About five or so years ago I asked my friend A how she figured out how things went together. She was the most put together person I knew. Well, actually, she still is. I was struggling, in my early 20's to figure out how to dress, act, put my house together. I didn't have a heritage of style like some people do. I hadn't been taught to put things together. My parents endowed many other fantastic things to me - how to manage my finances and how to be kind and smart and relentless - but not style. Growing up was one big battle between my mom's aesthetic and my dads and there was never a compromise so it was just a tangle of objects that various people liked. We also were told almost every single day that we were going to be moving because my parents were going to sell the house. This meant that we could never settle in and invest in the way things looked.
To top it off, at the time A and I had this conversation, I was newly married and couldn't get my style to mesh with my husbands and I felt like my tiny house, my clothes, even my haircut was a disaster. I was trying to figure out how to meet his style expectations without compromising my own as well.
"Well," she told me. "I just look at everything. I look and I look and I look and I look."
That was it. That was the missing piece to the puzzle. So, the very next day I began to do exactly what she told me. As I went through life I tried to notice what caught my eye, what made me excited about things, what was I drawn to. Over the course of the last half decade I feel like I've really been able to narrow down the things that make me happy, and to also reserve a little hidden place for the things that make me happy but don't usually mesh well with the other things. The advice A gave me was super simple but it's completely changed the way I look at things. I wait for things to resonate in a very specific way before I go for them. I acquire things more slowly now. My decision making takes longer. But life is quieter because the cohesion helps to calm things down, both visually and mentally.
These red barns, dotted around the countryside near my parents house, resonated with me in that specific way. The blankets of sparkling snow surrounded these weathered red structures made me catch my breath and as we drove northward I watched them pass, delighted in the tradition and character that defines that part of the midwest.