When the Awesome Becomes the Usual

Tales of a Pink Bathroom

My bathroom used to be pink.  I mean Easter egg, pastel pink, with pink plastic tiles with little gold flecks in them stretching most of the way up the wall.  Above the tiles, the previous owner had inexplicably painted the rest of the wall a screaming pistachio green.  There was a pink toilet.  And gold and ivory fixtures.  And a faux “shower curtain inspired” shower door that was actually rippled as though it were a curtain that had just been casually pushed back.

It was a travesty. When we finally got the money to renovate and started demo, the blue tarp stapled to the stripped walls looked infinitely better than anything that had been there before.

I didn’t realize until it was redone what that old bathroom had been doing to my spirits.  Getting ready each morning in the new bathroom, I felt something I’d never felt before: relaxedNot like I wanted to kill something.  I hadn’t realized I’d been spending every minute in the old bathroom gritting my teeth, but I did now, because suddenly I could start the day without feeling vaguely aggravated from the get-go.

Fast-forward to two years later.  My husband recently came across some photos of the house from when we bought it.  I didn’t even recognize the old bathroom as having been in our home.  I cringed when I saw it again.  I couldn’t believe it had ever looked so awful, or that we had ever managed to live with it day in and day out.  And suddenly, I felt a new sense of gratitude for the bathroom we have now.  I used to get that burst of gratefulness every time I walked into the redone bathroom, but now it’s just another room in my house.  I don’t even “see” it when I’m in it; it’s just a backdrop.

The trouble is, I’ve gotten used to it. As with any shiny new toy that gets boring the longer you have it, I’ve come to take my pretty, undisgusting bathroom for granted.  I appreciated the hell out of it when we first got it, but since then I’ve forgotten how incredible it felt the first time I stepped foot in it.  It hasn’t stopped being awesome, I’ve just stopped seeing its awesomeness.


Appreciation Depreciation

In financial terms, “appreciation” means an increase in the value of an item or asset, while “depreciation” means the gradual reduction of that value.  Sometimes, this increase or decrease is based on tangible changes to that item.  The value of your house increases if you make improvements to it but decreases if you let it fall into disrepair. Other times, nothing inherently changes about the thing itself; what shifts is the way the market evaluates it.  The U.S. dollar is worth more or less on any given day, but it’s still, in the end, just a dollar.  Our valuation of it changes based on external factors we consider important.

In everyday terms, “appreciation” means realizing what you’ve got and being thankful for it.  And it tends to decrease the longer you have whatever it is.

That was the case with my bathroom, the latest of a million little things I started out being super-thankful for and then gradually came to take for granted.  The thing itself is the same as it’s always been, but my appreciation of it has decreased just because it’s not new to me anymore.  It was only when I got a sudden reminder of the way things were that I found myself appreciating anew just how good I’ve really got it.


The Way We Were

Now my husband and I are talking about taking the old pictures of the house and framing them, so that we have a picture of the old bathroom in the new bathroom, the old living room in our current living room, etc.  They would be interesting conversation pieces, but what I like most about the idea is that they would be a tangible reminder to me to look back, from time to time, on the way things were, so that I can fully appreciate how they are now.

Stop for just a second and consider where you were a few years ago—before your new house, before you met your significant other, before you had a GPS.  Whatever it is, big or small, chances are there are tons of ways in which you’ve got it better now than you did before.  Our lives over time contain a series of incremental improvements, most of which we take for granted as soon as we’ve got them.  Just pausing now and then to reflect on how things are better than they used to be is a powerful way to make your everyday life seem just a little bit more incredible.

How many of the things you take for granted now would the “you” of 5 years ago think were just awesome?

Image: John Morgan / Flickr

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  • mel

    (1) i totally remember the old bathroom, and it’s making me giggle. it was so gloriously awful.

    (2) i LOVE the picture idea.

    (3) you’re 100% right about stuff, as usual. now that i spend my days among “fancy people” i often have to remind myself that my relatively modest existence is still WAY CLASSIER than it was for most of my life, and that it’s MORE than enough and does not need to be any flashier. i’ve gotten really into mindfulness lately, which helps with this endeavor. let me know if you want a book recommendation or two.

    • cordeliacallsitquits

      Yes, please! I’m realizing lately just how scattered and high-velocity my stream of thoughts is, so I could desperately use some mindfulness.

  • my new bathroom is a million times better than the old one and you’ve made me appreciate that a whole lot more. Appreciation depreciation is a real thing for me too! 🙂

    • cordeliacallsitquits

      It’s funny that even after writing a whole post about it, I still find myself walking into the new bathroom and not paying any mind to it. Being aware of (and thankful for) what you have definitely takes a concerted effort; taking things for granted is just the way we operate. But I’m making the effort now, and that’s all you can really do, right?

  • Darcy F

    Maybe you could write a note to yourself in small letters at the bottom of your mirror…”This room used to be PINK!” A reminder oif how far we have come can be a good thing! 🙂

    • cordeliacallsitquits

      I like it!

  • Aw! This made me tear up a little! I find this so true! Being an only child I’m still the queen of “I want it and I want it NOW” and as soon as I get it… Meh! Just another toy in the toy box!

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on the awesomeness in life!

    Bridget and the Girls with Prius Envy

    • cordeliacallsitquits

      You’re quite welcome. And, p.s., I will be subscribing to your blog…right about….now! 🙂

  • Yes, things most certainly lose their luster..just like appearances from older age…lol! I try to maintain a heart of gratitude. We live in a mobile home and it’s a challenge when neighbors don’t want a plant hanging over into their yard and now the paint is weathered and beginning to peel off. But it is home sweet home with three cats that are happy as can be..(most of the time) Good post!

    • cordeliacallsitquits

      Thank you! What matters isn’t what you have, but how much you *enjoy* what you have. Something I try to remind myself of every day. 🙂

  • Lovely post. Very true and a great bit of perspective!

  • cordeliacallsitquits

    “I’m in awe about how little people (as in all the blog readers)know about each other, and yet, how much we can connect through our stories.”

    That’s one of my favorite things about blogging–it’s incredible how many people you can find who are going through the same things you are and reaching for the same goals. It’s incredibly encouraging.

    And p.s., let me say that I sojealous of your DIY husband. I only wish I had that kind of follow-through for half my projects!


    • Rachel

      So do I Kelly…so do I…

  • Rachel

    It’s as if we’re riding on the same wavelength. I first read your post on Quits List, and felt like it was painting my life story. Then I read this post. Coincidentally, I just posted something on Lam Wagon (if you still reacll reading the blog) that also has a lot to do with incremental home improvements and appreciation. I have to say that I’m in awe about how little people (as in all the blog readers)know about each other, and yet, how much we can connect through our stories.

    Like I told you previously, I have too, created many parking spaces for books I thought would be “good for me” but never read past through the second chapter. One of which is War and Peace. Another one is The Tale of Two Cities. Both were written by great writers of all time and ooze of ingenius literary juices even through their covers. But right now, I prefer to just sit back and enjoy what I enjoy whenever I can.

    Like you said, perhaps in a few years you will revisit Infinite Jest again, but until then, doing what you feel is important would yield much more gratification and appreciation.

    Lam Wagon

  • Anonymous

    I love the picture idea!

    One great joy of blogging and personal journaling is being able to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come. It’s tempting to spend all my time looking to the future, but I experience the best life when I am grounded solidly in today, appreciating life as it is today, wiser from past lessons and growth, and bolstered by future dreams.

    • So true!  I often need to remind myself to “be in the now” and appreciate how far I come.  It’s so easy to get caught up in striving towards future goals.  It’s such a moving reminder every now and then to consider what’s gotten you to the point you’re at now.