Do It Yourself, For Yourself: What a DIY Project Taught Me About Myself.
There comes a point in our lives, for some of us, when we realize that we’re not doing enough… for ourselves. I came to this realization while re-painting a floor lamp for the second time. I had decided to repaint my floor lamp rose gold because I found its original brown matte color to be too plain for my taste. After making my way to the closest Home Depot to buy the paint and brush kit (because spray paint would be just too easy), I finally started to work on the project that I had left written on my laptop’s to-do list for the past month. As I opened the paint bottle, I read the recommendation that I should use a primer or sand the lamp before applying the paint for better results. However, in my mind, I thought it’s just a lamp, it doesn’t need to look its best, especially since it will only be me who sees it daily. Fast forward to 12 hours later, I went back to Home Depot to get a sanding block, slightly annoyed at the little voice in my head mimicking “it’s just a lamp.”
The funny and revealing part about this occasion is that I recognized this voice in my head, the voice of my inner femme libre that lives for herself and her tastes, and the feeling that she drapes over me when she wants to remind me that I should take myself into consideration… I should put myself first. I don’t do this enough. For example, when it comes to my meals, I’ve noticed, and particularly within the last two weeks, that I don’t try to make them taste amazing or even look aesthetically appealing. I have videos of food recipes saved on my Instagram, but I never think of making those meals for myself – when I save them, I save them for later, for a special occasion involving friends, family, or people I have only met a few times. On the rare occasions that I cook for friends, family, and guests, I do as above and beyond as my culinary challenged self can go. As for the failed lamp makeover, in that case, I convinced myself that my looking at the lamp alone wouldn’t be enough of a reason to make it look good. However, once the first coat of paint dried, I wondered whether people would notice the streaks from the paint brush or the dried-up drips of excess paint, and it wasn’t after the direct sunlight exposed them that I figured I should make it look good for others. As I write this blog, my inner femme libre is raging, “why didn’t you think of making it look good for yourself?”
This tendency to put myself, my preferences, and my dislikes second to those of others, as far as I see it, stems from an ingrained fear of being too much or not enough, of either being a selfish woman or a woman that doesn’t know what she wants. In fact, this is a fear that many girls and women grow up with. We’re either too emotional or not affectionate enough. We’re either too closed-off or not mysterious enough. We’re either too bossy or not ambitious enough. I have become more aware of this struggle within the past six months after a painful breakup following a relationship that with all of its beauty and adventure, brought me face to face with the reality that I confuse my joys, truths, and preferences with the joys, truths, and preferences of others to soften any of my less-palatable extraness.
Here you might think, is this another blog that’s going to give a simple act, such as painting, a life-changing meaning? Well, Yes. Hear me out. A couple of months ago, I read an essay titled Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power* written by Audre Lorde. For those who do not know this warrior goddess of a woman, Audre Lorde was a “black feminist lesbian mother poet” who dedicated her life and career to the bringing together of seemingly incompatible perspectives (race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability) to explore pride, love, anger, fear, and sexual oppression.
In her essay, Audre Lorde focuses on the importance of living our day-to-day lives as if we were experiencing one never-ending orgasm. A braingasm of some sorts that encourages us to accept, feel, and seek again and again this unapologetic energy within ourselves to do anything and everything that turns us on emotionally and mentally. In Lorde’s words, we are to “find the erotic such a kernel within [ourselves]. When released from its intense and constrained pellet, it flows through and colors [our lives] with a kind of energy that heightens and sensitizes and strengthens all [our experiences].” The erotic can be such a power-inducing energy, which is why society has convinced women to be suspicious of their erotic selves. Its badness and dirtiness are what make women inferior, and only those who suppress it are truly strong. “But that strength is illusory, for it is fashioned within the context of male models of power,” Lorde explains. As she so intelligently chips away at this mentality, she stresses that the sexual and pornographic presence of the erotic is but one of its many tones. The erotic doesn’t have to be merely and exclusively sexual, it can be “an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire.” In other words, it’s that being-turned-on feeling that we experience when we do something that makes us feel so happy and complete that we want to shout it from the rooftops. For me, it’s that highness I get after adding one more .decimal to my previous mile run, it was that weight-off my shoulders after completing a 60-page thesis, it was the last sigh I took while squeegeeing off the rose gold residue from the paint brush after adding the last coat of paint.
So yes, a simple act such as repainting a piece of furniture can be very eye-opening because of the therapeutic atmosphere that it places one in. Imagine, you’re creating something for yourself that you’ll get to look at in the following months or years and say to yourself, “yeah! I did that,” and when people comment on it, you’ll gladly add “thanks, I painted/drew/assembled it myself.” As for my own floor lamp makeover, although it took me a second try to realize that I should make it look good for myself, now when I look at it I’m reminded to put myself and my satisfaction first in every aspect of my life. This might sound selfish, but in all honesty, it’s okay to be a little selfish when it means living your best life, according to your own tastes, likes, and preferences