I’ve just read Duet by Carol Shields and she writes of the mother’s ‘eccentric passion for home decoration’. The writing is very funny, but it was a bit uncomfortably close to the bone for me at times and made me wonder if my passion for home decoration is a bit obsessive.

The following excerpt fits me quite well, except for the indigestion, which is not a problem for me:
While she was working on a room she was in a state of violent unrest, plagued by insomnia and shocking fits of indigestion. She planned her rooms as carefully as any set designer, bringing into life whole new environments. Finally, as the metamorphosis was nearing completion, she would become almost electrically excited, impatiently dabbing on the last bit of paint, taking the last stitch, and, with breath suspended, unveiling her creation.

Carol Shields goes on to describe how the mother would then go through agonies of doubt as to whether the changes were tasteful or tacky. The daughters never doubted that their mother loved the house more than she loved them. Suddenly the mother stopped decorating and the daughter says that although she didn’t know why she had stopped, she did understand that ‘an obsession such as the one that ruled my mother’s life could only have existed to fill a terrible, hurting void’.

I do know that the hurting void does not apply to me – for which I am thankful. But it made me think a bit about obsessions and passions. I suppose that passions can come from different places – hurting voids or fulsome joy and anything in between. And it’s surely ok to be creative – whatever the space it comes from. The scary thing is that an obsession can take over and squash out other reasonable pursuits like caring for children (in the case of Carol Shield’s character), and then even if the obsession is creative, it needs to be put in its place. I know that I have sometimes got carried away by a decorating project to the detriment of those around me. So thanks to Carold Shields for creating the scary home-decorating mother to be a lesson to me.

Next time I’ll tell you about my latest project!

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