My big desk

My big desk, positioned in our room, its whole length wrapping around three corners in an open shape that can be likened to half a hexagon, seems to have a life of its own. It has its own busyness, its own state of rest, unrest and distress. The only open space under it is the area in the middle where my legs go when I am seated in front. And I am thankful for the identical ergonomic chairs (one for each of us) that my husband insisted on getting when we were just newlyweds.

“It’s just a chair,” I had argued. “I really would not care much for a fancy one.”

“It is not just all form, honey, and one day you will thank me for it,” he had said. It seemed like a lot of money to spend on something to just sit on but through the years I find that he is right. It has proven to be durable, truly comfortable as it does not punish the butt and back, and is always a bright spot especially on days when I have to tackle paperwork for long, drawn-out hours. The chair that I now love and fully appreciate for its form as well as its function makes for one less thing to complain about.

Over my desk and in the exact same open half-hexagon shape are four deep shelves that go almost all the way up to the ceiling.  Carefully lined on the surface are boxes, identical per shelf, all labeled and arranged according to which ones contain items that are most frequently (positioned on the lower middle shelves) or seldom (found on the upper shelves and sides) used. The storage boxes I have I got from three sources:  the two dozen pandan-covered ones on the second shelf I bought from Store Company in the late ‘90s when I was but a new bride trying to feel my way through the self-imposed demands of running a household; the eight linen-covered big ones that are on the bottom shelf I got shortly after, from where I can no longer remember; the 16 pieces on the third shelf I had custom-made at Grassroots; and the 10 corrugated plastic ones on the topmost shelf that holds manuals and warranties and souvenirs and every other odd little thing that I really have no use for but cannot let go of I got from Make Room, many, many years ago also.  I see the boxes daily and I am pleased that, aside of course from the fact that the quality is good, I have kept them well — even the 10-year-old ones are in brand-new condition, with just a faded trace of wear and tear on some of the corners. Daddy and Mommy trained us well in that department, teaching us to value and take care of all our things, and I think they did a good job. I only have to look at my boxes to remember that.

Life happens on my desk, and the way it looks on any given day is an almost-always accurate description of how relaxed or how busy my schedule is.  Every two to three days, more often if time permits, I clean and organize the mounds that seem to naturally pile up in satellites. But despite my best efforts, the cycle just goes on and on, and on. I clean; stuff piles up; I clean yet again. I have an in/out system but I realize now it will only work if I am the only one who ever goes near my desk, guarding it like a sentinel, controlling the flow of traffic on a daily basis. Which is impossible, of course. So I guess that really does bring me to where I am now, stuck with but already totally accepting of a space in various states of tidiness or untidiness, in itself already a force to contend with.

As it is, Juliana’s yaya dumps everything from her school bag on my desk — hairclips, Band-aids, announcements from school, and just yesterday wheat pandesal that she chanced upon on their way home from dance class that she was sure I would like. The house girls dump everything on my desk, too — mail, magazine subscriptions, packages that arrive, receipts, folders and envelopes that hold papers and checks for signature from the secretary/accountant.  The cook leaves reminders and long grocery lists, the driver tells the house girl to leave more reminders for vehicles that need to be tuned up, checked up on, or whatever other technical things happen in the life of a car. Broken toys and just about anything that needs to be repaired (I am very talented at gluing/repairing things; I suspect I could even put Humpty Dumpty together in one piece again) and clothing items that need to be altered are placed there; stuff that needs to be sent out ends up there as well.

My desk happens to be my personal space too; where I work, write, wrap, dream, whine, stare into space, and hope. I have many pretty little things scattered on and around it that inspire me, notes and drawings from Juliana that are posted on the perimeter of the first shelf, photos I have clipped that mirror the wishes I hold in my heart, snapshots of happy times and special people, handmade little gifts from family and friends that are precious and raw in their beauty, spark words and inspirational quotes that never fail to perk up even the craziest day. These allow me to take mini-vacations without really requiring me to leave my desk.

But yes, you get the picture: my desk is the bagsakan of the house, the official depot. It can be exasperating at times, especially on days when I cannot even see my desktop anymore, buried as it is under papers and such, and organizing feels like a very lonely battle. But always without fail, at the end of it all there is a happi-ness that sits squarely in that part of my heart that is unapologetically domesticated. When I have succeeded somehow at reducing the mound and making the life that happens on my desk flow in some semblance of order I cannot help but be satisfied, no matter how faint, incomplete, or fleeting even, the feeling. Come to think of it, I’m now very good friends with those feelings.

In the boxes are little pieces of my own life, tangible reminders of people and places I want never to forget. When I am in a rush, which happens always, I stuff new additions haphazardly in a box labeled “catchall,” waiting for that one weekend, that more often than not turns into a dozen weekends, to organize them where they rightfully belong.

I always say I only want two weeks off, just two weeks of uninterrupted time that is all my own, to just stay at home and get organized, then life can happen again. It can get stressful when you care too much about how orderly things should be and although I am not as organized in real life as I am in my mind, I’m getting there, little by little, every day. I don’t see those two weeks happening just yet, with summer and all its activities knocking on our doorstep, but I am learning to let go a little, being more forgiving of myself, not sweating the small stuff so much. Until I get my two weeks off, I will just have to be content with little pockets of time that allow me to get organized here and there.

Because I always keep many spools of pretty ribbons, over the summer I want to install a curtain rod under the first shelf over my desk, to act as a dispenser of sorts. Juliana and I have decided also to decoupage wooden trays custom-made by a carpenter. We will use that to organize our desktops further — she has a little desk, too, and if you look at it closely you will find that it is a replica of mine, only it is predominantly pink and her lampshade is embellished with stickers and sparkly miniature dolls.

I wish I could spend a whole day in a place like The Container Store in the States or even just Ikea in Hong Kong. If shipping those bulky items were not so costly it would be so much fun to shop with abandon. I know I could find everything I need there. I always wonder why we still don’t have Ikea here and I really hope some big businessman will finally bring it in.

It is Easter, time for new hopes and new cycles. I am hoping for an Easter home, if I can call it that: a more organized space and place where the quality of my days will improve in that I do not have to spend every bit of free time I have just tidying up, a place where I am ahead of the job and everything is in its proper place. Then rest days can really be rest days, where I can just lounge around and do my crafts, scrap-booking or quilling or beading, guiltlessly knowing that everything is already where it should be anyway.

Meanwhile, although I may not be able now to control how the days unfold, much less what things land on my desk, I can always be thankful that I even have a desk like this to begin with.

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