I want a new couch.
I really want a new couch, and while cancer has clarified many things for me, it has made this couch wanting so confusing.
B. C. (before cancer), it would have been so easy. Either, “Nope, we can’t afford that,” or “Yes! Let the couch shopping begin.” Let’s be honest though. For the big stuff, like a couch, it was almost always a big fat no because we don’t have wads of couch money just laying around or stuffed in our mattress or hidden in a shoebox or whatever. We’re a youngish family, I usually only work one night a week so I can stay at home with the babes (sacrifice, yo), and organic milk is expensive.
Besides, Josh and I — babies of our own families that we both are — aren’t great with money. We’re not horrible with it either. We don’t have any credit card debt and are always on time with our bills, but we could definitely be better. And I knew that even B. C.
In fact, just a month prior to the diagnosis, I got very organized about it. There were charts detailing debt payoff, envelopes for a cash-only system, and long bedtime chats about how we would “snowball” the student loans.
Then my whole world changed.
One night, just a day or two into the cancer mess, I looked around at all of our stuff and felt empty. For the first time in my life, I realized how worthless stuff is, and I felt sick at the hours I wasted trying to “decorate.” The only thing that mattered in those days, immediately following the diagnosis, were the people in my life, my relationships.
And I mean that literally. It was the ONLY thing that mattered to me. Within minutes of finding out that I had cancer and with such ease and surety, I decided to have a double mastectomy.
“Take them! I don’t need them. Just please take them,” I begged the nurse coordinator on the phone that morning.
“I haven’t eaten anything this morning,” I lied. “I can come in for surgery now. We can leave now.”
I would have given up anything that morning (and even now) to know that I could stay here with my people. To raise my daughters. To grow old with my husband. To tread the line of friend and mother that only an aunt can for my niece and nephews. Caring about what I looked like or, even worse, what my house looked like seemed like an impossibly irresponsible waste of time.
But just as the chemo fatigue is fading so, too, is the rawness of those emotions, and I find myself in need (want?) of a new couch.
The problem is that cancer, while making me realize the importance of living in the now, murkied my future and then MADE ME PAY FOR IT. What I’m left with is total confusion regarding money.
Half of me wants to save every cent we have leftover just in case this happens again because, truth be told, cancer was/still is pretty hard on us financially. It’s really not just the medical bills that make illness so expensive. (Protip: Get cancer in January so you have a better chance of not paying your deductibles twice.) It’s also the missed work — spouse included — and little known costs like new underwear. Word on the street is that when you realize that your friends and family might be doing your laundry for the foreseeable future, you go out and buy all new underwear. Or so I’ve heard.
Anyway, this is the half of me that also wonders if I should work more to really build up our savings and quickly. But isn’t the point the people? To be with my people and not at work? Gah!
The other half of me says, “Let’s do some living, baby!” This is the party half. The half that tries to get you to do shots on a school night. It wants to spend any disposable income on whatever makes me and mine happiest. This half wants us to go to Disney World and the Grand Canyon and to buy memberships to all area pools, the zoo, the children’s museum, and anywhere else a family can go have fun, and it definitely wants a new wardrobe because its self esteem recently took a pretty hard hit.
I’m trying not to let either side win and just be normal, but I don’t think I know how to be normal anymore. [Insert obvious joke.] As far as the couch is concerned, I’ve almost convinced myself that even if The Sumbitch does come back, I won’t regret its purchase. After all, during chemo, couches were my bffs.
A new couch would loosely mean a better life for my family. You see, I want a sectional to maximize seating in my small house and to encourage snuggling and game play. I want a place for my family to really hang out and cuddle up, and I want my couch to invite my friends and extended family in. I want it to say, “Welcome! Take your shoes off and jump in. Stay a while, have a laugh, take a nap. Whatever. This is the place you want to be.”
And while I’m giving a script to my new couch, I’d also like it to say, “Heather and Josh are adults” because I’m sure no couch has ever said this about us before, and dammit, I’m a grown woman now. If birthing two children didn’t solidify the fact, I’m sure Chemo Summer did.
Josh and I started dating when I was just 22, and although I was doing all of the things I should have been doing, I wouldn’t call 22-year-old Heather a grown up. In the eleven years since, we have inherited couches from my husband’s parents and brother and actually did buy a clearanced floor model that my daughter blew her nose on last week.
I want a couch without snot stains and pre-existing scratches. I want a couch without tufts because, really, they are just cute crumb catchers. I want a couch that doesn’t already have my mother-in-law’s butt divot. Basically, I’m ready for my big girl couch.
A year ago I thought couch shopping was all fabric swatches and measurements. Now it’s all, “Should I be saving this money in case I get cancer again? Or is buying this couch like putting stock into my future? How much would it cost to get a couch that actually talks? Or entertains my children? Or makes dinner?” Because that’s a couch I could really get behind.
Yeah, maybe I should invest my money in visiting a therapist’s couch instead.