Written by Roo Green

Lifestyle

Good housekeeping

Visualise the person you want to be, said Roo Green’s therapist. She didn’t quite bank on her obsessing about her house too.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

A couple of years ago I was in a meeting and I was asked if I could visualise myself in five years’ time. Did I imagine myself behind a large desk as the CEO of a major company? Picking up an award?

No. I immediately imagined myself sitting at a table in a gorgeous kitchen with doors out to the garden.

This is not because I am some sort of surrendered wife who believes her place is in the kitchen. (As in real life, in my fantasies I am not tackling the cooking – I am drinking wine while my beloved is slaving over a hot hob).

This kitchen stems from an exercise I was once set by a therapist as I worked on my confidence about my physical appearance. She asked me to visualise the kind of person I wanted to be.

I had to ‘see’ every aspect of her physicality: the colour of her hair, the expression on her face, the clothes she chose to wear and her stance. I had to see her (let’s call her RooTwo™) on the road ahead and then walk up to her and morph into her.

So far, so slightly disturbing dream.

Me, being me, I took RooTwo to another level. I spent time imagining her life: the car she drove, the shops she shopped at and – being mildly interiors obsessed – the house she lived in. Naturally, RooTwo occupies a home that is an ELLE Decoration wet dream.

It’s fair to say that years of renting reinforced the obsession of RooTwo’s home. It allowed me to visualise a place I could live when the renting was finally over and I could do all the things I wanted to do to a space.

When I got married I moved in with my husband and over time we have decorated the house together. Despite now having the power to make decisions and create an interior that we both love, I’ve not really been able to shake off RooTwo’s abode. If I struggle to get to sleep, then I think about the flooring in that home, or consider the taps in the shower room. Other people have a comfort blanket to lull them to sleep – I have a soothing en-suite.

But whatever gets you through, hey? Well yes, until aspiration becomes atrophy.

Where RooTwo’s home used to be something to push me forward (“Here’s what you can have if you work on your confidence and move up”), I took it to an extreme where it was allowing me to put off progress. I started to hoard hopes and dreams in that dummy detached dwelling.

Why wasn’t I writing that novel that I secretly wanted to? Because actually until I had RooTwo’s perfect office then I didn’t really feel as if I could. I could picture myself at a desk in front of an open window, I could hear birdsong and bees humming and I could see what I was wearing in sharp detail.

I was following the exercise set by my therapist, to the letter, but to delay, not to develop. It was the mental equivalent of thinking you need to lose seven pounds before you can possibly enjoy a holiday, or find a partner.

When I pondered on my pretend palace it took about 10 minutes to work out its foundations were built on fear. I wanted to do something and I was scared it might fail. I attached it to a process that was meant to bring about positive outcomes, to convince myself I was ‘working towards it’ without actually doing a bloody thing.

“Other people have a comfort blanket to lull them to sleep – I have a soothing en-suite.”

Every November there’s a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I’d talked about doing it for a number of years with my many (patient) friends who have encouraged me to write. At the end of last year I spent very little time thinking about doing it, I just took the plunge.

Every day I came home from work, and without considering whether I could or couldn’t write – I just did. I typed when I felt good, I typed when I felt rubbish, I typed when I was exhausted and would rather have snoozed on the sofa. I wrote in my office, sat on the sofa, at the kitchen table and even on my phone in a hotel room.

I did not allow myself to critique my work – my internal editor was fired for a bit and I just tapped away. This was not about producing the best work but about getting the job done. To physically show myself that writing is not just a process for the perfect backdrop.

I managed my 50,000-word total during that month and was overjoyed. I know in my heart of hearts it needs the mother of all edits – but I have cracked my belief that I can only access my interior creative when the exterior setting is perfect.

RooTwo’s home still gets the odd visit when I struggle to sleep, or need to distract myself, as pondering on parquet is incredibly soothing. The difference is I now only use it as a shelter from negative thoughts rather than a closed door to ambition.

@roogreen

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Written by Roo Green

Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.