I can safely say that while I appreciate many inanimate objects in my home, I don’t generally associate a lot of meaning to them. My lamp is awesome, but it doesn’t exactly speak to me. My dinosaur tooth fossil, on the other hand, does, but that was once a living thing, so I’m not sure that counts. My couch, however, seems to have a very strong voice and it’s played more than a small a part in teaching some large life lessons.
I should mention that my couch is already famous. I inherited the couch from my sister-in-law, who wrote about the couch in her memoir. It represented many things that had been wrong in her life at the time, and in overcoming some things (and ditching the couch), she had eventually righted them. You see my brother chose the couch and she hated it, but she didn’t speak up about it for a long time and then, of course, grew to resent the whole setup, as people tend to do when they’re repressing their feelings.
I of course, did not know anything about the swirling symbolism of the couch when they gifted it to me, but rather learned about its history while I was reading her book, sitting on the couch. I like the couch, and yet my goodness. What a moment to take in. My life circumstances at the time did not warrant my own expenditures on a new leather couch, Ikea or not. So I was thrilled to get it. And then mildly shocked that something that was so super awesome to me was such a point of contention to someone else. One man’s trash? It’s a really nice couch! Anyway, that’s not even where my life couch lesson came into play, at least not in it’s most interesting form.
That came later when I couldn’t figure out how to reorganize my living space into a more functional workspace without getting rid of the couch. I work from home, which means my desk setup needs to be amazing for me to be productive, and it wasn’t. But I just could not think of a single way to work things out without selling the couch and downsizing to a loveseat so that I could make more space for my desk to face the window.
To say that I went through an experience of deep processing in giving up the couch is an understatement. I cried for hours. The thing is, my life circumstances at the time still did not warrant my own expenditures on a new leather couch, Ikea or otherwise. (Those babies can get pretty pricey.) Giving up the couch felt unreasonably terrifying because it was a “real life” item. The couch makes a living room and I was an adult who needed a living room.
I worried on some odd level that if I actually let the couch go I might never get another couch. What if I didn’t have the cash for a couch as good as this one at some imaginary future time when I would need one? What if there just was no couch for me at all? Could the couch have been a symbolic stand-in for the man who’d just broken my heart? Possibly. Of course.
But it was more than that it stood for everything. It was a severe shakeup of every resistance and a facing of every fear I still held onto and needed to get over. You know the usual, what if I’m not actually lovable, what if I’m not actually a writer. What if I can’t ever make sense of my life and I’m pointless and alone and don’t even have a couch to show for myself at the end of the day. I could appreciate the poetic tragedy there but I just really didn’t want to live it anymore.
It’s not that I was unfamiliar with the notion of letting go to let new things in. Giving up control to accept what’s meant to be, all that jazz. I’ve always been aware of my self-imposed limitations and certainly have packaged my insights on such matters to offer helpful perspective to many friends. But I clearly had some more learning to do on that particular lesson since once again, there it was.
I sat there crying, balling if I’m being honest, and, of course, slightly amused by the severity of the whole thing. Gasping sobs ignited by my couch. But I also saw really clearly where I was in my life, and that I just needed to let go. I needed to let go of the couch that I didn’t even choose, let go of the man that I loved who didn’t choose me, of the career I thought I deserved, and any other ideas about the way I thought my life should be going. Because it wasn’t. I had hit a wall hard and I saw getting rid of the couch as a symbolic way to move forward, an actionable way to let the universe know that I was willing to move on to new things no matter how terrifying the unknown might be. I let go.
But then a funny thing happened. Before I could get rid of the couch, I figured out a way to reorganize my workspace so that my office was awesome…and it didn’t require giving up the couch at all. All that it required was my giving up control because I was limiting my experiencing all over the place. I was limiting my office space, which was limiting my work productivity, and effectively slowing down the progress on pretty much everything I so desperately wanted out of my life. I made things easier for myself, and wouldn’t you know? Things got easier for me.
Now, I don’t know if this couch set out to be a life coach or if it just fell into the role. But I would like to add that the phrase “life couch” came to me once while I was sitting on the couch, long before it taught me any lessons and I realized what it was. So whether this inanimate object has actually been sending me messages or whether it’s served as a very unlikely source of inspiration to my active imagination, I’d like to thank the couch. The Life Couch.