I am remembering a People magazine from the early 1980’s that was sitting on my parents’ dining room table. My best friend and I drew all over the faces in the pages. We gave them extra eyelashes and giant lips and just made them different than how they had been printed and doing this gave me a feeling of power. This is the thesis of this writing: I felt powerful, and I guess I still remember this sensation because in general I didn’t.
The dining room was rarely used in my parents’ house. The magazine sat on the table for a very long time. It was a sun-filled room with hard wood floors that the light would bounce off, making a patch of gold. The sun made it a place. There was some space under the table I was well acquainted with. Being a less used room I could make it more my own, now and then, when I was ready to go off map.
I trace the map of the house with an anxiety meter. I remember most of the house feeling underutilized and kind of aching with space. Aching with something. Old victorian houses contain remnants of dead lives, they just do, and ours had plenty of realms of not-aliveness that we had generated ourselves. We laid and stared at the TV for many hours every day. I guess this could be an invigorating activity but it wasn’t. I was taking cover. From what? From basically everything; there was nothing in my life that really felt like mine.
Once I made a small house for a stuffed mouse inside of a hole in the backyard. The hole was left by the removal of an ornamental cherry tree. The house I made was probably pretty similar to what a mouse would really live in, made of dirt, mostly unfurnished, and something about the action of spending time looking at the hole and imagining the mouse’s life there stayed with me. I enjoyed it so much. It was the hole from the tree that precipitated my designing a home there, so maybe this didn’t happen more often because we never had any other holes in the yard. I guess the potency was that I took something that was just empty and made it a space where something could live; my imagined life of a stuffed mouse could exist there. I don’t remember doing much playing with the mouse there, in fact I am not even certain that there was a mouse toy, now that I consider it. I believe I mostly just stared at the hole and thought about the space.
The feeling of doing something that matters, in any way, is slippery and I’m thinking about it a lot right now. It’s a question of getting some kind of grip on time, or on the air, grabbing past the sense that everything is empty and pointless, getting something in your hand that you can hold onto and make grow with your efforts. It’s a quality of gravity or friction held together by the awareness that you have a certain value and an effect on your surroundings. That you can actually touch the world instead of just being blown around by its winds.
I could go into depth about the different ways in which I have learned to embody this sense of power, and the ways in which controlling the space around me has specifically helped me do this, how pinning a beautifully colored napkin to the wall has increased my confidence in my own significance. But I’ve gotten a tiny grip here, after a long while of feeling like I couldn’t make anything stick to this site in particular, and I’m going to stop here with this little awareness that meaning is possible and actions do have an effect. We can use these powers once we figure out where to aim them.