The Things on our Walls and What they Tell

Our decorating scheme for this house has been pretty haphazard in the fifteen years since we moved in. The walls are white because we’ve never spent the time or money to change them. We hung up some portraits and a picture of the temple because that is what one does with the walls of a house, also because I believe that sometimes we need visual reminders of the important things in our lives. There is a large picture in the kitchen of a gargoyle leaping to catch bubbles. I still love that picture. Howard and I bought it together one day after we received an unexpectedly large tax return. However the wall hanging we picked up in Africa thirteen years ago was a purchase made because we were in Africa and felt the need to bring something home with us. Then once it was here we needed to display it. Many of the other ornaments in our home have lingered for similar reasons. Our whole decorating scheme centered around things we acquired or inherited randomly that were sort of cool. Yet this past year I’ve placed more focus on noticing how small shifts in our surroundings can add to the general happiness in our lives. The African wall hanging long ago stopped causing us to feel happy. It was time for something new.

Our walls don’t just speak to us about places we’ve been and what matters, they also speak to those who visit. Mostly what our walls have been saying lately is that we are busy people who don’t take time to clean or to create a cohesive feel to our spaces. Howard had an idea to fix that, at least for the family room. He used some reward points to get Nintendo game posters. They showed large images of games that we’ve loved. Looking at the posters made us happy. We talked of having them framed to hang on the walls. Yet we didn’t. Mostly the delay was due to concerns about the cost of framing, but I confess I also worried a bit about what our walls would say to others.

Our family room is set up for video games and movies. The big TV is mounted on the wall and the cabinet below it is stacked with multiple game systems and shelves of the games that we have accumulated. Sometimes I feel very aware of all of these things when a visitor walks into the room, particularly if that visitor is one who has expressed the opinion that video games are a waste of time. That room makes it very obvious where much of our discretionary money is spent. Do we sometimes spend too much time and money on video games? Yes. But I know that the games bring happiness to our lives. We have as many happy memories and shared experiences over video games as other families do over soccer matches or trips to theme parks.

I have been trying lately to add small happiness to life, to recognize which things add to that happiness and which subtract. For Christmas this year I measured the posters and bought frames at Target. They were relatively cheap, simple to assemble, and did a good job of displaying the posters. This afternoon I took down the other displays and hung the posters. The room no declares clearly that the games do not just belong to the kids, but also to the adults. Not only that, but that we consider the games to be art worthy of display. With this one simple act we truly own the room, the games, and ourselves. Even more important, I when I watch Howard or the kids enter the room, their eyes flicker to the pictures of Zelda or a Skyrim map and their mouths quirk in a smile. A tiny piece of happiness has been added to our lives. We are glad to walk in that room now. It is good.

We’re not done. I expect that we’ll trade out the posters periodically as these ones begin to feel stale and new ones arrive. I also know that a particular pairing is not quite working right. It would also add to the room if we were to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls. These things will come, and they will add to our happiness.