HABITS AND CARPET LUMPS
By: Lauren Anderson
A few months ago I got a new mattress. My sister and her girlfriend were champions and helped me move it into my apartment–because they’re heroes like that. And just as we were snapping the blankets into military precision, (My sister was in the Air Force and I swear, the way she makes a bed is a thing of beauty.) we noticed my rug had bubbled up and there was a lump in it.
My bed sits on top of half the rug, and the other end of it is nestled under a bookshelf and a chair, so it’s not a simple foot-scooching thing to fix. It would require lifting the mattress and smoothing it out.
They offered to help with it, but I shooed them away and said, “I’ll get it later.” Not knowing what I was getting my self into. “You guys have already done enough.” They asked if I was sure and I answered with an emphatic YES, and we left and got some celebratory beers for a job well done.
But that’s just it. I didn’t “get it later.” as I had promised. That night, tired from all the mattress moving shenanigans and eager to try it out, I went to bed without another thought. The next day when I woke up, I tripped over the new lump in my rug.
“Dammit!” I called out, catching myself before a full fall. “I gotta fix that.” But then I didn’t. I simply got up and went about the rest of my day.
The next day was the same. Woke up, tripped on the lump, cursed at the heavens for another stupid stumble, vowed to fix my rug later, and went about my day.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Why didn’t you just take the few minutes and adjust your rug right there and then?” And honestly? I DON’T KNOW. I have no idea why I didn’t.
Unless, maybe I do.
In my mind it was a BIG JOB. I would need to prop up or somehow move my entire bed. Get underneath and really fix the rug. More than a one-person job. But since I live alone, and I wasn’t feeling like employing any can-do single-person ingenuity, I let the lump stay.
Before I knew it, a month had gone by. I eventually got used to stepping around the lump, so as not to trip every day. I vacuumed around it too, sort of. I mostly used the lump as an excuse not to vacuum. Yuck.
Then my friend Nissa came over. We were chatting and hanging out, and right before she left, I was like, “Hey… can you help me fix the lump in my rug?” She got down on her knees and I as I strong-armed the mattress and box spring, and she smoothed the rug under.
It was a process, and even with all my Cross-Fit training, that one-two bed combo was giving me a run for my money. But we eventually got it. Mostly. By the time she left, the lump was smaller, but you could still see it there.
I convinced myself that it was just a kink that had formed in the carpet, and it would eventually go down over time. I hugged Nissa and thanked her, and I thought that was that.
Until the next day, I got up, and tripped over the damn lump again.
“What the F—?!” I blurted as I caught myself mid-fall. Over the night, the carpet saw fit to lump up again. It was back. And as if it was taunting me, I could swear it was bigger than before.
At this point I laughed, the deep head-shaking laugh I sometimes have when things are just too stupid to be believed. I was busy that day, so I stepped over the lump and went about my life. “What a dumb problem to have…” I thought. “And why is fixing my damn rug proving to be such a pain?”
Like any good nemesis, this carpet lump was a slow stupid burn. Insidious and quietly ruining my home life. Silently ticking away at my sanity like a drop of water into a boulder. It’s like, you don’t notice how much it’s bothering you until you wake up and you’re half the boulder you used to be.
Perhaps the stupid rug would require more of my attention than I gave it credit. But I didn’t have time, or the gumption to fix it on my own.
Until a few weeks later when my sister came over again. She graciously helped me Marie-Kondo my closets– because again– SHE’S A HERO LIKE THAT. And we were making progress, when it reached my sister’s bed time.
“Wait!” I pleaded. “Before you go, can you help me fix this lump in my stupid rug?”
Marnna (my sister) got down on her knees and smoothed the carpet under as Nissa did before. I lifted the mattresses with everything I had. When we were finished, the lump was mostly gone.
Marnna goes, “I think the rest will smooth out over time. You probably just kinked it a little, because it’s been lumped up so long.” I nodded. I always defer to my big sister when it comes to matters of the home. She is practical and capable in ways that I am not, military trained, and ya know, she’s my big sister. I know better than to mess with that dynamic.
When I went to bed that night, I remember taking a big exhale. As if something had been lifted from my worries. I didn’t even realize that it was bothering me that much. But apparently it was.
The next day, I woke up to my alarm, got out of my bed, and TRIPPED ON THE LUMP.
This time, I didn’t catch myself either. I went all the way down to the ground. I’m laying on my dirty carpet, head next to the lump and I just start yelling. “OH MY GAWD. Are you f—ing kidding me? What kinda stupid ass Ground Hog Day bullsh-t is this?”
But again, I had no time for this business. I had to keep going. I had a full day to execute, and no kind of energy for something as stupid and pointless as this damn carpet bump.
Another month passes, and I learn to walk around it. I vacuum around (sort of). I basically pretend it’s not there, even though every time I look at it, it silently bothers me.
Until one night I can’t take it anymore. I decide to move my mattress, all on my own. It is heavy and unwieldy and a total pain in my ass. But at this point I’m like, NO MORE! I move the mattress, and the box spring. It knocks an elephant figurine off the wall, and a tusk breaks off. No matter!
I steady on. I move everything, and smooth the carpet under. I vacuum thoroughly. I am satisfied. The lump is gone. I go through the process of putting my bed back together. It’s taking more time than I care to admit. I’m breaking a sweat. I’m a little pissed that this is how I’m spending my precious evening.
When I get my mattress put back together I look down at the floor, and the F*CKING LUMP IS BACK. If I were a cartoon, you could see smoke come out of my ears.
Sure, it’s a snitch smaller, but it’s still there. Same as it ever was. I am incensed. And tired, and now it’s 11 pm. Way too late to be moving furniture in an apartment.
At this point, I can’t laugh at it either. It’s really bothering me. It’s become this thing in my life that I deal with on a regular basis that irritates me. And when I take time and energy to fix it, I fail. I don’t get the results I want. In fact, it feels like a fool’s errand.
I start to think crazy thoughts. “Maybe I should just throw out that damn thing?” I don’t technically need it. It’s just for aesthetics, and to break up the sea of ugly brown apartment carpet.
I wait a week, and just walk around it. Then I try to move my mattress again by myself. This time, I remember to move my newly-glued elephant figurine to a safer spot. I strong-arm the mattress, the box spring. I smooth out the carpet. I put it all back together.
Again, it takes longer than I want it to. It’s harder than it should be. But I am a woman determined.
And guess what? The next morning, the lump came back. AGAIN. I laugh. “This is hell.” I think. I have somehow done something unforgivable, and landed myself in a hell of my own making.
* * *
It kind of dawns on me how quickly I have developed this new habit. Some habits– like going to the gym and leaving my house early to get to work on time– serve me really well.
And some habits don’t serve me at all. Like eating my feelings in the parking lot at a Taco Bell. Or stuffing my feelings down and putting on armor, so I could come off as “cool” instead of letting myself be vulnerable.
Or even something as small as walking over a lump in my carpet.
I hesitate to attach the words “Good” or “Bad” to any habits anymore. Because I think when we are learning how to do something, if it works/soothes/helps one time, it’s only logical that we would do it again right? And if we know that something works/soothes/helps why would we explore another option unless we are forced to? Hence, a habit is formed.
I learned to walk around that lump at first to maintain my sanity.
It’s another way my body figured it would “help” me. It adapted so I could keep going. Our bodies are genius in this way. I think humans have this incredible capacity to adapt. And any time I am reminded of our innate human desire to survive, I feel so moved. But tripping over, and walking around this lump started feeling like a stupid metaphor.
Because after a while, I had to recognize that this adaptation wasn’t serving me. It was actually harming me. Because that lump and what it was doing to my apartment and my mind were hurting me. As stupid as it is. And smalltime and annoying as it was, that carpet lump was a terrible distraction.
And I knew it too, in the back of mind. But instead of dropping everything and giving it the time and energy it somehow required, I just found a way to maneuver around it. Pretend it wasn’t there. Trick myself into thinking it wasn’t bothering me or my OCD tendency as much as it was.
Similar to how I feel about getting myself back into the rhythm of going to the gym on a regular basis. My life had knocked out the option of weekly visits due to extreme busy-ness. And now I find myself extraordinarily out of the habit, and a little weary about getting myself back to it. Even though I know, how great I’ll feel once I do.
I am still butting up against the power of a habit, that I accidentally created, that doesn’t serve me.
So how do I change it? How do I reignite my old gym habit that was serving me, and extinguish this new habit that’s not? Well, you know that old saying, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”? Yeah, screw that. I think you know where I’m going with this.
The journey back to a habit that serves me, starts by fixing that F*CKING CARPET LUMP.
* * *
Last night, instead of moving my mattress again, I decide to take a different approach. I mean, only a crazy person does the same thing more than once and expects different results right?
(Or in my case, 5 times. I tried the same approach 5 times. I guess, some lessons take longer than others amirite? Ahem…)
I decide to move the chair and the bookcase instead. It is a much more involved process. It takes all night. I devolve into going through my books and dusting them and re-reading old journals. It is a night of slow and steady methodical correction.
It feels good. It feels permanent. I smooth the lump and it lays flat in a way that it hasn’t in months. I feel trepidation, but I steady on. I move the shelf back, put the books back, and finally move the chair. The lump is gone.
The next morning I wake up. I put on my glasses, and without getting out of bed, I look down expecting to see the all too familiar floor bulge. But it’s gone. It’s no where to be found.
I repeat, THE LUMP IS GONE.
I get out of bed and purposely step where the lump had been for so long. It feels good. It feels right. The annoying lump that I was carrying with me about the carpet bump vanishes as well.
I use this as a sign to sign up for class at the gym. I’m using the lesson I learned here by dealing with this stupid carpet problem to propel me back to a place that I long to be. At Solcana.
The old-new habit washes away, and the new-old habit returns. It wasn’t easy, but it is an excellent reminder that habits can change. And for as powerful as a habit can be, we are still the masters of our fate. The Captain of our Soul. (INVICTUS!!!)
Anything can be a well-needed lesson if I choose to look at it that way. I’m excited to walk where I haven’t walked in a while. Through the doors of my beloved gym to get back to my body, and over the damn area of carpet that I side-stepped for too long.
The path that I was avoiding for months, has made itself available to me again.
And I am excited to walk on it. Because I know this habit serves me better.