Inspiration & other's otherness

On the weekend, I was reading Ben's book, which is really my favourite decor book. As you know, I don't live in a home as grand or old or beautifully proportioned as the homes featured and yet I find so much inspiration there.

I think a lot about what inspiration is. It's one of those words people throw around online, reading blogs, collecting pictures. And it hooks up to such a wide range of thoughts and feelings and, only sometimes, action.

Sometimes it's the "doing" that something inspires. Like a Lisa Eldridge make-up video can inspire me to try the look that she's demonstrating verbatim. But, more generally, her videos also inspire me to care about my appearance, to cultivate an interest and knowledge, to play and experiment and put a good face forward.

Other times, I feel inspired by things I cannot do. And that inspiration can sit on me like an ill-fitting, but beautiful coat. The yearning to create what one can't, to dress in a way one won't, to live otherwise. I've begun to understand that this feeling is better filed as admiration than inspiration. It's better taken as an opportunity to appreciate differences, to revel in other's otherness than as an need to be applied to oneself.

The experience when I make that switch, when I stop trying to hook up another's life or style or talent to my own, is the opposite of solipsism - it's a reinforcement of other people existing in realms beyond our own meagre imagination. It's a gift of transportation, exposure to another possible world... so beautiful. I feel it when I read blogs like {this is glamourous} or look at pictures of Alice's beautiful home. I love those spaces. It doesn't matter that they wouldn't be the home I'd create.

Of course, inspiration isn't an all-or-nothing proposition. Even in other's otherness there can be moments of intersection. Our little Venn diagrams overlap occasionally. But I don't look for these similarities in others any more. Rather, I enjoy when they come along and it catches me off guard. And so I visit these places pretty passively, with not a lot to say. I'm not looking to learn or change, rather to wallow and appreciate. It's a beautiful, non-pressured sort of experience, simply enjoying the company of another person, appreciating how they live and adorn their space and self, all the things that fuel their fire.

I used to be inspired by too much. I'd want to change my style at break-neck speed. I never did. I suppose I had a strong enough sense of self not to follow through on something blatantly un-me. But I'd feel whiplash reactions as I scrolled through my reader, like I was looking for a magical signpost in another. When I remember it now, that early blog consumption feels feverish. I don't miss it. I like the small and motley crew I follow now, the distinct individuality of each blog, and that I don't lean on any one for common feeling or identification or emulation.

I think a key part of seizing inspiration effectively is having a realistic grasp of who you are and what you love and I guess I've grown into this a lot in my blogging years.

Now, the inspiration I most enjoy, and need in the smallest doses, has more in common with recognition. In Ben's London apartment, for example, I recognize many of the wide-ranging things I'm attracted to, from Georgian furniture to mid-century modern. He, with greater talent and daring and acumen, brings it all together. And I learn from him too: Georgian versus midcentury was often a tug-of-war for me (I thought of it as Dublin versus Toronto). But Ben lives with both and seeing them sit together, melded so seamlessly inspires me: Not to change, just to accept what I love, even when it seems dissonant. And it's that recognition of self that often makes visiting his blog inspiring for me.

I'm happy now to be able to recognize what's me and what's not. To know the difference between liking something and wanting it. And to enjoy liking without wanting so much more than the pangs of desire that used to hit with every reader refresh. And all of this is to say that lately, I'm so glad to be the age I am. Suddenly, a lot of feelings have lifted and, in that space, I've found myself to be more bold and daring than when I was saturated in so-called "inspiration". As somebody who has struggled with being at ease with my own self, that's a lovely arrival. I don't crave this undertow of inspiration any more, I much prefer the gentler currents of recognition and admiration.
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