Getting the couch out of the basement, or how I made peace with the kid inside

Getting the couch out of the basement, or how I made peace with the kid inside
Moving day, Anchorage, Alaska, June 2011

My husband and I bought a brand new couch in 1996. Within a few months of getting it, we had a party and someone spilled red wine on it. In my opinion, that sort of thing just takes the pressure off. You know it’s going to get a stain or damage at some point, so get it over with and relax.

That couch held us through so much. A miscarriage, a new baby, a sick father-in-law. We moved it from Ohio to Alaska. When we moved to a new house in Anchorage, we decided to get another couch. We decided to move the old one downstairs to the basement.

A friend came over to help us move it. The couch lodged against the bannister and the wall. Our friend was stuck downstairs, my husband was upstairs. It wouldn’t move. So, our friend stepped out of the way and my husband shoved with all his might. The couch went down the stairs, along with drywall and paint.

For ten more years that couch held us. We watched television as the Twin Towers fell and watched Shrek with our toddler a thousand times. I spent many, many sleepless nights in Alaska’s broad daylight on that couch.

When we got ready to move to Chicago, the couch was torn and tattered. Stuffing was literally coming out of the cushions. The fabric was worn thin. Our cat had thrown up on it a hundred times. A toddler’s grubby fingers left stains from all sorts of things.

It was time to let it go. And then we flashed back to getting it down the stairs. No way was it going back up the stairs.

So my husband, a philosopher, and two other academic friends, a computer scientist and a psychologist, did what only three men can do when faced with such a problem. They got a chainsaw.

On moving day, the only thing left in our house was that couch. The movers had tried and given up. So these three guys got a chain saw and started taking it apart. They amputated its feet. That wasn’t enough. They took off one of the arms. That still wasn’t enough. So, they just went to town.

It was a mess, but the couch came up the stairs and off to a landfill. Honestly, I was glad to see it go. I was so relieved to get it out of the basement. It had served us well, and it was now just in the way. It was the one problem left to solve before we could leave town.

And, so, I’ve found it to be with the parts of me, the kid inside who is fearful or anxious or angry. The kid who feels abandoned and neglected. The kid afraid to go to a brand new school after yet another move. These parts have served me well. The fear and anxiety helped me manage the unfamiliar, to cling to my family, to tread carefully in unfamiliar waters. The anger spurred me to action.

But I don’t need them now. They’ve been in the basement for awhile. They’re comfortable. Sometimes it’s easier to fret and worry, to be afraid and angry. But, honestly, I don’t need these things anymore. I can handle the new. I can respond to change and cope with the unfamiliar.

Getting these things out of the basement hasn’t been easy. Especially since being diagnosed with cancer, I’ve tried to cling to these coping mechanisms, these parts of myself. I’ve leaned into the feelings of vulnerability and utter helplessness. But, it’s time for them to go. It’s time for the adult parts to step up.

I wouldn’t say that I’m taking a chainsaw to them, though. Instead, I’m moving them one at a time to safe places, feeling grateful for the work they’ve done for me, and letting them be in peace to read and play and sleep. It feels good.

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