Is your path one of just tolerating life?
I stared at my floor for days.
14. There were 14 of them and I was feeling overwhelmed. Indecisive. Irritated.
I had 14 different floor tiles, of varying sizes and in varying shades of grey and cream. I thought this would be easy. Seems pretty straightforward: replace ugly dark green floor tile with new, prettier, lighter floor tile. My most excellent tile guy said, “Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick what you want – it’s cheaper and the quality is just as good.” I am all about cheaper… leaves more money for shoes.
So I went to Lowe’s and picked a few sample tiles I liked in the store. Brought them home… hmm… they look different in this light, not so sure I’m in love anymore. Went and got a few more. But then I saw this great kitchen design on Houzz.com, loved everything about it, and went to Home Depot to get floor tiles similar to those… again, looked a little different in my own home than under the bald fluorescence of the orange-clad shelving.
A few weeks later, I am confused and annoyed. When did making a decision as basic as flooring become so hard? When did I, an educated, professional woman of at least middling common sense, suddenly become a vague, bumbling homeowner who can’t pick between grey, gray, pebble, dusk, pewter, silver, marbled, speckled, streaked and rustic ceramic tile?
June. That’s when. And by July, I wasn’t experiencing any improvement.
I hemmed and hawed. First over those damn floor tiles. Then over what I knew I needed to do next. Because my inner circle was sick of my endless text messages with snapshots of floor tiles next to the stairs… next to the kitchen cabinets… in sunlight and under the evening lamp… with Chairman Mao (the cat, not the guy) lounging across them. And they were bored by my endless questioning…”what do you think? which looks better? is this too much? is this too boring?”
Weeks still went by… then, finally, I made the call. I needed professional help.
Even when you know you need help, even when you know it’s the best thing for you, event when your friends encourage you – heartily, you pause. I did. Pretty sure many of you have, too. Because we have that innate sense of, “I can do this myself. I’ll be fine.” And maybe we will be. But sometimes, we won’t be. And we need to push past the discomfort of asking for help.
Ok, so… I’m not just talking about flooring now.
Pushing past the discomfort is acknowledging that we in that moment – whether the moment is a day, a week or a year – we are at our limit. And we don’t know what to do next. We are in survival mode. We are getting by. And we do this by ensuring we don’t rock the boat any more than absolutely necessary, because we’re pretty sure we can’t handle any more.
We can go on that way a long, long time. We can become numb to the pain we are holding on to, we can avoid making any decisions that create any ripples in our lives, we can just go along to get along… and in doing so, we are tolerating life. We aren’t living it. Some of us stay here forever. It’s easier than pushing past pain or discomfort. Everyone around you is lulled into the same pattern of avoidance. And you are chronically “ok.” Not happy. Not especially depressed. Just getting by. Nothing is changing for the better, but at least nothing’s getting worse. And it’s not so bad.
So let’s pretend the real issue is flooring. I knew I didn’t want to tolerate the green tile any more. It was practical and strong and hid the sins of owning too many pets and housing more than a few teens… and I didn’t want to replace it until I knew I made the right choice. I wasn’t making progress on my own, just adding to my own confusion. And I lived that way for a while… the cats, the dogs, the boys… we all tolerated it. We stepped over and around the tiles, napped on them, dropped food on them, and eventually got bored of them. And I was bored of me and my indecisiveness.
So I called Stacy, a professional interior designer recommended by a friend. In about eight seconds, she eliminated 12 of the 14 floor tiles. Two days later, she came by with three more tiles and said, “You can’t go wrong with any of these. Pick what you love.”
So I did. And the sense of relief, the sense of lightness, was tremendous. I could look at the old green tile and know that soon, I would no longer have to tolerate its dark countenance again. Then Stacy came by with paint samples, with ideas for the kitchen counter, and instead of feeling overwhelmed, I was feeling validated and excited. I was moving forward. Finally.
So the flooring issue was resolved. But it’s not just flooring… what are the trouble spots you are tolerating, stepping around and just ignoring in your life? We do this with our relationships, our jobs, with anything where we feel confronting the rub may be more trouble than it’s worth. We choose to live a life not really sad but not really happy, either. We choose the path of least resistance and we get comfortable there. We can choose to stay here forever. Some of us do. Or we can choose to live a deliberate life… full of love, joy, pain and challenges, but full nevertheless.
And that’s what our friends, and professionals, can help us do. Help us move forward. Help us break through living in just tolerance and instead, learn to live fully.
We create our lives. What are you choosing to create in yours?