Embracing All of the Ugly

When I sold my family home, I purchased a small condo in the city in order to eliminate a lot of my expenses as well as my 45 minute to and from daily commute. My husband had always liked things that were new, upscale, and luxury, and he brought with him tastes that were waaaaaaay above my own. So we lived in and decorated and purchased according to his tastes, which was perfectly fine with me. I never really cared – it was all good. So I had been spoiled over the years with new and relatively new construction. However, when I purchased a condo that was built in 1985, I was in for a re-awakening in what it’s like to live in something old and worn and with someone else’s tastes and decor.

This condo was newly painted white all over, with exception. White everything, right down to the ceramic tile floors. I know that real estate people tell you that this is what is selling: white or light walls, white cabinets, neutral colors, clean, crisp, modern. However, in this condo, there was a bathroom that I simply could not live with. And I’m not a picky girl, at all…but even I have my limits. This bathrooms was covered in the most horrid wallpaper I have ever seen in my life and then the breakfast nook back wall was literally covered – from top to bottom – in wall mirrors. Like a ballerina must’ve lived in this condo once upon a time. Um, no.

Even the dogs hated the mirror wall. They’d look at themselves in the mirrors, confused. I couldn’t wait to tear those things off the wall but had no idea to go about it. I got a contractor to give me an estimate and it was outrageously high. So I went to The Place Where You Can Learn Anything, also known as YouTube, and watched videos on how to take mirrors – glued on – off the wall, without killing yourself.

Basically, I spread comforters on the floor, took a hammer and a screwdriver and started bashing and pulling the mirrors off the wall. A week after, I was still finding shards of glass in my underwear. No doubt, these mirrors had been stuck on this wall for many years. The glue left behind was essentially big black blobs which I had to pry off separately. This process made gaping holes in the drywall. There was also old red paint on the top of the wall, where it looked like long-ago owners started to paint it red and gave up, opting for these horrible mirrors instead.

I bought some spackling paste and some good primer and paint and began to repair the wall. I spackled, sanded, painted. When the paint dried, I could see every single ugly repair spot on the wall. It looked awful. I realized that the only way I was going to be able to truly fix this wall was by hiring a contractor and paying all kinds of money.

Or. I could do something else entirely. I could embrace this ugly ass wall as it was and make it into some kind of art, dare I say something beautifully ugly? I was limited in what I could do, really, so I thought about the fact that I was living in the city, in an attractive highly desired urban spot, in a historical southern area, in an older condo emanating character and charm. I do like to paint and have painted murals in the past, so maybe I could make this wall into something representative of the current state of my life. Because, to be honest, my life is ugly, sad, hard, sickening, angry, painful and full of the dust and destruction that comes with a loved one dying and an entire family blowing up…and you left standing there with a dustpan and a piece of paper with a legal stamp on it.

But this life also has my beautiful, young daughters, who give me purpose. They might be basically grown up now, but they still need their mother. Death has already taken too much from them. This life also has two loving older dogs who will be slowing down soon enough and still treat me like I’m the most important thing in the world. It also has elderly, towering green oak trees and fresh air and a stable job and the quiet anonymity that comes with living in a new place, a busy but popular historical southern city, among lots of other anonymous people at various stages of their own lives. For me, this is key. No one knows me here. No one knows my story. No one here looks at me with that pitying face. And that is the way I need it to be.

So I took a chance and mixed spackling paste with acrylic paints. I painted bricks onto the wall. They feel gritty and tough…like…well…bricks do. Then I bought some texture paint and slathered it on the wall in spaces near and around the bricked areas with a putty knife. I dabbed it with a sea sponge. I let it dry. Then I repainted over the texture paint, giving it a dulled, rough, decayed look. And to my surprise, it came out great. I was able to hang up a beloved painting on the wall and make it look like it was supposed to be this way all along.

So my wall no longer has a creepy fun house feel to it. The dogs won’t need to bark at themselves, and I won’t need to watch myself eat out of my peripheral vision. It’s an ugly wall, but it has beauty in it, too. I supposed that is the story of a lot of peoples’ lives.

The key is to find the beauty where you can. Because it is there, peeking out from all the ugly.

Thanks for reading,

-Dori


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