The key to self-improvement of any kind is first to recognize that you want to improve something. Any time you ask someone for advice or help with your happiness and safety, you’re asking someone or something to intervene. You’re asking for something outside of you to make a change.
Such was the case when a client of mine called me to come over and help her with color in her home. She and her husband were stuck and had been for a while. They had decided to sell their home and buy another, and had been searching for weeks, but couldn’t agree on anything.
She was unhappy. I was happy to intervene.
When you walked through the entrance to the house, to the right was a narrow galley kitchen. On the other side, the living room with an enormous angled, dark brown, rough cedar-paneled fireplace that took up the entire wall. An Oregon bonus: It had an oval-shaped forest carving in the center. It looked like a giant turd in the middle of the room; I kid you not.
Think 1970’s luxury ranch-style.
Their initial plan was to blow out the entire fireplace and have an open living room/kitchen floor plan. I thought it was a great idea, but then they had decided to move instead of fixing up the house. Until they found a home they both could agree on; she at least wanted to paint.
I told her that the right shade of golden yellow on the walls would make the wood look warmer, richer. It would balance the heavy weight of the fireplace and provide contrast without making the room feel heavy. The room would instead feel bright and colorful.
She was terrified, excited, and confident all at the same time. At least she no longer felt crazy! She had all this fabulous and colorful abstract art that would now pop, drawing the attention away from the oh-so-demanding fireplace. She knew it was right because she had that dark brown and rich gold in a lot of their stuff. All of it made sense, and she agreed to do it.
In the middle of painting, she called me and asked if I’d stop by. I did. It was magnificent! The fireplace had gone beyond improvement; it had changed shape and form. It had fully transformed. Everything they owned now looked as if they had bought it custom-tailored for the room.
As the two of us stood there admiring her work, her husband walked in. I asked him how he felt about the transformation. His answer was, “I hate yellow.”
I laughed and said, “Ironically, it’s a shade called Fuck You Yellow, so it’s a perfect match.”
He studied me to see if I was making fun of him. I wasn’t. I was funny because I thought he was funny. We all had a big laugh, then I left.
She left him three months later.
She finally realized why they were so stuck. They couldn’t buy a house or remodel their existing home because no amount of improvement was going to deliver the sense of happiness and security she was looking for as long as they were together. She needed more than a fresh coat of paint, but she needed a fresh coat of paint to help her get to that realization. She asked me to intervene, and it ended up making a profound positive difference in her life. She didn’t know it would; I didn’t know it would. But it did.
A quick way to change your life and experience a sense of self-improvement is to paint. Sometimes change comes in a certain shade of yellow. When you realize you need to change something, admit it, and if you need a hand, let someone intervene.
And a final word of warning; objects are closer than they appear.