Out with the Old – In with the New
How many of you are fans of—or at least familiar with—HGTV, the Home and Garden television network owned by Warner Bros. Discovery? I’m not a big TV person, especially when it comes to reality shows. And while “addicted” is too strong a word, certainly I’m an enthusiast of all the home design programs. Surprisingly, some of these have been on the air for more than 20 years. Just to name a few—there are now so many, it has become difficult to keep track:
- Fixer to Fabulous
- Almost Home
- Dream Home Makeover
And these last three I must confess are my personal favorites:
- Property Brothers (they are just so cute)
- Love It or List It (only the original with Hilary and David)
- Fixer Upper (one of the original “home design” offerings – and the inspiration for this blog!)
Your Home is Your Castle – Isn’t it?
Whether you are a fan or unfamiliar with the format, the premise for each of these episodes is simple. A family wishes to either improve, or in some cases, practically reinvent, their “timeworn home” – the diplomatic term most programs use for a rundown house. Fixing up their home can help sell the property or add space to accommodate a growing family, downsize after the kids have left home, or remodel to update an inherited residence.
To achieve the desired goal, a team of home makeover experts gets involved and, VOILA, in seemingly no time (a mere episode to be exact), the formerly dilapidated home becomes miraculously restored to its former glory—and hopefully even improved.
Imagine if you will, Cinderella’s fairy godmother waving her magic wand to transform her into a princess, complete with the iconic glass slippers – except in the case of each home remodel, the spell won’t be broken after the program ends. Instead, the homeowners will enter their new castle, still enchanted, and just possibly live happily ever after.
A Cautionary Note
Deepak Chopra warns: “…all great changes are preceded by chaos.” In most cases, this makeover isn’t merely new throw pillows, a coat of paint or a few shrubs planted to provide curb—oh no, no, no, think big. We’re talking bulldozers, sledgehammers, new walls, roof replacements, water-proofed basements, mold removal and, the ever-popular rodent exterminators—in short, chaos.
The interior design result usually includes (let’s all close our eyes and visualize this) a revised open floor plan, granite countertops, sparkling new appliances, gleaming hardwood floors, sumptuous marble baths, original artwork on the new walls, even outdoor areas landscaped and photo ready for Home and Garden television. In short – as Kahlil Gibran states in The Prophet – virtually “a mansion – of comfort, magnificence and splendor.”
The home renovation TV genre has been growing in popularity, boosted by COVID, during which we all were forced to hibernate and live vicariously through online and broadcast media. Watching these shows, we could easily feel transported to each new oasis of tranquility, often comparing our own domicile to the nearly blinding image on the screen. Not quite the shimmering Emerald City in the Land of Oz, perhaps but often close.
The appeal of these shows is apparent. Each, in their own way, is truly motivational, providing genuinely emotional moments and beautiful transformations.
- Some teach us how to organize.
- Others demonstrate how to make the most of what we already have.
- Many have a systems approach to revitalizing and creating a peaceful home.
All promote feel-good experiences—their goal is to provide “refreshed, inspiring living spaces that align with and reflect a newfound self-confidence”—something to which we can all relate.
In truth, aren’t these life lessons? At times, don’t we all wish to be inspired? Organized? Revitalized? Self-confident? Empowered? At peace? Let’s face it; at some point in our lives, most of us will become “fixer uppers.” Margery Williams, the author of a beloved children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, describes how a little boy’s stuffed toy desires to become real by being loved.
“You become. It takes a long time…Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair
has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to
people who don’t understand.”
Our Body is Our Mansion – Sometimes in Need of Repair
If we extend the analogy of the house in which we live, to our home in our human bodies—instead of a kitchen makeover, we might seek the assistance of a hair stylist on a “bad hair day,” or call for roadside assistance when—as we jump into our car, already running late—we recognize we have a flat tire. Finding that our favorite outfit fits more snuggly than the last time we wore it can motivate us to hire a personal trainer.
But planning a home improvement project—or making quick fixes to everyday personal problems—is not equal in intensity to suddenly finding yourself a “fixer upper” when faced with a health challenge. I offer, as an example, my recent experience of learning life lessons, while healing my health.
May through August 2022 proved to be, for me, the summer “that never was.” A medical emergency guaranteed that I would be looking for a lot more than a sledgehammer to fix things—dynamite, perhaps.
To share the condensed version, around our anniversary in May, I was unexpectedly rushed to Miriam Hospital for a delightful five-night stay. I was diagnosed with a serious health condition—one I had never even heard of. After I was discharged, following my medical providers’ directives, I visited my primary physician in June. He believed the annoying residual pressure in my chest was pleurisy (fluid around my lungs and heart). He ordered an echocardiogram and prescribed medication — to which I had an allergic reaction.
Then, when in July, I had my annual mammogram, instead of the receiving a “normal” result, something on the scan warranted an ultrasound and biopsy. Scary, but thankfully, those test results were normal.
The summer ended with a bout of COVID during August. My hair had been “loved off,” to use the visual of the stuffed toy in The Velveteen Rabbit. On the bright side—if there is one—my hair is gradually growing back, and I have lost a little weight. Like the houses on HGTV, I sometimes feel “timeworn,” but I am thankful that I’m basically healthy again.
Embracing New Beginnings
Lessons in life are not always easy. We experience them emotionally, and may need to weather physical and emotional discomfort or pain; however, Kahlil Gibran instructs us: “Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.” A lesson I learned from this experience is that, like the fixer-upper television programs, we all need to learn to let go of things we no longer need and find new sources of inspiration. Sometimes we make a choice; at other times, as I have recently found, what we experience is not chosen, but is out of our control. When considering how we can make ourselves over, we can take heart from this quote attributed to tennis great Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
The best part is no one needs to be a professional designer; everyone’s individual makeover is different, tailored to our own unique sense of style. Remember—as Ralph Waldo Emerson is believed to have said—“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
While change—planned or unexpectedly thrust upon us—may feel chaotic at first, it’s OK for life to be chaotic sometimes. As fixer-uppers, we can be creative and imaginative in navigating uncertainty and learning from change. According to one home design program, if we “embrace new beginnings and are ready to feel the joy,” then the possibilities are limitless. We can each create our own personal “Dream Makeover.” Isn’t that really a worthwhile goal? Not perfection, but to paraphrase George Eliot, “to let go of what we are, we become what we might be.” And that, just like Mary Poppins (the magical nanny in the book series), is “Practically Perfect.”