A part of me is embarrassed to write this post, but if Mike Tyson can concede defeat, so can I. Here goes.
Last March, I came down with a terrible flu. Sick for weeks, I spent most of my time laid up on my 20-year-old sofa staring at 4 walls of dull paint, a pet-stained carpet, and a 60-year-old end table I inherited from my folks. Not only did my body ache, my heart and soul ached too. I had way too much time to wallow in self-pity, alone at home, thinking about losses I’d endured over the past few years. I felt lonely and deeply sad.
I needed something to take my mind off my misery, something to breathe new life back into my ailing room. Aha! I squeaked out of my phlegm-filled lungs. I know what I’ll do once I’m well. I’ll buy a new sofa. Yes! Freshen things up a bit. Right? You don’t know me very well, do you? Keep reading. The plot thickens.
My mind went to work planning and plodding, and before I knew it, I wasn’t just shopping for a sofa. I was redecorating my entire condo. Yep! A major do-over was underway. I imagined transitioning from traditional to contemporary and from cream and tan to gold and grey. Pinterest became my new best friend. I surfed online ad nauseam, not only for the perfect sofa, but for the perfect rug, tables, lamps, and artwork too. As soon as I was up and at ‘em, I got busy scouring every furniture store in town.
I felt possessed by a trio of interior design demons: Pearl Perfectionist, Pedro Planner, and the most controlling of all, Theodore Thrifty (who was dead set on staying within budget). They insidiously snuck into my consciousness, quietly taking over without me even realizing it, that is, until exhaustion set in. They wore me down with their obsessive-compulsive tendencies. I know they were only trying to help, but geez-Louise! After awhile, the search got old. Still, I couldn’t stop them.
I desperately needed help (from real people who lived outside my head;-) Enter Mr. Friendly-Furniture-Guy and Mrs. Upright-Upholstery-Maven. When I entered their family owned furniture store, it felt like I’d entered a time warp, like the small town where I was born and raised. The Mr. and Mrs. were extremely kind and caring. I felt so well-tended to, unlike when I was sorrowfully sick months before. In a flash, my demons vanished. Instead I heard, “They’re so attentive to my needs. I think I’ll buy a sofa from them.” So I did.
After waiting 6 weeks for a custom sofa, delivery day arrived. The delivery men carried in my new grey sofa (paid-in-full/no return). They put it in its place. BAM! Something was terribly wrong. It didn’t fit the room. I sat down. BAM! It didn’t fit me. I felt uncomfortable, not at all like I remembered. A one-two punch hit me hard. I was flattened.
Despite their good intentions, my interior design demons failed me, and now, to add insult to injury, they berated me. Once again, I needed help to make them go away. I picked up the phone and dialed my sister (my ‘one and only’ rock who lives far away). Only then did the floodgates let loose. Only then, with the support of someone I deeply trusted, did I realize that instead of buying a comfortable sofa, I bought comfort. I bought caring. I bought community.
Often, without even realizing it, we distract ourselves from feeling sad by over-planning or consuming. We get busy doing to escape our loneliness. Our inner-demons take over without our awareness. They don’t mean us harm. They want to keep us from hurting. But instead of freeing us from our emotional pain, they perpetuate age-old patterns that keep us from getting the help we truly need.
I’m not discounting these voices completely. At times they serve us well (Pearl Perfectionist is at work right now editing this post.) But when we’re sick, or scared, or lonely, or sad, they’re not the ones to turn to. That’s when we need comfort and caring from people we trust. That’s when I need more than my one and only who lives far away. I need community.
Speaking of community, I’ve turned an expensive life lesson into a meaningful gift. I’ve donated my new grey sofa to The Furniture Bank, a non-profit that collects gently used furniture from the community, giving it to individuals and families moving out of homelessness or fleeing domestic violence. A “perfect plan”, now wouldn’t you say?
P.S. I just bought a comfortable cream sofa that goes with everything I already have (minus the pet stained carpet). I’m quite pleased with my choice and so is Theodore Thrifty. 😉