My spiritual awakenings don’t always come from recovery meetings. Sometimes they come when I least expect them.
I recently moved my living room furniture around, again. I am an avid furniture mover. Some would call it an obsession. I prefer to call my need for constant change courageous and bold. So many people are afraid of change, especially people in recovery. They are afraid to change jobs, change hairstyles or change homes. They are petrified to move out of their comfort zones and try something different. Not me. I embrace change. I thrive on it.
Before I got into recovery, I always felt like I needed more. More money, more house, more prestige, more recognition, more love. I filled the sense of lack by changing things outside of myself. I bought new cars, new toys, new clothes. I repainted the rooms of my house every year and moved the furniture almost monthly. Now that I’ve been in recovery for a while I’m better in a lot of ways.
I realize that I will never find the things I was looking for on the outside. I will only find them inside of myself. But I still like to move my furniture.
Shortly after Christmas, I pulled the living room apart again and tried to come up with some new and creative design for our living room furniture. I have lived in the same house for almost six years, so I’ve tried just about every arrangement. Some I’ve liked more than others. But one in particular, the one where the sofa sits tightly against the wall, bugs me. I can’t stand having the furniture against the wall. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that every picture I’ve ever seen of high end homes shows spacious living rooms with wide openings and traffic areas around the furniture. These pictures also almost always show the furniture facing fireplaces and never the television. That should have been a clue that this type of set-up was a complete fantasy. Regardless, I always felt better when my furniture was positioned with walking room behind it.
I pulled and pushed the three larger pieces of furniture off my area rug and surveyed the room. The walls were pretty far apart and the bookshelves and fireplace were still sitting where I had left them. The long wall of sliders provided a beautiful view onto our rarely used pool and patio area. I looked at the furniture and began imagining various ways to arrange it so that I could see outside, see the television and still have room to walk through comfortably. The living room sits squarely between the master bedroom and the rest of the house, so the foot traffic is quite heavy.
In the past I have positioned the pieces tightly together, leaving wide walking paths behind the sofa or chairs. I’ve also created narrow walkways beside end tables and between furniture at different times and that worked well for a while. But each of these strategies left me walking behind, around or over obstacles. And although I liked the look of the room each time, I really thought it was the way it should be, each of these arrangements caused me to exert more energy than necessary as I made the countless trips from bedroom to anywhere else in the house, bobbing and weaving around tables and sofas.
I thought about all of this as I pulled the two chairs to one side of the room and left the sofa against the far wall. I had no intention of keeping it there. But as I looked around, I realized that doing so left a wide, clear path through the living room. It opened up so much space and provided direct access to the most utilized rooms in the house. It allowed me to walk to the places I needed to go most, with the least obstruction. I fought the urge to pull the sofa away from the wall and instead went and sat down on it.
Hmmm, I thought as I looked across the wide room and out onto the pool and trees beyond. Not bad. Then I looked at the two chairs cozied up together several feet away. Okay, so the room wasn’t snug and comfy with all the furniture cuddled up together. It wasn’t elegant, with each piece tilted gently toward the other as if waiting for the perfect book club chat. It was, however, perfectly suited for our lifestyle. The chairs were almost like theater seats, aimed directly at the television with perfectly positioned end tables and a big, soft ottoman. The sofa was far enough away to escape from the rest of the family, but close enough to engage with them, too. And the path in between, the wide open space in the middle of the room allowed unobstructed, direct access to all points of the house.
I laughed at the irony of my situation and how similar it was to my recovery journey. I had fought for years to keep the furniture the way I thought it should be.
I had gotten bruised and banged up walking through the room because I had insisted on jamming chairs and sofas together. Corners of tables and edges of ottomans had tripped me up more times than I care to remember, all because I had insisted on doing it my way. And now, even though this set-up wasn’t my first choice, I realized it was the best choice right now. It gave me what I needed – comfort, engagement with others, safety – and most of all, the shortest, easiest, softest path to where I needed to go.
I think of my recovery every time I walk through my living room. I think about how in the beginning, I fought the suggestions. I held on to my beliefs, my thoughts, my ways, sure that I could rearrange the recovery steps and the suggestions to suit my tastes. I wasn’t ready to move the furniture against the wall. It took a lot of scrapes and bruises before I became willing to try that. And sometimes, I still want to position things my way, regardless of how much more work it makes for me in the long run. But when I walk though my living room, I realize that this way, the suggested path of recovery, is not only the shortest distance between two points, it is also the easier, softer way.