What are the chances that on the same morning one decides to sleep a few extra minutes and one’s car is a ten minute walk from the house, one would discover dampness seeping through the ceiling tiles in one’s apartment and gathering in puddles on the floor?
If the chances are unfavorable, then I beat the odds today with just such an unfortunate discovery. I had my coat on and my bag packed, and had to drop everything to frantically clean so that when someone came to look at the leak they wouldn’t immediately assume the apartment had been ransacked. After a surprising phone call from a maintenance guy announcing “I’m outside of your building…can you let me in?” I dashed home from work just before lunch.
As we were going into the apartment he told me that the upstairs apartment had an overflowed sink which had caused the drip and the water damage. I was immediately embarrassed that I hadn’t knocked harder on the upstairs neighbors door to ask about the leak in the morning. “I wish you had told me that on the phone, you could have saved yourself a trip”, I apologized.
He looked up at the dry-but-stained ceiling tile, and then back at me with a look of astonishment. “Don’t you want me to replace that?”
In all honesty, it would never have occurred to me to replace a perfectly good yet hideously ugly ceiling tile. I think my initial response was “geez, if I replaced everything in this apartment that was ugly I’d have my hands full”. On my way back to work, after leaving with an agreement that he’d replace the tile (and some others that have been stained for years), I had to laugh at myself, even calling a family member from whom I inherited my tendency to stick it out with the not-ideal-yet-functional.
The desire to conserve resources is a trait that I am stuck with, as evidenced by the watch with a cracked face that I have been wearing for over a year. I could think of worse traits to have. In so many ways I am hung up on beauty – I love liturgy, poetry, music, architecture: all things that rise and fall on the aesthetic. Despite this, I don’t make always make beauty a priority in my own life, or even make it available to myself. Is there part of me that takes pride in doing without?
The truth lies somewhere between the two poles. I don’t need to live in luxury, but I don’t need to live in squalor either. I still am trying to determine how I can be hospitable to myself, making my life more comfortable and beautiful. It may require money, resources, and time. It may require mental commitment to treat myself better (on some days, I think it may require therapy).
During Advent, we look forward to something we can’t predict or understand with firm hope that it will be better than what we know. I think I get lazy sometimes, putting my own transformations on hold while I wait for that something better. I consider myself an imaginative person, but can’t always imagine improvement. There’s certain virtue in being content with what one has, but it needs to be balanced by a vision of something even more beautiful.