Picking at the buttery, bite-sized pieces of chicken I’d prepared for her dinner, our mother announced that her days are numbered, and that she wasn’t hungry. My brother the surgeon countered brusquely: “We’re all dying. The point is that you’re 88 years old, you have children and grandchildren and great grandchildren who love you, and a fabulous view from your apartment. A lot of people can’t say that right now, and the reason they can’t say that is because they woke up dead!”
Since when have we had to keep gratitude diaries to count our blessings, to attend mindfulness classes to relearn how to live in the moment, to employ service dogs to remind ourselves that to love and be loved is the measure of a life well lived? Our mother is the baby in the family, in that her needs dominate every conversation, and we find ourselves (by email, text, FaceTime, during visits from near and far) monitoring her physical, mental, and emotional states. We work to keep her alive, toil to improve the quality of her life, scheme to make the life we’re extending a little happier. Ticking the DNR box (Do Not Attempt Resuscitation) on the Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form (POLST) does not mean we’ve given up attempting to resuscitate her joy of life: we’d trade days, weeks, maybe even months of her life expectancy to witness a twinkle of delight, a wave of contentment, to sense from her that life is inherently good, that she feels beloved on this earth, that for once, she’d ordered the right thing off the menu, got exactly what she wanted, and it tasted divine. No joy.
Concentration shot since the US presidential election, I know I ought to give up news and booze, eschew devices and vices, and get to bed early with a good book instead of streaming Gaslit Nation. I still browse bookstores in search of guidance, and either the premise or the playful polka-dotted cover of Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness sparked my curiosity: can stuff spark actual joy? Might an Alexander McQueen Hummingbird cashmere and silk rug lift our spirits in a way Prozac could not? Would we eat better/eat less off Arran Street East hand-thrown ceramic tableware, glazed in delicate fruit and vegetable-inspired hues like potato and cabbage, pink grapefruit and lemon? Can a Sasha Sykes rose petal bedside table lamp ensure life will be a bed of roses? Fetell Lee, a designer, convert to maximalism and founder of the blog The Aesthetics of Joy, thinks so: “Tangible things create an intangible feeling of joy.”
Colour consultant and synesthete Olha Kelly eats, drinks and breathes colour, a rare neurological condition she taps to best advise her clients what paint to choose to transform their interiors, in turn often transforming their interior lives. Wearing a crisp white Dries Van Noten shirt with dip-dyed sleeves, Olha talks us through how she carefully “prescribes” colour: “Colour is like the best drug you can take, but with no side effects. In Ireland, we overdose on grey grey grey. Painting your walls the right colour can help you sleep better, elevate your mood, stimulate digestion and even improve your sex life!” Joyful’s author defines colour as “energy made visible”, citing legendary designer David Hicks’ mantra that “Colours do not clash. They vibrate.”
In my other life as a furniture designer, lately I find myself specifying saturated coloured lacquers in a Rothko palette, choosing vivid pressure-dyed timbers, from flamingo pink ripple sycamore to sapphire eucalyptus, in lieu of natural woods in Clairol shades. It makes me palpably happy, and for a moment, I forget the news. Maybe I’m on to something. Maybe I’ll have my mom’s apartment painted Tuscan Sun.
This month’s Moodboard
1. I’m enhancing my mood in a Paint & Paper Library-inspired interior, in Tallanstown Grey and sunny Morning Room. www.paintandpaperlibrary.com. 2. I’m buttering my toast both sides with a joyous Dolce & Gabbana for SMEG toaster, at Harvey Norman. 3. I’m rethinking my interiors, guided by Ingrid Fetell Lee’s insightful book. Even my surfaces are joyful! 4. I’m breakfasting like a king on Arran Street East handmade ceramics; 1 Little Green Street, Dublin 7. 5. I’m throwing Aoife Mullane cushions at every problem. Stop by Brown Thomas to see her collection. 6. I’m wearing a one-size-fits-all Alexander McQueen Hummingbird rug for The Rug Company. Suits me, sir! 7. I’m vacationing in my kitchen, thanks to gorgeously embellished Dolce & Gabbana appliances for SMEG;
www.sicilyismylove.com. 8. I’m floating on air in a pair of rimless pink Miu Miu Cloud sunglasses. 9. I’m booking colour consultant Olha Kelly to help me choose from Paint & Paper Library’s delectable palette. email@example.com.
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