Shenandoah Leaf & Sunshine | Shenandoah State Park, VA | June 28, 2015
I’m finding lately that the life lessons just keep knocking if I’m awake enough to notice them tapping me over the head. I’ve just returned from a weekend fully of photography and friendship; it was like a face-full of cold water on a scorching day: something I really needed. I have lived in DC for six months now, and am ashamed to say that I still haven’t finished moving into my apartment. I can see two boxes from where I’m sitting, and truthfully that stresses me out.
BUT. I chose to cut myself a little slack. I jumped right into my life here after moving across that country, and that meant starting, right away, two brand new jobs in completely new industries to me, and leaving behind what made me comfortable in my old life for new challenges. It’s been exhausting, but rewarding. Life has thrown a lot at me, but also given me wonderful people and experiences I would be crazy and ungrateful if I were ever to dream of trading them for something easier.
As for those life lessons, here’s a simple example. I finally earned enough money that I could buy myself some furniture to make my new place feel more like home, and more like mine. I’m proud to say I’m very thrifty, so of course this meant my new furniture came in a box: each furniture bundle of joy I was going to have to work for for just a little longer because they required an assembling adventure.
I am stubborn when it comes to certain things, and dammit I wanted a BIG bed. I had help tying the giant boxes to the top of a van, and getting them up the stairs to my apartment: and then, I was alone, the boxes looming at my eye level as I stood and faced them, hands on hips and frowning with exhaustion.
Determination can go a long way, and I have a good amount of it much of the time, especially when I know I’m earning a good night’s sleep.
Ikea instructions for my particular purchase had a first drawing of one person scratching their head, and then the following was two people smiling, essentially about to high five, as they stood over those bed boxes knowing they would triumph.
Well. First I felt despair for a few seconds. I really wanted this bed. Then I told those ikea instructions aloud that I was just one person and that’s what they got. I would conquer alone.
Several hours later, and around 1am, I finally had the entire frame built – I had rigged some pretty creative ways to have enough supports to get them up without having four arms working on the project.
The problem was, it took me several hours. There was one part, at the very beginning, that took over two hours. It should have taken 15 minutes, but I just kept trying to force the pieces together because I was convinced it was correct. I spent so much time and physical effort getting it to work, and when it finally did I just kept plodding on to the next step, like a machine.
I noticed then that the entire top half of the frame I had built backwards. I had to redo almost the entire thing. Hours of work needed to be undone. I didn’t stop to think about it then, I just rolled up my sleeves, air conditioner singing the blues while I went back into work mode. It was apart in 20 minutes, I turned the pieces around, and they just slid together, like it was magic. I was so tired by that point, I was nearly delirious: I looked around convinced someone had helped me, but no, I was sitting in my bedroom alone. Well, my cat was there, watching me. Anyway.
It registered just how easy it was when I did it right. But only for a split second. I just went onto the next task, and in awhile, I had a brand new bed. I slept like you wouldn’t believe.
A week later, I bought and started to build myself a new kitchen table. I started the process last night, when I was tired from a long day of hiking and driving (you’ll see photos from that trip soon!). The table was upside down on the floor, and I was struggling to align the legs. Every time I would almost get it right, they would pop out again and soon I wanted to scream in frustration; but instead, I was on the phone with Lee, and instead of screaming was swearing quietly and complaining to her that I just couldn’t do it. She told me to let it be, and try again later. Fortunately I listened, as it was already late into the night.
An hour ago, I started the process again. I started where I left off, and again, struggled with the table legs. After spending far longer than I’d like to admit trying to force them to align, it dawned on me that I needed to just start over. Force was not the answer. I took the whole thing apart.
Started from scratch. Tried a new strategy where I balanced the legs in a different way. They fell into place in minutes with a little artful tightening of the screws.
I’m now sitting at my fabulous new table. The satisfaction is undeniable. However. I had to ask myself how many hours, and how much physical and mental toil (and minutes of precious sleep) I would have saved if I simply had not attempted to control things so hard, to force them to come together the way I thought they should. I realized that struggles with a giant bed and a tall table are negligible in the end, just a silly story of the time you were dumb enough to go against those Ikea instructions. But so many times in life have I tried to force things that weren’t meant to be. A creative endeavor that didn’t inspire me. A friendship that no longer served a positive, enriching purpose in my life. A relationship that was so heartbreaking because I was trying so hard and he wasn’t.
Sometimes, when something is just too difficult, maybe you aren’t going about it in the right way. Maybe the universe is telling you to start over, and try again.
Taking a look at my life over the last year, I see where I tried to force a way of life: of happiness, of love, of pretending someone was who he wasn’t, of telling myself to be someone I wasn’t, too.
I lament all the time I wasted. But only long enough to realize I learned some invaluable lessons via that ‘wasted time’. [Read: No experience is ever lost as long as you learn from what happened.]
Life isn’t meant to be easy, but it is meant to be simple. How else can we enjoy the fleeting moments? Don’t waste precious time trying to propel yourself somewhere you aren’t supposed to be.
That’s what a table taught me.