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At home in the ‘new normal’: How to thrive in the chaos

At home in the ‘new normal’: How to thrive in the chaos

By Lesley Myrick

Photography by Ivy Marie Clarke

It’s October. That means it’s been seven months since COVID-19 hit the fan and life in Macon (and elsewhere) shifted from “normal” to the “new normal” overnight. And while the new normal has brought unexpected glimpses of goodness – like my 3-year-old and 6-year-old deepening their relationship because they’re stuck together all day every day – it obviously hasn’t come without incredible challenges.

I have had moments of truly feeling trapped at home, and would probably have cut off my big toe for a worry-free dinner out with good friends – with food and wine and big hugs and no masks.

Feeling stuck at home is more than just a physical sensation of wanting to be somewhere else for even the littlest of whiles. It’s noticing all the imperfections that you’ve been able to overlook before because life was too busy to worry about the cabinet door that doesn’t shut all the way, the sofa with the cracked leg or the makeshift workspace that gives you a tight feeling in your chest each day because you never expected – or wanted – to be working from home.

The things in your house that aren’t what you need them to be are staring you in the face, day in and day out, reminding you of what’s not working. Our homes are feeling stale and our lives are feeling stagnant and simultaneously chaotic, which is a bizarre juxtaposition to be living in.

This pandemic might be stopping us from throwing carefree parties and totally gutting and remodeling our tired kitchens, but it sure can’t stop us from looking at our homes with fresh eyes and using what we already have to make life better. Those four walls surrounding you are ripe with opportunities for change, improvements and upgrades for more satisfying moments.

Macon artist Sheila “She” Keene, the creative force behind A Girl Like Me Art, is floating along in the same bumpy boat as you and I. Her home studio space felt like a tempest of paints and canvases and spreadsheets and packing tape and frustration.

“For me to be creative, I need order,” She said. “My studio had become chaotic and disorganized, and my brain was overwhelmed. I felt like I had a million ping-pong balls in my head continually bouncing back and forth. I knew I needed to separate my art business from my creative space; I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Because I’ve worked in this space for several years, I couldn’t see through all the growth and chaos.”

The best gift you can give yourself at home right now – besides a glass of wine the size of your head – is a new perspective and a willingness to roll up your sleeves.

You need fresh eyes to see the potential in the everyday. Whether that’s the trained eye of an interior designer or the helpful eye of a trusted friend, inviting someone in (virtually, perhaps?) to help you see the forest for the trees is the first step to busting out of your boring home. You might be surprised by what can be done with what you already have.

But be prepared: While deeply rewarding, this work is arduous. Physically and emotionally upending your home means things will get worse before they get better, so grab that giant glass of wine and push through the messy middle.

“This process was – and continues to be – a lot of hard work,” She said. “But, as I completed each step, I had this exhilarating feeling of accomplishment. And, stepping back to see the bigger picture is incredible. Lesley left me with a few sketches of my newly designed space; these sketches served as my roadmap, making the process easier to complete.”

While 2020 has humbly reminded us that we are not in control of the world at large, we still can control the world right around us. She agreed: “Early on, I decided the best way to be productive during this time is to focus on the things I can control. I knew I had all the basic elements, but I just felt so stuck. Since Lesley helped me envision how to re-organize and re-create my space, I’ve been able to make forward-moving leaps and bounds. It’s incredible!”

We can work with what we have to refresh and redecorate our spaces. We can step back to look at things with fresh eyes. We can rearrange, play and move things around from room to room to bring a much-needed sense of newness and change.

A sense of curiosity and gratitude, paired with the willingness to do hard things, might just be what we need at home, not only to survive, but to thrive in our new normal.

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