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Critical Eyes

Jessie: On retreat in Maine.

Lately, I’ve been feeling restless. Life has been changing for my family, mostly for the good, but it makes me see my world with a different view. Especially my physical environment. I’ve been looking at my possessions with a critical eye and wondering which of them I’d keep if I were to move into a home one third the size of my current one. Which things really are the best choices for my changing life?

When my first child was a baby, my husband and I bought a big, old colonial home in a tiny village and set about renovating it. We were on a meager budget and it took a long time to accomplish all we set out to do. More children joined the family and all the rooms became full to bursting. Twenty-two years later the house is mostly renovated. Two of the kids are out on their own and the house feels overstuffed and very quiet. The space and tranquility have given me a chance to ask myself how much of what has accumulated is what I want to take into the next twenty years. I’ve come to recognize there are many things that don’t make the cut.

The question has fascinated me and has felt strangely familiar. Unitl I realized that the process is surprisingly like revising a novel. I tend to write bloated first drafts with a shocking excess of words. I meander and sauter and rarely get straight to the point in the early work. But under all the layers of what isn’t needed, or even wanted, is the truth of the story. By turning a critical eye to the work, I am able to excavate and lift up only that which best serves what I am trying to accomplish. I enjoy that part of the writing process. I love unearthing treasures from amongst the rubble.

It seems writing has permeated all aspects of my life, even my decorating. That same critical eye now can’t stand bloat in my possessions. It doesn’t want unneeded things in my physical world any more than it likes unnecessary words in my work. I wasn’t expecting it, but I am grateful. As a matter of fact, I think I’m going to go revise my laundry room right now!

Readers, do you find a need to change your physical environment as your life circumstances alter? Writers, does your work leak into the rest of your life in surprising ways?

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