WELL IT'S OFFICIAL. With Thanksgiving under our belts there is no denying that we are indeed waist-deep into the holiday season. And by the way… can someone please define “holiday season” for me these days? I’m just not sure which end is up. But, hey, we made it through Thanksgiving - and that had its challenges, right? But we dug deep, and we got it done. (How American of us on one of the most American of holidays!) And that’s how we’ll manage the December holidays too. Even if we have to dig just a little bit deeper this time. And the next. But we are resourceful. We will work with what we have, and we will do it the best way we can.
When my children were young, we lived on a little cul-de-sac street where a bunch of kids would converge to play in the afternoon. They were of varying ages, shapes, and sizes and offered completely different skill sets and personalities. How did they muddle through? Well, for the most part beautifully, I thought as I listened through my office window. Oh, there were bumps and hiccups for sure, but for the most part I’d hear them out there playing in such fluid ways — dodging and pivoting their roles, as the parameters of the game were defined and re-defined according to the abilities and moods of the players. Such great ambassadors, I thought. And I marveled at how readily available their resources were for tolerance, resourcefulness, flexibility and compromise. And when those ran out? They dropped their props (all over the street, if I’m honest) and went inside to do something else.
As I think back and admire that little microcosm, I realize I left out an important quality. And that’s leadership. Oh, don’t get all cringe-y—I’m not going to talk about politics. (Although I could.) But I now appreciate that the rotating leaders of that diverse little gang set the table for the other kids to be their best selves. Perhaps like you set your own table at Thanksgiving. Maybe you put the “lefties” on the appropriate corners to keep their elbows in check. And placed the mashed potatoes in front of your six-year-old with a wink, because you knew that’s all she'd eat anyway. Maybe you figured out the social distancing to keep everyone feeling safe and supported, and maybe you decided to encourage sharing with a toast this year. Or maybe this year, you decided not to. It depends on your gang. And your players. And the mood of the day. But without even really knowing it, you were setting that table for everyone to be their best selves. (Good for you!) And how did it go? Actually, it doesn’t really matter – there will be another Thanksgiving next year. No need to dwell. But I’m here to whisper a “thank you” in your ear. Because reluctant or not, you were the leader of your own little microcosm.
Our homes, especially now, can benefit from the same sort of leadership. I’ll bet your homes are already doing the dodge-and-pivot. Your dining room may, on one day, be an office and the next day a classroom. Your guest room, despite its name, may now have a permanent tenant. And you may sometimes feel like every little nook and cranny that you had eked out for yourself (a quiet spot to read the paper with your coffee in the morning, or a decadent mid-day date to watch Jeopardy! on TV) seems to—POOF—be gone. Just living life these days can be so hard and the day-to-day so challenging, that it’s easy for your boat to get caught up under that wave instead of steering your boat to ride on top of it. Because, remember, you are the architect. Think of your home as that table you are setting so that everyone can be their best selves. But to do that you need to step back and look at the dynamics of the home as a whole. Me? I do some of my best broad strokes thinking after dinner with a glass of wine or a cup of tea in my hand. It’s then that I gain the perspective to determine: Who are the “lefties” and the “righties” in my home? Who is oil and who is water? Where is the ebb? And where is the flow? Should the place settings be shifted around? Should the mashed potatoes be close to the gravy? Should someone be asked nicely to leave the table? (Hey, we all have our moments!) And, most importantly, where is your space? So many (usually female) leaders are too quick to sacrifice, which actually further upsets the balance. Being the leader means taking care of yourself so you are able to poke your head up for a breath of air and a global viewpoint. Because, as it turns out, the weepy, exhausted, and resentful leaders that are being pummeled underneath that wave? They aren’t terribly effective. Who knew? Such sage advice, right? I, of course, need to take all of it myself. But, hey, maybe we can do it together.
Jennifer Coles is a local interior designer. Her instagram is: @coles_color_and_design. Her website is: colescoloranddesign.com