I have a confession.
It may come as a shock to some of you, but…….
I don’t always read the instructions.
Well, let me clarify. I don’t always FOLLOW the instructions.
Sometimes, like the other day when I was trying to put a new drying rack together, I didn’t even bother reading them. I looked at the pieces spread out on my bed, and the picture of the finished product on the box, and thought, “how hard can it be?!” So I set to work. 20 minutes, two smashed fingers, and a lot of cursing later, I had it together, basically, and had managed to give my girlfriend a good laugh in the process.
It worked to ditch the instructions and figure it out in that instance. It was simple enough.
Now, putting together Ikea furniture, on the other hand…..
That’s enough to make me curse in three languages, and has a high probability of ending with me at the urgent care….or at least with me reading the damn instructions.
Sometimes, instructions are useful. Good even.
It’s nice to have guidelines that say, okay, this comes first – now do this – put this piece here – watch this sharp edge – don’t do this, or you’re going to regret it.
The most complicated thing I’ve ever put together was my couch. It’s an Indonesian daybed from the World Market, and it took me the better part of a day to get right. The instructions were in Indonesian, so they were unreadable, but I still had parameters to work within – I knew what a daybed was supposed to look like – it needed a back, two sides, and a platform for the mattress. It took a while, but despite frustration and swearing that the neighbors probably heard all the way down the block, the couch has been sturdily sitting in my kitchen for two solid years now.
So it can work, if you can figure it out.
But what if there are no instructions?
What if there is no frame of reference? No paradigm?
People, I’ve learned, are complicated. Loving is messy. Walking through life with someone can be fraught, especially if you don’t have a frame of reference for what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. It isn’t like building a couch, or a chair. A chair is basically a chair, even if the design is a little different. A couch is a couch. A table, a table. But building a relationship?
That’s an entirely different ball of wax.
Every one looks different.
Every one has a different design, a unique set of circumstances.
And when you’re sitting there, face to face with another person, and you’ve both put all your cards on the table, it can be fucking terrifying.
It takes courage to decide to open yourself up to another person, even a little. To decide, this is a person that I am going to trust enough to befriend, is an act of bravery. But to put it ALL out there – the good, the bad, the fears and insecurities, the things you hold most dear, the things about yourself that you think, should anyone find out, would surely make you unlovable – THAT takes courage beyond compare. To fully expose your heart to someone, without knowing if they will accept you, is one of the biggest risks a person can take, because once those words are out, once your heart is exposed, there is no taking it back.
And what to do with that information once it’s received?
Being trusted with someone’s heart is a huge responsibility. It’s overwhelming, and scary. To hold someone’s hopes, dreams, fears….it’s beautiful. And it too is an act of bravery. Deciding to walk alongside someone, not in spite of everything they’ve laid before you, but because they, all of them, every part, are worthy of love and friendship, requires courage.
But how do you put together a relationship when each person is completely different?
THERE AREN’T ANY INSTRUCTIONS!
There’s no map!
There’s not a picture of what it will look like once it’s put together!
And you’re sitting there, with this other person, with both your hearts cracked open and your precious, precious selves open and laid bare
And it’s terrifying
But somehow, you decide that it’s time to be brave
So you look at the pieces of yourself you’ve dared to share, and the pieces of the person sitting across from you that they’ve dared to share
And you make a decision.
It may be difficult.
It may be terrifying.
It will take a lot of work, and there will be bumps and tears and frustrations and missteps along the way,
But you decide to give it a go.
And together, even if there are no instructions,
Together, you’ll figure it out.