Monday, 18 May 2009

Mind the Gap

A few weeks ago, I was at the 'Grand Designs' Expo in London. Those who know me, know I am rather obsessed with design. Fault of being the progeny of an architect, even if the old man's not exactly Frank Lloyd Wright. I used to live by the mantra 'don't have anything in your house which is not either useful or beautiful' (preferably both, in ideal scenario) - those with young children may understand why this has been modified over time. Nevertheless, I am neither designer by trade nor can I afford to buy the design that I would, if I could (despite the odd mass-produced Alessi and Philippe Starck, no big deal.)

I sat down with an architect at the exhibition. I hadn't brought any plans of the complicated and major project I foresee for our property... (one day. As in, the dream we envisaged when we bought this detached and outdated house with playing fields stretching beyond and no neighbours on one side. No-one to overlook or look down, no barrier to potential planning permission/s.) Anyway, despite no plans I sat down quietly for half an hour and drew them out. Then sat down, less quietly, with said architect, and talked them out.

The architect gave me a figure we can't afford and haven't got. Might have in ten years. Might have in five. Probably not, bar an out-of-the-blue book deal (probably not). Again, probably not, bar my husband moving to Kuwait and earning tax-free stacks of cash (there again, definitely not).

I told the very nice, very-I-could-work-with-him architect that I have no current plans as my finances won't stretch the distance. As I did to plenty of others who tried to sell me their juicy wares from all the top design names, all day. I suppose I love it all so much that I project an aura: there seemed to be no gap between the customer they perceived me to be and the one I am (in stark reality). Certainly, I am as well versed as your next interiors- or design-aficionado. I know whose iconic pieces are which. I know the latest up-and-coming names. But it all ends there.

Mind the gap... The gap between who you'd like to be and who you are. The gap between how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. Therein lies they say. You can extrapolate ad infinitum...The income gap... The spending gap... the self-esteem gap... Bla, bla, bla. Lots of lovely matter for sociologists and psychologists.

Of course, the impressions and opinions of others matter only up to a point: though it's a point mostly stuck well into career, reputation, honour, glory, etc! (On the other hand, the Dalai Lama can give you a very valuable perspective on how none of these can bring lasting happiness. Read his stuff, it's good.)

Love, friendship, family?... if there are no gaps here then we should be happy, no gaps where it's all important, most important. But yet, for many of us, there's still the one gap which tends to rub. Between who we know we could be and who we are, right now. Between our reality and our potential, perhaps.

To thine own self be true, said William Shakespeare. And it will follow, as the night the day, you cannot then be false to any man.
(or words to that effect)

I mean, we all dream of being a more... successful?/slimmer?/fitter?/richer?/better organised?/(insert yours here)...version of what we are. We are aware of the gap, and it rubs. Especially if others notice (or don't notice). But, all we can do about it is either live with it or close the gap. Period. Or, become Buddhists.

So, in my case: what do I need to do to be true to myself? It's not about refurbishing a house or buying a Le Corbusier lounge chair. It's something about creativity, about a feeling for harmony and a love of beauty. Probably, and especially, the creativity bit. Food for thought. Mind the Gap!

The architect was disappointed, though. He's still trying to get me to sign him up for my big 'grand design'. Not now, my man. Not yet. Maybe I have to discover myself a bit more first - a 'grand design' on my career destiny, as it were - before dealing with the plain bricks and mortar stuff.

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