intrinsically associated with emotion, cannot simply be dominated space.  As Bachelard says, a home is a person’s “corner of the world.” And since my corner of the world is a bit smaller these days, because my time to be here all day  with my kids is ending, this week has been hard. So I come here, to my corner of the Internet to write. This is space I can appropriate, space I can control. And I hope that I will find a way to balance this all in too – a way to balance my writer self with my teacher self with my mother self with my wife self. Because this corner here, these words I share, they may not be bricks, they may not be held together with mortar, but they are essential to the foundation of my self.

Want the back story?

The Plan

The Preparation

Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 13

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  • Love this post!
    I find I live in a weird middle area where my mind is still in summer and coast through til about Thanksgiving. When I finally get my groove it’s Christmas. Then it’s crazy time and second semester flies by and then it’s summer! See? It’s almost summer again!
    And your house is going to be so gorgeous I am already filled with tons of jealousy just thinking about it.

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