There is this couch. It is beautiful. Sleek and modern, yet still comfy. Made of real leather in Vietnam (don’t tell my husband that part). I have pictured it in my living room. I have pillows picked out. I have a space for it assigned in my head already. There is only one hiccup in my luxurious couch dream (besides it not being homegrown): It is expensive. It is small-car-in-Mexico expensive. All-inclusive resort kind of expensive.
I am so in love with this piece of furniture that I had a good 20-minute conversation about it with a dear friend. Her husband (he is also my pastor) was in the room for this conversation. He chimed in very little, and I did not care at all that he heard me rambling about a couch; he has heard me speak about trivial things many times before. But that next Sunday, in his sermon, he mentioned buying a new couch. He mentioned a lot of things that morning, but the couch hit home every time the word passed his lips. I know he was not directing anything at me. Honestly, it wasn’t even on his radar until I mentioned it to him afterwards. Regardless, my heart began to hurt thinking about how much I wanted that couch and how little I needed it.
I carried the guilt home with me that day. I sat at our kitchen table (which I would also love to replace) and told my husband how bad I felt for wanting something so nice. I explained to him how much I wanted new things and how wrong I felt for doing so. He laughed at me and an angry fire started in my bones. “I want a comfortable living room,” I explained. He laughed harder as I tried to justify my longing. “I want a soft couch so people can talk about Jesus on it. I want new clothes, too. Other people have new things all of the time. Why don’t I?” And then my husband dropped a bomb that made me want to punch him square in the face. “That’s not who you are,” he said ever so casually, as if it was common knowledge.
Friends, those five words sent me spinning. While he was stating something he believed to factual, I heard this lie, “Stefanie, you are okay with being boring.” I was furious. How dare my husband tell me I don’t care about those things. Who was he to tell me who I am and what I care about? We have spent only eight short years together; how would he know who I am? I wanted to scream at him. I care about things. I care about appearances. I care about couches. I care about clothes. I care about stuff. I do. I know I do.
In my composed anger, I remembered the Friday night before this when I went to Target with $50 and a sweater mission. I stopped tweens and held up things and asked if I could pull it off. Those sweet girls with their Starbucks frapaccinos were completely caught off-guard by my aggressive questioning. Feeling backed into a corner, they said I could totally wear that. It would look “totes adorbs” or something to that effect. So, I carried four outfits into the dressing room. I tried them all on. Sausage-casing leggings and weird sweatshirts with odd neck holes; I texted friends and asked for direction. In the end, I came home with nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Is it possible that my husband was right? Why didn’t I buy things I want? Where the heck does my money go? What is wrong with me? Why would I not spend the money God has so graciously given me? Sometimes I do.
A couple of months ago, I bought Doc Martens. Real leather Docs. The Docs I have wanted since I was 12 years old and lusting after grunge bands. It took me an entire hour to make that decision. I sat in that store and talked myself out of and into buying those boots a million times. For 60 entire minutes, I walked around the store in the shoes. I fully embarrassed the friend I dragged with me. I called my husband a dozen times. The poor salesgirl gave up on me. I texted pictures to people. I wanted someone else to make the decision. I couldn’t bear to spend that amount of money on myself.
But why? What was preventing me from doing that? Did I think I didn’t deserve to have a nice pair of boots that I will wear almost daily? Am I the only freaking person who cannot spend money on themselves? And how long have I been like this?
Years ago, someone told me I would benefit greatly from one of those Hollywood makeovers. He backpedaled as men sometimes do, and tried to correct himself by saying I was pretty, but I could be prettier. In that moment, I was angry and hurt and also still wearing some weight from my first pregnancy. I didn’t respond at all. I believe I shrugged my shoulders and bit back tears, as if to say, “What can I do? This is what I have to work with.” My first-born was three months old. My hormones were not in check. In other words, I was very passive and reserved. My real self is psychotic. It was hard for me to figure out my mothering identity when I know my psychotic potential. If I flip this table, will I go to jail? So, fully aware of my new role in life, I said nothing.
At this point, in my very, very, early 30s (I’m basically in my 20s. Almost a teenager, really), I am more comfortable than I have ever been. I am still insecure and sometimes I have moments where I want to be put together and trendy and noticed. I want expensive, leather couches in my tiny living room. My husband was right, though. That is not who I am. Although I believe it is okay to want and actually buy those things, it is not how I am built right now. In realizing that, I have found that a weight has been lifted. The pressure to have is lessening more and more as this realization settles in.
Currently, I am grateful. I have an uncomfortable couch. I have nice boots and jeans with holes that I refuse to give up after seven years. I have a small home in an undesirable location. I rarely get my hair cut. I buy cheap makeup. I’m okay with wearing the same white tee shirts for weeks at a time. I am still in love with the grunge bands from my youth. And I have a husband who genuinely knows me when I forget who I am. I actually have a lot more than I allow myself to believe. I am good, but sometimes I have to be reminded of that.