Why We Don’t Own a Sledgehammer

We have a garage full of tools of every kind. Screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers, nail guns. We even have a hacksaw. There is one notable exception.  We do not own a sledgehammer.

My husband loves to tell a story about a time when our children were very young. He came home from work and called out his customary, “Hello, is anyone home?”

He walked into the kitchen to find the baby and the two year old playing on the floor. I had a paintbrush in my hand. I had taken off all of the doors to all of the kitchen cabinets (I did not plan on putting them back on) and painted the inside of all of the cabinets a shade of Robin’s egg blue. The contents of the cabinets covered every surface of the kitchen.

His question was, “Why?”

My answer was, “Because I had to do something.”

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I’ve been rearranging furniture since elementary school. My parents were relaxed about our bedrooms. As long as nothing was growing on anything and there weren’t any major health hazards, they kind of let us do our thing. I rearranged my furniture constantly. I was allowed to paint murals on my walls, then paint over them again when I was sick of the murals. I liked to move my bed to various locations, even inside the closet once, just so that when I laid down at night I was in a new room in a different place. It was a new and different me, just for a little while.

In college, having stationary furniture that was affixed to the walls was frustrating, so I changed my posters, pictures and decorations. Constantly. I rearranged the clothes in my closet and in my drawers. I had an unexplained urge to both settle and unsettle the space around me. I drove roommates insane.

Cue adulthood. I’m still moving things around. If it isn’t furniture, it’s the artwork on the walls. If it isn’t the artwork, it’s the walls themselves; it doesn’t bother me to change the color of a room on a whim.

I have moved entire rooms of furniture from one room to another, only to move them back to the exact same place as before a week later.

Every photograph in our home has been regaled to a new location at least twice. Lamps never stay put, throw pillows are destined to make a home on the sofa in the living room one week and a chair in the den the next. Curtains, book shelves, entire armoires.  I can move them myself. Although I don’t possess enough upper body strength to do a full push up, I can miraculously move a 200 pound piece of furniture across a room solo. It is a trait I inherited from my 4’10” grandmother who had the furniture moving gene as well. She once moved her dining room china cabinet to another room alone…with the china still inside. It terrifies me at times when I think of things that I’ve hauled up and down the stairs using the kids as spotters.

I think that I move things around because I need a different perspective, another point of view. The furniture moves the most when I’m stressed or overwhelmed, wearied by life or even incredibly sad.

When I’m frustrated, I can’t just pick up and leave it all behind, move to a new city, start a new job. I will never become the other me that drinks martinis and buys expensive handbags and lives in a loft downtown.

I am in this for the duration. I have children and a husband that I love, I have a job, I have a life here. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need to move it around sometimes, though. Even old comfortable shoes can give you blisters sometimes.

Sometimes I think that if I can move the furniture into the perfect spots, hang the pictures precisely on the walls, then I will be able to see the world faultlessly, and everything will fall into place. Everything will make sense then. My perspective will become clear.

However, at the end of the day, that is why we don’t own a sledgehammer. My husband understands me well enough to know that if we did, I would take my new perspective to a higher level that involved support beams and anchor walls. A level that would take more than a coat of paint to fix.

I should probably learn to meditate. Make peace with my place in the world. Most likely I will continue to move the furniture. I’ll continue trying to create space, change my point of view, make my world look like anything so long as it’s not the same. The pieces will fall into place and I’ll let out that sigh of relief that I’ve been holding in.  Perhaps one day I’ll get everything in just the right spot; or perhaps one day I’ll go out and buy the sledgehammer and make the pieces fit.

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