Today, the twenty-first day of January in the Year of our Lord Two Thousand and Thirteen, is a day that will live long in the memory.
Oh not cos of some shenanigans with a President across the pond, or at least not only for that. Not even for the fact that its Martin Luther King day, although that’s pretty cool too. No, today will live long, in my memory at least, because today is the day that i saved my lampshade.
I didn’t set out to save a lampshade. Like so many of the best stories, the purpose of my journey only became apparent in the midst of it. My initial intention as I schlepped out in the gathering slush was to buy plumbing bits and to look at blinds. It wasn’t until I’d finished with the blinds and embarked for the plumbing aisle that I discovered the subject of this tale. It was obscured by three superficially similar but ultimately entirely different lampshades, that had initially attracted my attention. I needed a lampshade for my bedroom and these looked like they might fit the bill. I liked the design – one of those wicker ball type things – and the colour was perfect, but… they seemed poorly put together; there was something just not quite right about them. And this was when what is now my lampshade caught my eye. Maybe it was from a previous batch, or perhaps even a different supplier… whatever the reason, this lampshade had a much denser and more even weave. It had a look to it that felt right and I knew I had found my lampshade!
All was well, except of course that the path of true home decor never does run smooth. The lampshade had lost all its packaging and a few of the threads that made it up had become worn and come loose. No big deal in itself, but crucially, the clip that would hold the lampshade onto the light fitting was missing. My lampshade, whilst beautiful, was essentially useless.
I think most people at this point would have bought one of the similar lampshades, come home and fitted it without difficulty or a second thought and got on with their lives. Maybe some people would have left all the lampshades and looked out for similar products elsewhere. I am not most people. I did not do this. I could not do this. It was far too late. I had now formed an emotional bond with the lampshade. There was no going back. This was now a rescue mission.
I’ve already told you I was looking for plumbing products and if i now tell you I know nothing about plumbing you might begin to see that I don’t tend to do things the easy way. I looked at this lampshade that I felt, because of its tight and intricate weave, would look unusually beautiful with the light shining out of it, but that I could also see was missing all the practical bits, and I saw a metaphore for how I – rightly or wrongly – view myself. I was now, God help me, empathising with the lampshade. Not just that; identifying with it.
Like the lampshade, I am far from practical. I bought a wreck of a house partly out of sheer, naive folly and partly out of a bloody minded, do or die attempt to develop some kind of facility for the actually physical, rather than merely theoretical. But its still a work in progress; indeed my life in general is.
In the same way that any beauty or purpose the lampshade may have had was undermined by what it lacked, I often feel the frustration that results from the sensation that there are crucial parts missing, severely impeding the functionality of the whole.
So I had a reason for choosing this awkward and difficult lampshade. More than that, though, i wasn’t after just a lampshade anymore; I had caught a sniff of the thread of a story. Most people when they lie in bed and stare up at the ceiling see a lampshade. I am going to see a story. And not just any story – a redemption story. A story about how a beautiful, broken thing was rescued and tenderly carried back through the snow and the cold and, in true darkest-hour-is-just-before-dawn style, the hail and biting wind that shot up out of nowhere as we made the final turn. A story about how that broken thing will be mended so that it can perform the task for which it was created. A story about how the frustration of beauty without purpose was transformed to beauty with not just purpose but also identity and meaning. I got all this from a lampshade that most people would dismiss as broken, and the store might even have thrown away. I’m kinda weird like that, but i’m also kinda glad, at least on this occasion, cos it’s gonna be great fixing this lampshade all up and seeing the result of that labour. It’s certainly not the easy way but it is good, and it is satisfying and it is meaningful.
And more than that; because I am a romantic, and because I still at least have, if not definitely faith then certainly hope, and because this is how redemption stories work, I can’t help but want to draw a parallel with the possibility that something far beyond me looks at me like I look at my lampshade. I don’t know, I’m not sure that I even believe, but I sure hope so. I hope I’m not still sitting on the shelf (ha!) in the store and there’s no-one and nothing out there and no story to this existence and no hope for the brokenness and no chance that the beauty and meaning that aches to pour out of each of us could ever come to fruition.
No. I know i’m a long way from home yet, and I’m certainly not all fixed up and the light is definitely not shining, but I hope I’ve made a start on the journey. I hope I’m on the way.
And in the meantime, i have a lampshade to restore.