Sparking Joy

I got a new desk. Well, not exactly a new desk, more like a used, new-to-me desk. My sister relocated from Atlanta to Chicago and was unable to envision a spot for her custom made, antiqued grey, 300-pound concrete top, two-person desk at her urban loft. In case you can’t tell, I’ve a l w a y s loved her desk. So, I took one for the {twin} team, and agreed to take it!

The desk could not have been offered at a better time. Since I began working in July, I have taken over our kitchen table as my work space 24/7. I like to spread out, so the table is filled with stacks of work that must be, or has already been, completed, reports that must be reviewed, business cards from networking events, sticky note reminders, and, of course, my laptop. The set-up has been quite convenient. When my workday is finished, I can simply {and quickly} walk a few feet to the fridge and begin making dinner! Just a few more steps, voilà, I can be in the laundry room enjoying my favorite hobby, washing and folding laundry! Pretty sweet, huh?

Did I mention we have a dedicated room in our home that has been set-up as an office? Yep, true! Did I also mention we already have a desk? True again! What our home lacks, however, is a basement and any semblance of useful storage. My solution to this dilemma has been to “store” things I didn’t have a place for in the office. Truth be told, we have a lot of things I couldn’t find a place for. In fact, we could no longer keep the office door open, the room was a mess. So, in order to regain the 300 or so square feet of usable space formerly known as our office, it made sense to acquire a piece of furniture we have no room for, and pay money to have it shipped from Georgia!

Before the holidays, my husband and I agreed we would redo the living room. Our living room is a drab compilation of archaic, early marriage furniture pieces and discarded accessories from various rooms of every house we have ever lived in. Hodgepodge doesn’t begin to describe the look that greets everyone who walks through our front door. A redo was l o n g overdue.

The desk that was on it’s way was a little big for our current office. As I was putting a budget together for the living room redo, I had an epiphany! Why not make the living room my office?! This would allow us to reclaim our kitchen table. In order to do this, we would need to reorganize our garage to add shelving thereby alleviating the storage dilemma. Then, I could clean out the old office, get rid of the old desk, and re-purpose the room. Instead of purchasing new living room furniture, I would buy a rug, a desk chair, a cabinet, some pictures, a lamp, maybe a tiny dog couch? My husband agreed almost immediately and mumbled something like, “…we should be able to save a lot of money if we don’t have to buy new living room furniture.” Clearly, he’s underestimating the cost to re-purpose the old office or he thinks we’re re-purposing it as an empty room, not sure which.

My husband left for a 12-day work trip January 1. As soon as the Uber backed out of the driveway and headed to the airport, I began tearing the house apart. I started in the garage. I had several plastic storage bins filled with stuff from when we moved to our current home six years ago. I had not opened the bins in six years. This was a week before the internet exploded with Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method™, but I was ready for the task at hand. I tore the lid off each bin and sorted everything into one of two piles; thrift store or trash. My kind neighbor helped me assemble shelving and organize the other items in the garage, leaving me with shelving space for the items currently stored in our office.

Once the garage was squared away, I headed to the office. This room was going to take several days to sort out. The first day was spent packing up items that didn’t belong in the office to begin with and moving them to their new spot in the garage. That evening, with my husband gone, I tuned into programs I don’t ordinarily watch when he’s home. At the suggestion of a friend, I watched the first episode of Netflix’s “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” This is where things began to get tricky for me.

The next day, as I began going through desk drawers, I realized unlike the bins in the garage, things in the office held meaning. I came across Heather’s old scout book and badges she earned. The driver’s license listing her deadname was tossed in a drawer among some business cards. A heartfelt Valentine Abby made in second grade for the ‘world’s best brother’ was stuck in between some papers. As I held these items close to my heart, I realized they didn’t spark joy, they made me sad. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to toss them in the trash. For heaven’s sake, the driver’s license, even though it had the wrong name, wasn’t even expired yet!

The license was easy to part with, especially with the awful DMV memories attached to getting Heather’s gender marker changed; into the shredder it went! I stuck the handmade Valentine in a box with Abby’s old artwork. The problem I had with discarding Heather’s scout book and badges is she worked hard to earn them. As her interest in scouting waned for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, I forced her to stay. To Heather, those badges may represent a difficult time in her life when she already knew, or was coming to terms with, her truth but was afraid to share it. To me, those badges demonstrate her fortitude. She persisted even when she was struggling with her identity.

Ultimately, I decided to keep the badges and toss the book. Heather may have a son or daughter someday. And, while I’m certain she will steer her child away from any activity steeped in gender roles, she may have an insistent, consistent, persistent child who wants to join scouting. I believe someday she will thank me when she can pull out the badges she earned to show her son or daughter. I know I LOVED whipping out my 1979 Girl Scout cookie sale badge to show Abby at the beginning of each selling season! Who knows? Maybe there will be a gender-nonconforming scouting organization in the future?

With the office not even close to being finished, I had to change direction and take down our Christmas decorations. I was on a roll getting rid of things that no longer sparked joy. I had an entire Christmas bin filled with decorations I no longer used. As I pulled items from the bin for the thrift store, I found a plastic grocery bag. The bag contained ornaments with Heather’s deadname. My husband had pulled these particular ornaments out of rotation as we were setting up the tree a few years back. I relished my annual tradition of getting the kids personalized ornaments that reflected their interest at the time, so there were quite a few.

One by one, I pulled each ornament from the bag, held it in my hand, and reminisced. There were more than a few ornaments from her first Christmas celebrating the arrival of a baby boy. As I held Thomas the train, I smiled at the thought of Heather’s preoccupation with trains from age two to five. A look at the Snowbaby™ on skiis elicited memories of the girl’s first ski adventure. A brown-haired lad adorned in green running shoes, blue shorts and a tank top commemorated her first {and only} year on the high school cross country team. Once again, memories clouded my judgement of what sparked joy and what didn’t. I knew there was no reason for me to hang on to the ornaments; I would carry these memories in my heart forever. I found a Christmas gift bag and lovingly placed the ornaments inside. I held the bag close to my heart and closed my eyes. I made a wish for the ornaments in the bag to spark joy for a new mom, with a son named Tyler, who may happen to find them while shopping in a thrift store one day. Then I placed them with the other items to donate.

The new desk created more work than I anticipated. It was worth the effort because, as I delivered the boxes to the thrift store, I realized I had learned an important lesson. Just because something doesn’t necessarily spark joy for me, doesn’t mean it can’t spark joy for someone else. The same can kind of be said of our journey the past few years. Loving Heather unconditionally is easy. Learning she wanted to transition was devastating. As her Mom, changing my hopes and dreams for her was difficult and required soul searching. Today, the smile on Heather’s face and the spark of joy in her eyes, tell me all I need to know.

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