My brain is a fixer-upper

I need you to enter a world of imagination for a second.

The inside of my head is actually hollow. It’s not hollow in the sense that it is empty, but rather in the sense that there is enough space to walk around and explore.

To be more specific, it’s actually in the shape of a room — a neglected one at that. There are cobwebs in the corners, loose photographs in disarray and crumpled bedsheets. 

I, like so many others, have forgotten that I permanently live inside my head. Even if I get out of my head for a day, I’ll be back every night to rest. There’s only one question to ask myself: would I rather rest in a beautiful room or one with cobwebs?

There will be no U-Haul to drive me away nor shiny, new mansions to move into. So I’ve decided my brain is a fixer-upper.

man in room
A person in solitude. Yvonne Tang illustrates the neglected room inside of her mind in this piece and reveals what is gained from making the effort to fix it up. COURTESY OF JOEL OVERBECK VIA UNSPLASH

First, I’m going to open the curtains. It’s partly because I like the look of the sunbeam on the mattress, but mostly, it reminds me that it’s a big world and people are walking outside. I am not alone.

Everywhere I step, the space feels uncomfortable. I lift my foot and realize it’s because the wooden panels are chock full of dust, so I grab the Swiffer and wipe it away. Now when I think about dust, it will be only a memory.

Speaking of memories, I look at the pile of photographs on the floor. One sticks out that makes me unhappy, so I carefully tuck it at the bottom of the desk drawer. I won’t look at that anymore until I’m ready.

I hang the other photographs next to my mirror, and I smile. Now I won’t accidentally step on them on the way to the bathroom.

I promise myself that if I ever get sick of the walls again, I’ll paint them an outrageous color, like poopy brown or neon green. And then I’ll paint them back to a muted color, like tan. For now, though, I’ve realized that I actually don’t mind it here. “Here,” meaning my own head. 

There are a lot of things that make the room in my head uncomfortable and cramped. Sometimes I say things without thinking. I’m only 5’3”, and I have the self-confidence of a turtle.  I get peeved at myself for these thoughts all the time, and they collect just like dust. But what’s the point when you feel how comfortable this pillow is? Did you see the flower blooming inside the window pot?

No matter how noisy it gets outside that window, the best-case scenario is I can always come home to this very welcoming room. If it gets too loud out there, maybe I can blast some of the Beatles’ greatest hits in here.

The biggest realization I had while moping around in a cobweb-ridden brain is that no one can give you happiness but you.

If the room inside your head is a mess, it will feel like the entire world is too. 

Say you take that first step by opening the curtain, and you get a nice view of the horizon line. But that’s such a small view in your entire peripheral vision. The room is still messy.

Outside the window, it could be beautiful and sunny, or worse — it could be just as foggy and gray as it is inside.

So what can you control? Not the hypothetical weather. But you stare at the empty space on the windowsill for a moment, and you think:

‘Huh, a potted plant would look really damn nice there.’

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