one safe couch.

i really despise and adore estate sales. i guess its rather a love and hate relationship, i never really buy anything but just to be able to walk through someones house is almost like being able to read their journals or something. you can see what is in important to them, the pictures, the books, the organization, or lack there of.


estate sales are basically a garage sale of, well everything. you can walk through a persons house who has probably died, which explains the reason why i hate them so much. its just creepy, i mean less than a month ago this piece of art was probably someones prized possession but now its for sale, tomorrow if its not sold it will probably have a big red slash through the ticket on discount, and if its still not sold it will most likely be in the dumpster or goodwill by the end of the week. someone LOVED that piece of art!


at an estate sale a few days ago i walked through someones treasures and sifted through memories and prized moments buried in fifty cent picture frames and dollar tea sets. while i was there the thought hit me how disparaging it is to think that someone will one day do the same to me and my possessions. future grandkids will look through my records take what they want, sell what they don't. my future children will have no idea what that bible meant to me, and that i literally took it around the world. those notes on the side of the pages in that book were pure catharsis to me, but to someone else it will mean that the book will be worth less because of the writing in the margins. into the 25 cent box it goes.


here is what i am getting at... while entering this estate sale i walked in the front door and saw a couch that had a cover on it, like most people enjoy to do to prolong the life of the couch. out of curiosity i asked if i could take the stiff milky cover off the couch to see what it looked like. as i suspected the couch was perfect, not a tear or stain on the couch whatsoever. sure it was not my style, and looked like it was bought new in the 70's, but it was in perfect dark maroon flowery condition.



the thing is that the person who bought this couch loved it, when they saw this in the store it was their 'ideal' and would match _______ perfectly. they took special care to bring it home and sat on it and smiled. then they went to the store and found the thickest stiffest ugly creamy clear plastic cover to ensure that their amazing couch would not be hurt.


WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE COUCH??? if your just going to put a giant shrink wrap on it why don't you just get a few cinder blocks and some boards and put a sheet on it? years later this person is dead and the couch is in perfect condition selling for '25$ or best offer'. years of sitting on an uncomfortable couch, hiding the style, color, and texture of the couch and for what? so that someone has a good deal on a well kept piece of furniture well after your gone?


how many of us do this every day of our lives? we hide who we are or what we are made of under layers and layers of walls and coordinated trust issues. we preserve ourselves for some future nostalgia when in all reality this is going to lead us to being old with tons of regrets. why not venture out of our shell? why not befriend and entrust those around us? why not allow who we are to peer out of the safe?


if we continue to put up a thick plastic shield between us and the world around us then we will end up like the couch, a perfect track record of uselessness. an uncomfortable life with only our deflective shields to comfort us. no one can afford to be safe anymore.

-stephen


COMMENT AND TELL ME IN WHAT WAYS YOU ARE TO SAFE. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ATTEMPT TO CHANGE?

Comments

Patrick Grace said…
So did you buy the couch?
Anonymous said…
Stephen,

No one wants to be vulnerable. To have weakness so openly exposed for the world to see, it is nerve racking. every glance and every stare could only possibly be picking us apart. Its tragic i think. but none the less we all attempt to avoid this by covering our imperfections with what you metaphorically refer to as a slip cover for couches. I am obviously not beyond this, however I do attempt to lead my life in ways that i see fit.

Most recently i realized that my ex was my biggest safety net. continued to drag her along through thick and thin because i knew that she couldn't stand to let go of me. and i was unsure if i was ready to let go of her. the thought of not having her there if i had no one but myself was terrifying. we've been in a period the last week or so of me trying to let go of her and her trying to let go of me. i've decided i don't want to hide behind that anymore. i'd like to stand alone if i don't have anyone else. sometimes i think people are our the worst slip covers. cause not only are we sheltering ourselves from the storm, but we do it at the expense of someone else.

i'm slightly disgusted with myself in this moment for admitting i am this person, however- i find a bit of comfort it knowing i am not alone in this affair.

PS- i think you're wonderful, i'll see you the next time you come around my way.

Sincerely,
Melanie Weils
catherine said…
I was just blogging about this last night. How one of the most tiring thing to do is to deny our true selves. In that way, we cover ourselves up for who knows what reason.

This past 3 months, I've been showing love more. Through service, through hugging, through whatever way God leads me to. Instead of merely saying that I love them to myself, but to show it. And I've gotten weird stares, random comments, and other things... but hey, its not my bad, its theirs!

I'm merely being honest to myself; merely expressing what is inside in ways that are sadly not normal.

I don't want to be a perfect couch under an ugly blanket that didn't live life.
Erin said…
Man, I feel like I say this every month, but thank you for the great, thought-provoking post, Stephen.

I think I am too safe, too guarded with myself- my feelings and emotions. I mean, I'm not saying I should just be broadcasting what I feel 24/7, but I tend to be really reserved. I put that ugly plastic cover over how I really feel to avoid getting hurt later. Sure, I might avoid some ugly stains, but with the plastic in place, no one can really appreciate what's underneath.
Vanessa Wieland said…
I don't want to be the couch with the cover on it. I suppose saying that, I also risk saying that I prefer to be used, and bruised, and have coffee stains and soda spills, and maybe paint and drawn on with marker and crayons and things. Maybe the occasional muddy footprint.

But is that such a bad thing? I think I got most of that just walking out the door last week.

I think I'm going to take my grandmother's Fiesta Ware out of the boxes I've been keeping them in and risk breaking those collector's item orange pieces. After all, I can't break a memory.

Though, I will say one thing about estate sales: after I'm gone, I like to think that someone will walk through, and sift through the things that mattered to me, and find something that gives them just as much meaning.
punkeymonkey529 said…
wow! I have a covers on my couch,not plastic or anything.I use blankets 'cause the original fabric of the couch is uncomfortable,and really ugly,I also have to sleep on the couch(no extra room in house for my bed)but what ways show in me or something that is special to me? I have this stuffed monkey that I've had since I was really little.The person who gave it to me died a few years after it was given to me.The monkey has a banana attached to its mouth,I have not cut the banana off it's mouth,that is one thing I have not wanted to do.Maybe I feel that if I cut the banana off I feel it will lose some meaning of it to me.

I also like used book,but sometimes I like writing and highlighting in them,but sometimes I like books in mint condition,but on the other hand it doesn't show the love I've had for the books I read.Why do I like them new looking then?I think I'm going to start changing that and highlighting parts in books that have deep meaning to me,write in the margins and actually show them some love.I'm too careful with things,I want to change that.
Estevan Vega said…
dude, great thoughts here. i so feel the same way...
J said…
I’m safe when it comes to friends, WAAAAY too safe! I believe in “true covenant relationship –type friendship.” In other words I believe in people being real, loyal, encouraging, “willing to do anything for your friends” type of… well, friends. In the past I have been hurt, betrayed and back-stabbed by friends more times than I care to remember so that makes me very skeptical when it comes to friends. To be honest I just don’t want to get hurt. But I think that in thinking about friends this way I set the bar way too high and all of them end up failing. So throughout the past year I have attempted to change. It’s difficult at times but essentially it is a process of learning to love people exactly as they are and being a good friend to all of them regardless of what they do.
cristobal said…
great entry.

i can totally get down with what you are saying here. i definitely could open myself up more to people.

i like to think of myself as a library. when people come in to check out books they might read them, return them, and they might forget about them and never bring them back. It becomes harder when all of the people that come into the library faithfully to read, start to become the people who just take books and never return them, or neglect them and/or treat them terribly. Thats why i tend to keep my library closed.

i could stand to open up more and bring in new books to replace the ones that are gone.
Shay said…
Stephen,

I've recently gone through these same thoughts. I'm 37 and tend to have the energy and mind of someone in their 20's. I questioned whether I fit in at a concert crowd of teens,if enjoying hanging with my teen kids in public was out of place, and whether I should be more conservative like my other friends. I expressed my concern to a friend who quoted "age is just a number". I'm not going to put on a "ugly plastic cover" to fit into the norm of my age group. I enjoy the life I live. I love my children and I had them to enjoy them! I love the music I listen to and don't care if it's what teens listen to. I love that I'm exuberant and enjoy the things I do and I'm not about to stop now at my age or any age. I am who I am and I feel beautiful!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Shay
I think we all hide behind something; past reputation, unique ability, or our smile and we walk around with broken hearts and plastic smiles. If we were all willing to take off the mask, let go of the things that we hide behind, and reach out to each other, we would be building more bridges and less walls between each other. In the words of a better man we would be able to "love one another, as I have loved you."
picklewinkle said…
In what ways I am too safe? I had trouble posting this response for one. I keep my opinions to myself; afraid to offend someone, worried about the backlash if I do offend someone, and the hurt feelings I'll be left with as a result.

I think it's hard work to show your true self to the world all the time, to live in vulnerability and guilelessness and deal with the negativity that sometimes results - the judgments, rejections and hurt. That said, it's the only way to truly live.

I used to think I had to please everyone. It was a lot to live up to. I’ve learned that it's more important that I am okay with what I do.

It's all a learning curve. It's about trusting the people you surround yourself with, not being afraid to try and knowing that it's okay if you fail.
Matt said…
I'll be using this story soon in my youth group (if that's okay with you).
I'm telling our kids this all the time - hiding what you are and what you have to offer is only going to hurt you and those you love. To truly help and serve a purpose in this world, you have to show everyone who you are, what you can do, and what you have.
Without that, like you said, you'll just end up old and regretful, having never fulfilled your calling and duty in this life.
Anonymous said…
Sometimes I am insecure regarding my faith, but I realize that everyone else puts on a similar facade. We try to cover up who we really are with attributes that are not us all in order to get a reaction out of other people. If I can crawl out of my box, so can someone else. If one leads with honesty and a little vulnerability, then others might follow. Thanks, Stephan. From James.
for me, playing it safe means being too wrapped up in work and not making enough time to hang out with people and enjoy life. it means making excuses when people want to spend time together and doing what i know to be safe. expected. unrisky.

the line is hard to cross, to find the balance. but hopefully that balance will become clearer soon and i won't shrink into what i'm used to doing.
Jeremy B said…
"how many of us do this every day of our lives? we hide who we are or what we are made of under layers and layers of walls and coordinated trust issues. we preserve ourselves for some future nostalgia when in all reality this is going to lead us to being old with tons of regrets. why not venture out of our shell? why not befriend and entrust those around us? why not allow who we are to peer out of the safe?"

This is me. For the first time in my life, I actually felt free to be me when my son came along. I could be fun, goofy, sound silly, yet still hold to my values, take care of him, and and never be conscious of how I looked to others. I could be completely me. For my entire life I haven't be able to be completely me - with my family, friends, or spouse (although close). This is true, even with God.

I don't know that we can discount our past experiences and hurts that have allowed us to put up these walls and keep our true selves buried. I admire those who have felt that sense of worth, love, and healing in their lives to be able to do this. I want to get there but have a ways to go.
Hannah said…
This is something that I have been trying to do. But it's really hard to remove all the layers of crap on top of that one layer of plastic wrap that started it all.
And sometimes it is so hard to get rid of all of the layers of crap on top of the plastic that you have to start with one layer at a time.
I'm trying my best to be more open and honest with people and I'm trying to reach out to people, but it's hard when you don't know what to say.
becca said…
i can completely relate to this. im a recovering cutter, so i always try to hide my scars, with long sleeves, bracelets, or just keeping my arm turned a different way. i dont want people to know what i regret. also with friends, i always wait for them to ask me to hang out instead of asking them. they dont ask very often which i think is one of the factors that lead to the cutting. but ive been tryin to ask them more, & i do regret it, and know the regret with just grow larger if i dont start now.
sui said…
this is why I love your writing, stephen. I completely agree.

people are too safe these days.. they cover themselves up, but they still get hurt. so why not let themselves be completely vulnerable so that they can be happy and intimate, and take that chance? to trust others with their heart?

I admit I am still a little safe.. safe as in I'm not super social so I don't put myself out there, I don't get uncomfortable enough. being too comfortable is the same as being too safe.
i really saw this going into a much different direction, but i am actually glad you ended with that note.

my honest opinion is that most people sadly never reach a comfort level between who they are in this planet--their role on earth--and who they are within themselves. But is this not the human experience?

i am pleased to admit my weaknesses and accept the functionalities that surround me. i have reached a balance in my life where i am okay with waking up each morning and loving my life.

will we ever let the cover completely off? most likely not. but it would certainly be foolish to not let it wear down, smell the air and appreciate and love every second of our existence.

first time here. great post.
rockongamer said…
Hey Stephen,

I was just thinking about we never, no matter how hard we try to open ourselves up to someone, can fully show who we really are. I think part of that is that we don't even fully know who we are. Only God does. But at the same time we totally don't even attempt to show people who we really are, like you said. It's sad, but human nature I guess. At one point I really tried to be genuine with everyone but I guess I have kind of fallen away from that and now I only try and do that with a select few. I guess part of that might be that it surprised me when I started to see people for what they really were. Or at least qualities that I hadn't seen in them before. Thanks for the reminder Stephen!

Oh and by the way, I feel the same way at estate sales. They feel rather ominous. They remind you how petty all the stuff that we spend our lives accumulating really is. It's sad that all these things that they cherished are considered garbage now. I once helped to clean out someone's house who had died at at our church. He was an immigrant so he had no family that we could contact. It was rather sad going through all his stuff and seeing what he valued and how he lived.

Thanks for the thoughts,
Ian
Jaci Jensen said…
I've been pondering this a lot lately as well. I just starting living with a new roommate, and her inability(or so it seems) to be authentic threw me. I think it takes a desire to truely be real and 'let it all hang out' AND the realization that they aren't being real. I don't know if it is upbringing, or life experiences or just maturity that brings us to the point of no return- from ignorance to acknowledgement.

I feel like we've all met people who just don't get it. They are so wrapped up in what others think or the idealic person of their future selves they've built, that they just aren't clued in to real life.

Although i myself strive to be a person who throws 'inabitions to the wind', and to 'live like i'm dying' and all of the other cliches you can think of, it's hard. i find myself immeditely being defensive when someone questions me. And you know what i have found? It's that stupid, dumb, awful, relentless PRIDE that gets in the way. When we let go of what type of a person we want to be, and look to someone who already has made it there(JC), i think our ability to reach a higher goal is unlocked, and so are the resources to get there. Which just makes me realize even more- I've got a long way to go.

Jaci Jensen
Anonymous said…
My Dad leaves the plastic screen protectors on his phone. It goes all bubbly and gross. By the time he takes them off the model is always in need of an upgrade anyway.

I don't like my couch. I use the horrible plastic cover to hide it, not protect it.
Anna said…
Stephen,
You're probably the deepest person I'll ever hope to meet. I don't want to have a slip-cover for my metaphorical couch anymore. And I won't, I promise. I want to show love to everyone I can, in every way I can. I think God's been trying to tell me to love others, and not to judge so harshly on first glance. I've actually made friends with people I thought were just jocks and potheads. Shows you how people are more than just the surface image. This post gives me even more reason to let love shine through!

Inevitably,
Anna
darling you said…
I kept the cover on my couch to see who would bother to uncover it.

Someone not only uncovered it, but they brought it right to the center of their home, and made it part of it.

And that is love.
Renny said…
Trust issues abound. The thing is I think everyone has them and feels like they're the only one. "I trust no one, I keep my thoughts in a box behind a big brick wall so I won't get hurt. I'm the only one." Thats the devil.
I don't want to shut people out anymore because I feel so alone. That is counter productive to not wanting to be alone anyone. And I'm NOT the only one.
The value is Stephen, that these are all just things, even the actual Bible itself. The words are important, and you must read them and learn from them, and so the book is important because of what is said inside. The value to you comes now AND later, and selling it at a cheap price after your death can never diminish that.
Lucky said…
(funny... my health class was just talking about
a subject similar to this)

that sounds just like me...
i never let anyone see who i am underneath
i cover up who i am

the main things that i am too safe about are
trust, emotion, fear, self worth, perfection
and meekness

i can try to change, i kinda wanna change,
but i am so comfortable
with where i am, i am afraid to change

Lucky

X X
+++
adrianafeliz said…
I can definitely relate... I'm always waiting for people who will truly appreciate the real me. I really need to be my bestest self at all times regardless of if there is anyone around to appreciate it.
Holly said…
How am I safe?
Well, I don't speak. I refuse to vocalize my words, my thoughts. That is what I do. I am enveloped in a shell that has tried to get cracked many times over.
Not that I ever wanted to be like this. But I am who I am, am I not?
It has hindered my life, however. Yes.
How little effort it would take for me to converse, to just speak to people I know but do not often socialize with? Or to begin a conversation with a stranger?
This is not my nature. But I've got try. Tons of try.
Okay, here goes.
And, thank you. You've fulfilled my cognitive needs for the week at the very least.
Joseph Macasero said…
Stephen, I believe you...
My father keeps a car in our garage in mint condition like the couch you described. Being there's only 4 people in this family and 5 cars; everyone else in the family asks him to get rid of it because it really has no substantial meaning. But my father likes to believe it's a well investment. Many people are like that. I'm not though- I'm not my father's child in the sense of the way he thinks and acts.

In turn I believe that this is my change- cause really unflattering to you after I read "The Orphaned Anythings", I in turn wrote a novel that I self-published like you did. And looking how far it got me I have no regrets whatsoever- As I speak to you now I'm typing my second novel right now on 126th single-spaced page, I just took a break at almost 3 in the morning to read you blog.

So many people end up like the person who bought the old couch new, I feel sorry for that person who thought his pristine investment would literally be the death of him
Tim Grimes said…
I think I do this when I worship God through song. I want so badly to raise my hands, dance, kneel or do a combination of all three, but I just stand there. This is a lesson I learn about once every month. To me, being a follower of Jesus means freedom and we should be able to stand in front of God and not be embarrassed. Thanks for helping me get that out of my system.
Anonymous said…
Indifference keeps me "safe." I no longer can trust my emotions; I've put myself into far too many situations where I've exhausted myself feeling and caring so deeply for someone...only to see them walk away. I realize that it's usually the non-personal matter of needing to move on in life, and sometimes that requires a parting of ways. There have only been a couple of friendships that have been broken because of the mistakes either I or he/she has made. But it always seemed to take me so much longer to deal with change; I always wondered why it never seemed to affect anyone else just as much as it did me. To go through so many situations where a person who once meant so much to me now seems to mean next to nothing, regardless of whether it ended badly or not...it's a kind of deep, cutting pain that I just don't want to experience anymore.

So I keep everyone at arm's length. It's not the healthiest coping mechanism, but at least it keeps me functioning, keeps me able to carry out normal responsibilities instead of being crippled by depression like it has so many other times.

I haven't gotten to the point where atrophy is more frightening than the thought of experiencing pain like that again. I keep thinking that someday, I'll feel like changing things...but hasn't come.
I think IF your treasure ends up in an estate sale. Then that is where it is meant to be. Maybe you will share what it means to one of your kids or grand kids and they will realize it. IF not then the person that hands it ends up in, that is where it is meant to be.
[Cr*] said…
really nice reading.
the tears & stains make us who we are, are part of us.


love it Stephen ;)
Janelle said…
Brilliant. Posts like this one are why I respect & admire you so much.

In what ways am I too safe? That's hard to pin down. I can be very shy, & that's the root of basically everything. However, this isn't the first time recently where I've been presented with what I consider to be a wake-up call from the cosmos.
Erik said…
I have had a very hard time with trusting people. It is absolutely ignominious when I sometimes couldn't even trust my girlfriend. I sat in my room and would constantly read and avoid my friends and the world outside. I would always tell myself "Everyone lies", and would constantly live out this method. Recently I started reading about Buddhism and and Tenzin Gyatso ( the Dali lama). I even read a bunch of friedrich Nietzsche. Through this I came to the decision that instead of lazing around that I should really get out and expose myself to the world. I needed to release my acerbic ways and introduce a new morality where I can see the best of people and enjoy these things. Through this over the past three weeks I have quit smoking, drinking and even become a more enlightened person, not just part of my couch
James said…
People just need to remember the reason sharing the stories of scars is interesting: they are experiences, they are life, they are us. What are we if not defined by what we do?
nick said…
i agree with you totally. in today's world people believe vulnerability is a bad thing, when in reality vulnerability is the only way we will ever grow. Its sad because i see tons of people everyday with the potential to be so life-changing and yet they sit back, like its a curse. if you used to do meth and cleaned up your act, don't hide it, shout it. Parents left you when you were young, use it as a tool to reach others. telling these things opens vulnerability but empowers you to conquer them. until we step out and do something with what we have our lives will be lived lifeless.
There is no plastic sheet over me to make sure everything stays nice and pretty but rather a sheet of high decorated "beautiful" fabric to cover up the damaged, broken, useless parts no one needs to see or know.
I guess being to quite makes me to safe. i can go through my entire school day with out speaking or interacting with anyone.
the word "fine" is also a huge safty net for me.
instead of:

how was your day nikki?
well i sat by myself at lunch and people threw stuff at me.

its:
how was your day nikki?
fine.
whenever someone asks me anything i almost always respond with fine.
i'm going to challenge myself to have an actual conversation with some one, and look them in the eyes. thats something completely new for me.
L30 said…
''why not venture out of our shell? why not befriend and entrust those around us? why not allow who we are to peer out of the safe?''
Oh Man! What really nice reflection ... I confess that I had a job to translate but it was worth.
A hug for you my friend

Leo I´m Brazilian =]
L30 said…
aaahh I can not forget, I hope you can visit my blog and also leave a comment.
I'm anxious to see your show here in Fortaleza Ceara. Date march 26

bye,
Leo
Tabitha said…
Hey Stephen,

I don't know why, but mostly every time I read your blogs...it's like you get me every time, if you know what I mean?. I don't know, I really think your Brilliant, you really do inspire me in different ways.

Well anyways, I can really relate to some of your followers. I am really shy at times. My parents said that I didn't used to be that way and that I was out going, but I guess it is because I have a birth defect. I sometimes am afraid of what people think of me.

But my birth defect doesn't bother me as much anymore since I had surgery and that fixed the way I look. I am still shy, though...I hardly don't know what to say to people sometimes...or even think that they just don't understand me. But I'm begining to realize that there are people who do understand.

I really love your song alexithymia, I love the quote that says: "with down cast eyes there is more to living than being alive"...

That is soooo true, there is more to life than living this life, there is a purpose for living...I just wish I knew what that was!?! But that's just what keeps me living, is the quest, the quest for life!! sounds exciting, right? I know I am excited!!! :)

Thank you Stephen...You don't know how much you mean to me!!! I love you brother,

Tabitha
Anonymous said…
When someone has been hurt, the initial instinct is to put a cover or a front rather than have our true emotional state for everyone to see. The cover serves to protect, and many people think that they were hurt because they didn't hide away. You didn't even have to be hurt to know that it's uncomfortable to be exposed like that, which could also be why so many people cover their heart and hide away like that couch. Copy and paste a smile that says nothing is wrong. I'm sure this point has been made at least 40 times in these comments and, no, I haven't taken the time to read them. But thank you, Stephen, for your thoughts. You made an excellent point that people shouldn't be afraid to show who they really are.

-Rebecca
nicogirl said…
I love to shop vintage over new any time. The sense of history is what draws me to the sale. The story left behind can be full of joy or riddled with sadness. It's too late to change the story: they are gone. I look at it as a rescue operation. If they had a beloved niece or daughter to give that couch to, they would have done so. The fact that there is an Estate sale at all shows they have no one that is in line to preserve this life. Give it a new life. I feel I am adopting it!


Maybe if the former owner had cuddled up and read books to the Grand kids or had movie night on it while eating popcorn, they would be fighting over who gets the beloved couch. Opportunity lost... it's yours to find...

So make sure YOU live your life with the things in it so they are a joy...Your future kids should know about how you loved the vinyl in the box. Play the "Urban Hymns" for them. It's up to you to tell the stories of traveling the world and what you learned. Share how much your bible means to you and read the notations to your loved ones. Things are just... things... until the human hand touches them. It's up to us to elevated them to meaningful by sharing our lives. Sharing means taking off the dust cover...and living. Life is messy!

So I hope my future grand kids will play my les paul and blow my fender amp if they want...and hopefully they will fight over a worn couch that we had a good time sharing our lives upon!

Although I DON'T have a zipped bag on my couch..I could use a lesson in loosening up...I was shopping for a new one...I'm going to put that on hold. There is more living to be done on this one!
Dids said…
I'm not sure what my plastic is... Which is all the more dangerous because I don't know what I should be tearing off and using as a canvas of its own... I believe I hide behind people... and behind a less-than-sincere want for others to be happy, even at my own expense. Assuming that's possible... But still rather unhealthy... There's obviously a lot more. A lot. Even if my nose is too close to the picture of my life, though, the little things I see needing change are worth working on, I guess, in an effort to be able to present a wholesome life picture in the end.

It's really interesting to go through and read other people's comments. Most of them, if not all, talked about the plastic being placed on by themselves. In a couch analogy, it's another person, since the couch can't make the choice nor do the action to "protect" itself.

On the "philosophy board" at my school, there were some paradoxes or just other phrases that made you go "Wha..?" One of them, and this is the one that stuck out the most though I can't remember the exact wording, was "We avoid life-threatening risks just so we can make it safely to death."

It's interesting, to say the least.

In philosophy, we were talking about the different Hellenistic Era philosophers and one of them was Epicurus (whose school our current society seems to have taken to heart with the grip of life and death). He said that we shouldn't worry about death. We won't worry about it once we're dead, so why worry about it before? He'd probably say the same about those "stains and tears" of ourselves that we try to avoid by using the covers.

But it's intriguing to realize that we ourselves put on the covers... It's not another person... usually. (There might be those cases out there.) But... it's like, God didn't put us on the earth to be perfectly preserved unto death. He knows far better than the rest of us that our slip covers will do nothing for ourselves. We can put up fame or money or love and acceptance or friends and family or our jobs et cetera et cetera for that nice, thick, cold, uncomfortable plastic.

I guess we associate "good lives" with "clean/pretty/organized/new lives" preferring mint condition to the tattered, tell-tale antiques.
Hi Stephen im a big fan of you. but i dont have money to pay the bus to go in your show in curitiba(the nearest place to go from my town "pato branco") the bus is R$75 reais to go and R$75 reais to come back. and I really really wanted to go i have 2 friends that if I go they will go, if i wont they wont go... so what could I do? i just have my mother and she is a teacher and doesnt has money, my father has died 5 years ago. so.. if you could help me or maybe give me a free pass to enter the show maybe could help me 10X AND ANYWAYS HAVE A GREAT TIME HERE IN BRAZIL IF I CAN'T GO IN THIS ONE PROMISSE THAT YOU WILL COME BACK NEXT YEARS PLEAASE!!! AND THEN ILL GO 10X GOD BLESS YOU
Lee said…
Hi Stephen,
*I apologize in advance, as I think this is going to be a really long comment.* :P
First off, this was a very insightful post - a lot of the time I take objects from memories and hang them up or put them away somewhere in my room. I remember a pen my friend broke three years ago, and it sits somewhere at the back of my desk to this day, I haven’t used it since, as I’m afraid it’ll run out… And then I wouldn’t be able to use it anymore. Now I realized how pointless that is, if I don’t use it now and leave it there forever, I’ll never use it anyway, and there’s nothing to save it for. I think I’ll put it back in my bag right now and use it tomorrow. It may seem frivolous, but I’m just too afraid to “lose” those happy memories I had a few years back. I’ve lost most of those friends to distance and their lack of effort in or inability to maintain the friendship, and I often think that that’s what will always happen, no matter who I meet. I’ve lost every friend I’ve had since preschool, and I’m afraid to open my secrets and inner feelings to anyone I know at the moment.
Just yesterday I happened to be thinking about something that terrifies me. On the bus after school, my friend and I were sitting together. Lately we’ve been becoming closer and closer friends, and I think he’s just a really fun person to be with, although I don’t trust him enough to tell him anything whatsoever about my past. He did notice something, though, and it was the second time he’s asked me: “Why don’t you ever look at me when you talk to me?” I frowned, thought about it for a minute, and then quickly changed the subject, but I really wish I didn’t have to.
Today, I happened to be doing a group project in school (and I hate those because I’m not a people person AT ALL) and was telling someone an idea of mine. I managed to muster enough courage to look in her eyes, but the second I saw them, I had to turn away. I’ve been afraid of looking in people’s eyes for as long as I can remember, and it’s only getting worse.
Honestly, I’m not sure when I started hiding my feelings – it probably can be traced as far back as elementary school. I’ve always been that one “weird kid” in the class that actually wanted to learn, wanted to be nice, wanted to make friends, wanted to live happily, but I think those things have only made me all the more ridiculed by my classmates. (What’s wrong with this picture? Why does society ridicule those who want to be good, but support anyone who wants to be mean? Fear? Peer pressure? But how can there be *just* peer pressure – someone had to start the trend, didn’t they?)
Anyway, I’ve been unable to look anyone in the eyes for the past three years. It’s something I’m ashamed of, and as I already said before, I don’t talk about it, which only makes it worse. I try to hide my feelings from people, and maybe I think that if they look in my eyes, they can read my mind and know everything that I’ve been through and how it’s affecting me now.


^This is part one. Haha sorry this is so long, I just kind of got really into this post :P
Lee said…
Part two of that long ramble of mine:

A few years back, a close friend of mine was suicidal, depressed, and had problems with self-injury. She also hid it from most of the people she knew. Suddenly, though, she stopped being hurt, which is great – except she just left me hanging, alone, after messing up a good part of my life with her troubles. She turned into one of the people that ridicule the people that are hurt and struggling – and I soon became one of the hurt and struggling. I keep trying to forget about what happened, and move on… It just didn’t (and doesn’t) work for me, though. And any friend I’ve told about it, I’ve lost. Any friend who knew me then except for one, I’ve lost. One of them has even given me the silent treatment for an entire year, without any explanation, and avoids the subject of me at all costs. (Am I a bad person because I need others? Am I a bad person because I am weak? Am I a bad person and deserve to be ignored because I remind him of my old friend and those memories, that maybe he has managed to submerge, while I haven’t been able to? I have so many questions, and they all remain unanswered, but there’s no one to answer them.)
I hide all of this away, from anyone and everyone, and lately my closest friends have no idea who I am other than a science nerd (which is only a tiny group of pixels in the entire computer screen of who I really am). I can’t look in their eyes for fear of being vulnerable. If I’m ridiculed for being just slightly above average in terms of “book smarts” and not being born in the country, having a weird name, anything of the sort, I just imagine what people would say if I showed who I really am, and how many problems I have underneath the “perfect student” facade.
If I showed this post to anyone who knows me, I’m afraid they’d laugh at me or make fun of me or take advantage of my weaknesses… But maybe I will take that first step and lift the saran wrap coating off my couch. Maybe when my trust in people returns, if it even does. Maybe someday… Or now.
I know I can try.

Thank you for this post, Stephen, I think I will try and act a little more like myself, and I hope it’ll impact my life in a positive way, contrary to what has happened in the past..

PS - Sorry for the somewhat rambling or long response, and if you (Stephen or anyone else who happens to be reading the comments) read it, wow, I feel honored that my rambles have been acknowledged. It’s definitely a rare occurrence. :)
Stargirl said…
I think we all try do hide ourselves, our true selves. We are afraid that someone won't like us, won't approve, will shoot down our thoughts and emotions and dreams and beliefs. We all want to be loved, and sometimes, in this day and age, we feel like, to be loved, we have to hide our flaws and ideas, for fear of offending someone. Who knows? Maybe this tendency of humanity comes from some instinct or another, to avoid giving enemies ammunition against oneself. Who knows.
No matter how much we don't want to be an artificial version of our self, we all are guilty of being too safe sometime or another. And we all, somewhere deep inside, are struggling to break free. It will take effort for all of us to, but someday, someway, if we try hard enough, we will be able to remove the plastic wrap.

Or maybe I'm just being optimistic.
Perfect! Loved it. I went to an estate sale last weekend and they had the deceased woman's wedding gown hanging by the bed she died in... Talk about lost dreams.
Katie said…
I love this analogy. I am going through the search for significance book with a group of friends and that is exactly what the book is all about. Discovering that we try to cover up the truth, why we do it and realizing that none of it matters because our worth is in Christ and nothing else. It is tough to explore our insecurities and admit them to others, but also can be so rewarding to realize we don't have to live that way.
Grammar Police said…
Stephen when writing be aware of the following:

your vs. you're

there vs. their vs. they're
Anonymous said…
to the grammar police:

stephen has never acknowledged the existence of grammar...he lives outside the box! please let him trounce there!
Janelle said…
Another reply to the grammar police: we all make mistakes. Does it matter so much when the message is excellent?
MootPoint said…
I'm in High School. A general rule about such an institution for me is that I want to do everything in my power to be invisible. I must say, I've done quite a good job of it. However, as a current Sophomore looking into my Junior year, I'm seeing what a horrible idea it all is. I wonder how many opportunities I've missed thus far just by placing myself in the shadows! Life is for the living! I'm tired of hiding behind these facades I've built up to protect myself. Yes, life is for the living and living things get hurt in this world. That's just a part of existence in a fallen place. I'm so tired of being soul-sick because I'm slowly killing the real me everyday! I will unapologetically live, love, and dream as big as I can because you get ONE SHOT. We were meant for so much more than just "ok"! I want to live like I mean it. And if I fail, may it be said that I failed valiantly.
laura said…
the implications of this blog are unbelievable. the couch is wasted when its hidden like that. much alike, our lives are wasted if we refuse to share our struggles and ourselves with others.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." -Dorothy Thomson

im going to start putting a bigger emphasis on living for things that are bigger than myself. thats what will matter. its annoying to be in high school where everyone wants to live it up and have fun- nobodys right; nobodys wrong. but just like the couch, being trendy and cool washes away with the sea. people dont care about fashions 20 years after they come and go. the couch is the ugliest thing you've ever seen. and i dont want my life to be looked at in that same way.
I've spent my life allowing myself to make my mistakes into excuses. I've never once learned from anything I did, unless it happened to me time and time again. I'm not going to let my mistakes become excuses. I've realized I need to own up to things in order to grow as a person. I'm a 20 year old child, and I need to become a 20 year old woman. Safety is just another excuse that I refuse to let myself make.
Sarah K. said…
=(
sad to say that i am a lot like the couch with the cover on it. i try not to be but its just who i am. Hopefully i grow out of it though. i am scared of getting judged by people and making good first impressions on anyone. im going to work on it soon.. and epically when i get my first job, it will help. but i am not relying on it
I think going to college will change a lot of things in my life and i am not a big fan of "change" so entering college in fall 2010, will be very difficult for me. it will probably help me get out of my "shell" as well.
Anonymous said…
That couldn't be more true. I feel like with the couch thing, the couch could symbolize our gifts; and the upholstery covering the couch until someone dies is like us waiting to use our gifts at the right moment but ending up never using them. I struggle with this often, thinking: "It's not my time to use my gift just yet." Which, could be true, but we have to get in action eventually or else we'll just be covered until we die, like the couch.
Sarah K said…
I just read the long post by "Lee" and i almost cried. It was really touching ='] I hope you get out of your shell one day.
Hannah said…
This is Hannah Bevills, Editor for Christian.com which is a social network made specifically for Christians, by Christians, to directly fulfill Christian's needs. We embarked on this endeavor to offer the ENTIRE christian community an outlet to join together as one (no matter denomination) and better spread the good word of Christianity. Christian.com has many great features aside from the obvious like christian TV, prayer request or even find a church/receive advice. We have emailed you because we have interest in collaborating with you and your blog to help us spread the good word. I look forward to an email regarding the matter, Thanks!

God Bless

|Hannah Bevills|Christian.com|
hannah.bevills@gmail.com
hmr1286 said…
Stephen, I wrote this on my own blog last night. Your post seems to be a parallel to my own thoughts. Thank you.

Inside my head everything happens. Everything I want, and everything I don't want. Everything that screams the truth and every other imaginable thing. With these thoughts, I feel most at home. I don't mind being alone, but I find myself wondering when I will stop being alone. The last few months I have wanted someone to share my world with, share my head with. I have quite the brain, always figuring out the ways of others, the way of myself. I am good at this. Very good at this. I strip down the walls that people build to mask their truth, strip down myself until I am nothing but thought, which is all we are anyway. We act on our thoughts, live through our thoughts, are hindered by them. Emotion, a byproduct of these thoughts, becomes the very product of our lives. To me, you think what you are, or are what you think. It is up to us to become our thoughts and share this legacy with the world. It is up to us to break down our fear into moments of thought. I'm not saying that fear isn't healthy...like one of my fears, miserable physical pain, this keeps me from doing things like attempting standing backflips and jumping over moving cars...this is a healthy fear, because even though we are thought, we are housed in a body that doesn't understand the vast opportunity of our mind. I am often misunderstood as rude or any other number of negative qualities, this is because people are afraid of themselves, afraid of their mind. Our mind is just a labyrinth we must master, find the path that gives us a reasonable and pleasant outcome. As with any labyrinth, fear is the opponent, if we allow fear to win we remain in that miserable and unending place. If we allow ourselves the power to know fear is but a byproduct of moments of thought, we are granted freedom, freedom from ourselves, and from the world at large. Given the option most people will acquiesce to what is "comfortable", what is normal to them...I think as humans we fear the unknown, and failure more than anything else. If one allows themselves to transcend these thoughts we are but birds floating over the miasma marveling at what we are truly capable of. There is one thing that I have not mastered with thought, and that is love of another.

I have made the life I want for myself, mastered my fear, and have realized I am capable of anything I desire in this world...except for a mate. This is not something my mind can materialize for me. I recently met a man who decided that he was ready to meet someone who would love him for everything he was, he did a sort of ceremony to will this person to him, this person was me...I will not go so far as to say I love him, but I understand him, I understand his journey and know that he will find his path, I am accepting and compassionate, caring and all other things a person desires as a human, there is one problem, he is afraid, he has not allowed himself freedom, and this in turn means it will never work. He brought to him all he wanted through the power of thought, and can't seem to accept what lies in front of him. I have done no such ceremony, and have little desire to do so, but I still find it fascinating that someone who had the power to do such a thing is too terrified of the reality of it to let it work. I too wish for someone who will understand me, who can follow the path of my mind, who knows my freedom and is free themselves. People continue to say that I am young, that I will find this person, and perhaps I will, but I also know me, and I know that I am freer than most. I feel as if I am old, I feel like my time on this earth is short, and I would like to spend as much of this time with someone who understands the journey as I do. Living life everyday to be free, to be happy, to take risks that help us grow, learn, progress.
Dalton Lee said…
I am loathe to say it, but...

I am the couch.

I tend to hide behind people's expectations of me, often subconciously allowing their opinion of me or who I should be to dictate who I feel I am - and I am all-too-often at a loss to do anything about it. It drives me up the wall, because - in the end - I know it is ME who must live with my life choices, not THEM.

I also hide within my memories, using them as cloud cover to keep away the sun I know would expose my carefully compiled list of characte flaws in a heartbeat. My constant reminiscence of a decidedly brighter, more nostalgic time only further seperates who I was from who I want to be. My heartbreak over the crashing wake of time is no replacement for the moments passing right before my eyes.

As usual, Stephen Christian, your words are pure catharsis to my heavy heart.
NattyFiction said…
AHHH! I THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS THAT I BELIEVE TO HAVE WORTH AND RELEVENCE! I have words that I need to get out, ideas that need to be expressed! I want to help change this sorry, broken world! I want to get on my roof, hell, climb the top of Everest and scream to the world to wake up and see the beauty they miss every day commuting to their white-collar, mundane jobs, to get out of their shells and see the people around them, the beautiful people that have always just blended into the crowd! I believe it is "Far better to fail at building a magnificent world than succeed in monochromatic survival" (Jon Foreman),and I want other people to realize this, to be inspired by it, be inspired to change their narcissistic ways! I want people to love each other, to unconditionally love like Jesus did and maybe something will change! Oh, if only, if only!

But I never do. I just sit and dream of that day. I think I'm too young to make a difference, to have my opinions and ideas taken seriously. Who wants to listen to some yuppie kid talk like they know things when she's so young?

Is it just ambitious of me to even think I could do something like that? Am I just sounding foolish, just being romantic? Who is even going to read this way-too-long comment? I don't know.
Oh, if only, if only.
Emily said…
Hey, NattyFiction. I agree with your comment. I like what you have for thoughts and I wish I had a way to be sure that you knew someone agreed with you, that read your comment and wishes to hear more of your thoughts.

It's amazing, the ideas of everyone. So it makes one wonder why we are so afraid to peel away our plastic coverings, since it seems we all want to do so but are afraid those other "couches" around us (who, following with this analogy, are couches, too) will judge and laugh at us. I'm one of those unpeeled couches, grievously...
Bre said…
I've been in a consistent cycle of denying who I really am - the personality and characteristics God gave me - for my whole life. Just recently God has been shedding light on this subject in a new way. No coincidence that I stumbled across your blog then! I am a people pleaser to an unhealthy degree. I push my own self away because I'm so focused on what I should say, what I should do, and what others will find acceptable or agreeable. I do this the most with my family, the ones I want to please the most, and the ones with whom I really want to avoid an argument.
God is reminding me of who I am. And I'm resting in the freedom of knowing that that is who I'm supposed to be, who I was created to be.

Thanks for writing!
Bre
Anonymous said…
Wow. This is profoundly good. Thank you, Stephen.
small.town.girl said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aris said…
My safe is comprised of the future. I feel like one day things will happen and becomes I have the blessing of youth, that I will become great and amazing without trying. Something happens, I say, "Well, in the future, I will forget about it" or "...make it better." I use the opportunity of the future to sheild myself from the stabs the present makes at me, instead of holding them to my chest and using them to better myself.

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