I’ve spoken about the home in indirect and direct ways before. It sounds like a bit of an exaggeration to say that buying a couch changed my life. But there’s a bit to it. For some backstory, I grew up moving around a lot and going to a lot of different schools. Not only that, but I grew up with an American mother and French father. So I spent nearly a decade living in France, during which I was considered the American girl. It didn’t help much when I moved to the US, since I was the French girl here. I was always the outsider. Even at home. I spent a significant amount of my childhood in my room alone. I parented myself, and eventually, I played parent in a lot of ways to my own mother.
I come from a very dysfunctional and abusive background – I won’t get into all that here. But I want to set the stage for showing how I was able to overcome some of this through creating sacredness in my own apartment now. When I was a teenager, I shared a room with my mother (it’s as bad as it sounds, worse even). Every few months, she would go through massive purging, in which we would get rid of a significant amount of items. A lot of it were things we realized, if just days later, that we actually really needed. So I really got into the habit of deep purging.
I continued this self-enforced deprivation for a long time. When I was in college, there was a point where I was doing laundry two to three times a week because I had so few clothes. And this may work for some people, but in combination with fears around never feeling like I had enough, this was a toxic cocktail for self-loathing enforced by significant material deprivation.
I’ve previously talked about minimalism in the following articles: Clearing Out (written while in an abusive relationship) and Why I Failed at Minimalism. And for a while, I considered myself a minimalist. I realize now that I used it as an excuse not to settle down anywhere and do the healing work I needed to do. After all, that shit was terrifying. I would have to look at nearly two decades of abuse that lingered and messes with every facet of my life.
I came to a point where minimalism (or deprivation under disguise of a social phenomenon popularized by Marie Kondo) was an excuse to keep moving from place to place. It was an excuse for home never being a satisfying place to be. It was an excuse for home to be sterile, frantic, unwelcoming, and even frightening – replicating the “home” of my childhood.
Probably the most significant, clearly identifiable turning point in my adulthood – and you may laugh – is when I bought a couch. My friend and I went to Home Goods in February – yes, I bought my first ever couch at the age of 29. Before that, I just had a desk in my living room. I would joke that I lived like a frat boy. Picture a nearly bare apartment with some IKEA furniture – but without a TV or gaming console. Books instead.
So my friend and I were in Home Goods and I could not figure out for the life of me which couch was “good” or “comfortable”. My friend put the most wholesome peer pressure on me – “buy the couch, it’s okay”. I sat on it in the corner of the store with her for a good ten minutes, not saying anything. My brain was short circuiting. Who the fuck was I to own a couch? What gave me the right? My brain went blank save for the nasty little voice. It reminded me that I’d had a roommate in college who burned down our apartment. What if that shit happened again? Why bother getting a couch?
Being up at the cash register was another good ten minutes of brain fog. But I bought it. I bought the fucking couch – and this heavy chonk in my living room feels very grounding. The first night I had it home, I was afraid to sit on it. I remember the delivery man looking at my stunned face after he’d set it down and going “you should enjoy it.” He didn’t know what saying that meant to me.
My gorgeous couch now sits in my living room, and I sit on it with my cats. I fluff up the pillows every single day and look over at it so many times throughout the day (including when I’m on work Zoom meetings) that you’d swear someone was sitting on it. It’s light grey and makes me think of a couch a nice older woman would have. It’s respectable – not the gothic couches I had all over Pinterest boards. But better because it’s in my own apartment and I used my own money to buy it, and the style is going to age well.
So when I say buying a couch changed my life, I mean that it was a significant symbolic statement to the universe that I’m ready and willing to settle in. Not to settle in a location, or to settle down. Not to never move again. No – it’s symbolic for settling into myself. This big bulky anchor acts like it – reminding me daily of the power that comes from waiting, studying, harvesting only that which is ready to be plucked.
And come to think of it – my three card Tarot spread for today ties in perfectly with this conversation. I drew Judgment, the King of Cups, and the World. When I saw this trio, I thought of the advantage I now have of mature (King of Cups) discernment (Judgment) over each piece of my life and myself (The World). Through liberating myself to settling into the symbolism of placehood, I’ve opened myself up to personal growth in a way I never had before. I’ve given myself an investment that only I could give myself. Nobody was going to do that for me. My parents abandoned me far before the age that I could properly develop my identity and self-esteem. So part of my recovery was giving myself the little space of home that I never had.
Why a couch? Why did it take a fucking couch to get me to this place? I have some theories – but maybe I’ll explore that more another time. For now, I can say with a sense of humor that a couch changed my life.