This is a story about an extremely large wardrobe.
(spoiler alert: this is not really a story about an extremely large wardrobe)
Four and a half years ago, I bought my current apartment. The first time I came to view it, as I explored around the space, I noticed the monstrosity of a wardrobe in the bedroom. It was three meters long and towered over the rest of the room, covering an entire wall. The real estate agent proudly beamed that the apartment came with a wardrobe as though this merited a higher selling price, and I remember consciously thinking that that was a con in my decision to buy. But the bathroom had a window looking out into the garden, a hot commodity in a city like Copenhagen, and so I said yes anyway.
From the moment I moved in, I hated the wardrobe. It was an active and prominent thing in my mind. I would wake up in the morning and there it would be staring back at me, large and in charge, taking up half the bedroom. It evoked repulse, rage, irritation, frustration, and all the other uncomfortable feelings I had buried inside of me, literally every morning as I woke up.
The wardrobe was on the wall where I wanted to put the head of my bed, but because it was so big and didn't fit anywhere else in the room, I put my bed on the opposing wall.
One of the fun and interesting things about me is that my body responds acutely to the direction in which I'm facing when I sleep. I knew moving in that my head was going to want to be along the wall that wardrobe was on, and I knew it wasn't possible until I found a replacement.
And so I stifled my desire and found myself after a few weeks of fitful and restless sleep, turning over and sleeping upside down in my bed - head pointed toward the wardrobed wall, feet at the head of the bed. I got really clever about explaining this habit to boyfriends and house guests, as they gaffed at my weirdness and stared blankly in confusion about how I could let something so inanimate as a wardrobe rule so much of my energy.
Throughout the next four years, I spent hours in home design stores like IKEA studying replacements. I fervently measured the space in my room and drew and redrew alternatives on graph paper when I'd get bored at work. I considered shallow wardrobes, short wardrobes, built in wardrobes, narrow wardrobes, wardrobes with mirrors, wardrobes with gorgeous leather straps as handles, wardrobes with lights built in, wardrobes with commodes built in, and in one of my particularly creative moments, hanging a thick branch from the ceiling and hanging all my clothes on that (that was all the rage in 2014).
And for some reason, I could never make up my mind. I could never just "settle" for something different because I was so unsure about how it would feel in my room without that monstrosity of a wardrobe in there. When I thought about my bedroom, all I could feel was resentment. Not an ideal scenario given that bedrooms are supposed to be a place of rest and relaxation and retreat and all those other re- words. Alas, the only re- word I could come up with was resent.
Until the day I finally got curious about the resentment. It occurred to me one Saturday morning that I had spent over four years attempting to change and shape-shift myself in order to accommodate this wardrobe. It occurred to me that I had sacrificed my own needs in order to make it work, and that I was so resentful about it being there that to even consider a replacement put me into a state of overwhelm. It occurred to me that this is a recurring pattern I have had in all of my relationships.
There it was, the truth staring down at me, a large and in charge monstrosity, that even alone, in my own bedroom, without boyfriends or house guests playing any role, I had made my needs secondary...to a piece of furniture.
I'd like to pause this story to briefly talk about humility. Humility happens when you realize you're the common denominator in the things you don't like about your life. It's when you realize that you might not have seen that before because you had such little compassion for yourself that even looking in that general direction was blinding. It's the knowing that every moment, even the ones that appear frustrating and wildly inconvenient and totally inconsequential are there FOR you. Even the ones involving inanimate objects.
You can imagine the shame I had to reckon with when I finally saw that I was the one who had created this reality for myself literally everywhere in my life, and that despite all of the personal development work I had done, there I was, still doing it, in the privacy of my own home.
The good (and sometimes difficult) news is, once you see a thing, it's pretty hard to unsee it. Once I had no choice but to take responsibility for my own suffering, I could finally begin to evaluate what needed to shift in order to end the suffering.
And so I applied my own coaching tools on myself.
The first thing I asked myself was: "What do you feel when you think about the proverbial wardrobes of your life?"
Overwhelm, frustration, defeat, hopelessness.
And then: "What must you believe about yourself if you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, defeated, and hopeless?"
That my needs don't matter. That it's life threatening to have my basic needs met. That I need to change myself in order to survive.
"Is that true?"
...pause...insert a scrap of doubt into that compelling story...(that last part is important)
No. No it's not.
And then, miraculously, I remembered that literally at every major turning point in my life, I've needed to close cycles completely in order to open new ones. That for me, there is no such thing as immediate replacements. I am a woman who starts from scratch, who rebuilds from more solid foundation, and who needs a blank canvas in order to create.
I investigated what this meant for me, and I realized that it meant I'd need to consciously enter a period of "messiness," of not knowing, of things not having their place, and of perceived chaos. And I remembered that every moment I have leaned in despite those uncomfortable things, incredible shifts have happened in my life.
And so I gave my wardrobe away. I spent a day taking it apart one piece at a time, consciously uncoupling from the relationship with the piece of furniture that didn't meet my needs. I moved all the things that I had stored in that wardrobe into the center of my living room, and committed to parting with half of it, donating it to goodwill and to immigrants who came here with so much less than I have, who needed shoes like the ones I haven't worn in years and old designer purses I had completely forgotten about, but still kept just in case.
I hired a painter to come redo the walls, I refinished the floors, and I cleared the space of everything but my bed, which I immediately put up against the wall I had wanted it on all along. And the sleep that followed was divine.
And then a few days later I was struck with a moment of brilliance. As it turned out, I knew exactly what I wanted.