Friday, September 17, 2010

How to Cohabit with Love and Balance

Sharing space with someone, from a roommate to a spouse, is fraught with challenge. I am blessed with a perfect living situation -- so perfect that I should get a trademark on our design and market it to folks who want to share space blissfully.

When my two-legged beloved, Gordon, and I decided to live together, it could have been a big mess. First, we are in our September years, both fixed in our ways of doing things, as well as diet and lifestyle. Second, in my humble opinion, my beloved is rather Obsessive Compulsive. Now of course, he denies this, but truly, everything in his life is in order, things get done immediately, no tasks await him - there is complete order in his world.

And then I show up -- ADHD challenged -- projects and project fall-out everywhere. I live one moment at a time with little planning -- I like to see life unfold naturally (he likes to make lists and organize details.) I also have three four-legged beloveds who love total dog anarchy and shed and drool to varying degrees. I feel like the character Pigpen in the Charlie Brown comics except that instead of dirt, papers, books and fur fly all around me. I used to joke that my dead body would someday be discovered under a mound of books and papers.

A large part of our cohabiting success has to do with our complimentary neuroses. We choose to allow them to complement rather than be conflictual. For example, he organizes all of our travel; he quietly prepares directions and maps when I set out on a journey, since I typically aim for my destination without directions and try to navigate by nature and luck. He is forever trying to brush dog hair off my clothes when I leave for work since I am oblivious to it. And I get out of his way when he is in a Must-Do-Now mode. Neither of us even think of changing the other.

But a larger part of what makes our relationship work, and the part I would trademark as an architectural godsend, is the layout of our home.

Gordon owns a 1923 home with two apartments upstairs and three downstairs; he was living in two of the downstairs apartments when I met him.

When we decided to live together we began remodeling the downstairs (and continue to do so! Will construction ever end??!!)

We have connected three apartments and designated them as his, hers and ours.

In the south apartment, he has his space decorated with oriental carpets, Victoria furniture, lots of antiques and breakables. It is beautiful and sophisticated (I say: in a funeral parlor sort of way). This is a space that would not know a spec of dust nor clutter. Dogs are never allowed in this space. It is a gated space to make sure there are no furry trespassers.

In the north apartment, I have my space decorated with:
a sanctuary facing east that captures the morning sun and is lined with crystal bowls, my torah stand, and an altar featuring items that are inspirational to me.
a sitting area with room for yoga and meditation with colorful art -- some modern, some eastern yogic.
a study with a door we can close if the papers and books become dangerous.
a studio where all my art projects and raw food preparation items can be out as various projects are in stages of completion (sometimes for extended periods of time.) And a door we can close when these projects threaten to overflow.

This is the side of the living space that the dogs have free reign -- dog anarchy rules. They can sleep on my loveseat, play with their toys, shed, drool, and unfortunately Ms Lex likes to pee in the sanctuary (on a pad of course -- not so good for sacred space).

And in the west apartment, we share space -- dogs are permitted, but with "house rules - no anarchy allowed." This is our dining room, kitchen, and bedroom. And it tends to show both of our lifestyles -- clean and clutter mix during the day, but evenings and mornings, all is organized and orderly, which is nice. (I merely carry my clutter back over to my side, easy peezy.)

Perhaps most couples have already figured this out. I know men have their den's or garages. I suppose women have their sewing rooms or private space too. And I know in a perfect world, couples could share a studio or a 40 foot sailboat -- but I don't live in a perfect world, nor am I a perfect person, preferring to call myself a work in progess, an unfolding life.

I love my home and my space and my life and all of this make for a loving relationship for all souls that inhabit it.

However, I will be so very relieved when we finish remodeling -- but then again, when someone is perhaps obsessive compulsive, and when a home was built in 1923, there will always be remodeling and mending and tending -- and for this, I merely say, "thank you for making our space beautiful."

May we be blessed with sacred space as we live our lives in balance and harmony -- this is my prayer for each of us.

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