Things I Could Really Live Without: the Dining Room Table

The cat naturally appreciates what she has

Today, I set up office on my husband’s first wife’s dining room table. I know, I know. Sounds a little off, doesn’t it?  When I mentioned this arrangement to a girlfriend of mine, as we sat chatting over coffee, she practically spit out her latte.

“You’re doing what?” she asked, wide-eyed. “Why would you do such a thing? That’s obnoxious.”

I sighed. This type of reaction is exactly why I don’t usually bring up domestic issues in friendly conversation.

“Well, I don’t have a lot of choice in the matter,” I said. “Besides, it is not as if she’s a witch. She’s actually a very nice person.”

She stared at me. “That’s beside the point, Lisa,” she said, shaking her head. “Why on earth are you living with another woman’s furniture? You’ve really got to learn to draw some boundaries.”

Right. I’ll just run straight to the store, buy some chalk and start madly drawing boundaries.

“It’s a little late for that,” I replied and took a long sip of tea.  About eighteen years late.

It’s like this: my husband and I bought a house together in 1995 after a relationship of many years. At the time, he brought along a collection of furniture from his previous matrimonial home, including a massive oak table and a buffet cabinet in a style you might call vampire gothic. While I was not thrilled with this arrangement, it provided the practical solution to a real problem. The house was huge: we had to furnish it with something. Besides, surely we would evolve out of this furniture over time, right? Surely, someday, it would all eventually be replaced.

Or not.

All these years later, we are still saddled with this furniture. Or rather, I am saddled with this furniture. I’m sure that my husband doesn’t feel the least bit offended by it. I wish I didn’t care; but the reality is, I do.

So for now, as I explain to my friend, we live in an uneasy peace, this table and buffet, my husband and I.  I decide to take the room for my own anyway: a writing space. I resolve to work around the furniture, with it, on it. I’ll paint the room a cheery yellow to offset the gothic heaviness of all that dark oak. I’ll re-arrange the pieces, recover the chairs and install a few favourite pictures. Maybe I’ll post some inspirational sayings, too, like Choose your battles wisely lest you have no energy left for the ones that really matter. I might even carve that in the bottom of the table, in an inconspicuous place. Change the energy, as a Feng Shui expert might say. Go with the flow. Then, I’ll spread out my paperwork, take in the view and do my damnedest to practice patience, love and gratitude.  And if that fails, I’ll just smile and grit my teeth.

(Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from a longer piece, “The Dining Room Table Chronicles”)

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