Blind Spots

A few Saturdays ago I was driving up to Blowing Rock for the weekend. I was anticipating the fall leaves and hiking but was frustrated with leaving later in the day than I had planned. I was not successfully keeping myself from feeling rushed to “get up there.”  A truck was merging on to the highway, and I was going to move into the other lane to accommodate him. I am normally good about checking over my shoulder before changing lanes, but on this occasion I did not. I heard a loud and continuous honk coming from behind me and I realized that there was a van in the spot I was trying to move to. Thankfully, the van, the truck and I were all able to slow down and recalibrate, avoiding an accident. But it was close. I pulled off at the next exit to calm down, have a little cry of relief and refocus my mind on the task of driving. As I sat in a parking lot, I was struck by the realization that I was at the same exit my friend (and now ex sister-in-law) Holly and I had been just the weekend before. She had gone with me to Hickory to a furniture outlet mall there, and had offered to drive because I was a bit spacey that weekend too. Unfortunately, while we were at a light waiting for it to change, we were both jolted by a young driver who was not paying attention and rear ended her car pretty hard. It seemed like an odd coincidence to have almost had another accident in the very same area.

As I got back on the highway, I couldn’t help but wonder at the broader idea of blind spots. I asked the question, “What are the blind spots I’m not aware of?” The answer to that question for me right now is playing out in the drama of finding a new couch.

I moved into my permanent home about three months ago. I had been anticipating and looking forward to it for a long time. My ex and I had purchased and renovated this condo with the thought that we might down size and live in it in retirement, and we were renting it out in the meantime. We had a tenant in the condo when we broke up, and our renter had just signed a two-year lease that she did not want to relinquish. We came up with the equitable and mutually agreed upon arrangement of my ex staying in our house and me moving into the condo when it became available, so I rented another space until our tenant’s lease was up.

My new home is a great little 1000 square-foot space. It was built in the 1930’s, with hardwood floors throughout, a lot of windows and old door knobs. I am extremely grateful to be living here. But I had not expected the new wave of grief that would hit me once I settled in. I had built it all up too much in my head. And accepting that I’m no longer in limbo means that this is now my life, in stark contrast to what I had been creating, building and envisioning not that long ago. I was used to making joint decisions in a relationship, with someone who often had a clear sense of what she liked and wanted, and since we had similar preferences, I let her lead, tweaking along the way. It is an unfamiliar experience for me to have to come up with what I like and create it from scratch.

It “should” be fun, or it could be, but I was not experiencing the task in this way. I knew I was getting triggered and overreacting, but I couldn’t seem to change it. I impulsively made a purchase because I was tired of thinking about it. I let pressure and internal judgment bully me (“You are a 54 year-old, you should know what you like, buying a couch should not be this hard, what’s wrong with you?”) instead of being curious about my upset and more understanding. I also defaulted to and over relied on my intellect at the expense of considering my felt experience as well. In hind sight, I’ve chosen more of a living room couch than one for a den, and I am more comfortable with the latter.

The issue is not “the couch.” It is what it represents and stirs up for me. I wasn’t “seeing” or having compassion for why this decision was so challenging. Of course the superficial layer of how my living room looks does matter a little, as it is a piece of the pie, so to speak. It makes a statement about me. But I’m especially sensitive about it because it is a manifestation of a much deeper shift. In a way, I am like an awkward young adult again, negotiating some of the same unsettling milestones. Who am I now? What is important to me? How do I want to live? What do I keep and what do I get rid of? Am I acceptable, likable, or lovable? I feel vulnerable and a little lost, and that has been bubbling up into this process of designing my new space.    

Like so many things in life, it helps if I remember that often decisions are a process. I make it worse when I try to force it into being an event, quickly resolved and not messy. The reality is that I’m not going to make decisions perfectly. So what? I can feel opposing things at the same time:  excited and scared, grateful and grieving, liking a couch and also second guessing that decision. I function much better when I slow down and am patient with myself while also taking small (or big) steps towards growth and change.

Now that I’ve calmed down, I can put this past month into perspective and value what I have learned. I’m relieved to have made a choice and my living room is now box free and looks great. It’s far from the catastrophe I was making it out to be and the “journey,” if you will, has been just as important as the final outcome.

NN