I have two couches in my living room that have taught me much about the process of discovering want I want and how to achieve it. A bold statement to be sure, but I find myself returning over and over again to the lessons I’ve learned from them. Allow me to introduce the fiendish duo.
There is the futon:
It has a spring mattress, a sturdy wooden frame, and a hideous pair of throw pillows I found at Big Lots.
Then there is the purple monstrosity:
It is pretty massive, deep, and both scratched (from my cat) and stained (not from my cat). Backpack sold separately.
So how have these sofas started me on the journey to finding the things in life that I want? Well, it’s simple.
They’re terrible sofas.
Both are so large and tall that anyone not me-sized sits with their legs dangling over the edge as if they were a small child. As mentioned before, they’re also a bit beat up, and old purpley here was never especially pretty in the first place (quick shoutout to Samantha for providing this freebie for me; please don’t take my dramatic license as a lack of gratitude). But the single most heinous crime defies the very tenants of sofasity and is punishable by couch banishment: they aren’t really comfortable. And if your sofa isn’t comfortable, what is it really doing besides acting as a scratching post for the cat and a backpack shelf?
A while back I finally got up the momentum to start looking for replacements. The first lesson I learned: couches are expensive. If you’re looking for something beyond IKEA furniture, you need to be prepared to have some savings stashed away.
And for Swedish furniture aficionados out there, look deep into your souls and answer me this: have you ever sat on a luxuriously comfortable IKEA sofa you build yourself? I didn’t think so.
So suddenly I found myself on a budget for a purchase with a slew of variables: color, size, hardness, support, material, texture. It was time to start looking into the alternative providers of comfortable living room furniture.
Only, that wasn’t the tack I took. Instead of poring through the bargain basements, perusing the thrift stores, and aiming for the Targets, I instead went and found the most expensive furniture store I could find. My idea was that until I had a clear idea of what the top of the line was, I wouldn’t have a frame of reference for my options.
If I tried the best, highest end sofa, I would know just how comfortable I could be, or at least the options of comfort I would have. With all the variables at my fingertips, I could then isolate the features of a good sofa. At that point, I wouldn’t even necessarily have to buy that expensive sofa that met all my needs. I could experiment with lesser models and see if there was a tipping point between quality and price.
I don’t mean to get dramatic here (Dan, look deep into your soul… you know that’s a lie). However, I was suddenly reminded of a pithy homily: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail” (shoutout to Andrea who has that on the wall of her office).
Yes, I tend to stretch far in my analogies, but the heart of the message is actually quite similar to my quest for the ideal couch: If you knew the infinite possibilities available at your fingertips, what would you do to make what you desire a reality? In my case, I just replaced the soul search with a sofa search.
Let’s just split the difference and call it a soulfa search. I’ve been dying to type that this entire time.
I was thinking of how I looked for a new sofa when a friend of mine called last week to discuss relationship issues she was having. In that situation, most times it’s not acceptable to go out and test the best available models for some comparison shopping. Instead, it’s more a matter of taking a step back and considering what an ideal relationship would look like. How would your partner treat you, and how would you treat your partner? What would you be getting out of the relationship?
Once you have that mental picture in your head, you need to do some analysis of whether the envisioned relationship is both realistic and sustainable. If the answer is no, you have to step back into your desires and find why it is you want something that is unsustainable. If the answer is yes, you have to ask yourself why you’re accepting something different from what you want. That’s not a leading question either; there are plenty of reasons one might stay when they have envisioned a reality that more directly addresses their desires. It could be a dread of dating, the malleability of our satisfaction, or the idiosyncrasies of the situation. Regardless of the reason, it’s important that you know it.
I came across another sofa-searching moment when I recently left my full-time job. I knew I was dissatisfied with what I was doing, but I wasn’t sure of what type of full-time job would satisfy me. I needed to explore my options and expand my palate. So rather than hopping into another full-time job out of fear of the inability to sustain myself without one, I rented a rather expensive “couch” in the hopes that I’d find it both comfortable and affordable. Without the empirical experience of the huge amount of options available, I wouldn’t be able to know for sure whether this was the type of life I wanted to lead.
There’s an epilogue to the sofa search that may seem to disprove my entire point: I ended up hating all the really expensive sofas. They were uncomfortable, over-stuffed, rather hideous-looking, and homogenized. None of them approached what my ideal sofa would be, and I still have ol’ purple and the futon today. However, all this said to me was that I might be looking in the wrong places. I’ve begun to expand my quest for the ideal to other places, such as thrift stores with huge varieties and friends’ sofas. I know that the key to finding comfort is first finding what it is I actually want, and the key to finding what I want is to tear down to barriers of shoulds, coulds, and preconceived notions. Once they are out of the way, I can focus in on what I’m desiring and why. Only then will I have a clear picture of whether the effort to incorporate it into my life is a worthwhile endeavor.
Maybe it’s for the best that I haven’t replaced my pariah sofas. Haven’t they done enough for me to warrant the slightest consideration for clemency?