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  • Writer's pictureKrista Law

IKEA: You Give And You Take Away

Consider how a recent trip to the big box store provided an unexpected gift at an even more unexpected cost.

After a particularly harrowing weekend of emotional engagement, confusion, disappointment and unresolved tensions, I thought a trip to wander the living rooms and kitchens of #IKEA would be a welcomed retreat. I imagined the inspiration that would come from seeing how seemingly static décor elements could come together in surprising ways in the showrooms. And I knew that exploring an entire warehouse would provide enough inspiration and distraction to quell the flooding hyper arousal of emotions I was feeling. We headed south during heavy Sunday afternoon traffic in Seattle with rain pelting our windshield and the wipers on high. Karl and I verbally navigated much of the emotional content of the weekend on our drive. That processing provided some relief from the madness that goes on in my mind when I try to make sense of the relational dynamics that swirl around me. So, when we arrived, I was both at ease and excited to traverse the labyrinth that is a very large furniture warehouse.

IKEA recently built a new structure in our city and we have only visited once since the redesign. The now two-story building provided an even more maze-like path to circumvent. This evolution was an obstacle, albeit minor, in my creative path. But, neither the new terrain nor the high population per square area could deter me. Before moving to Seattle, I would have not been merely put out by crowds, but I would have maintained an offense that they existed at all. Wasn’t the grocery store meant to be completely empty so I could do all of my shopping alone? How dare there be a line at the drugstore when all I needed was to purchase some batteries (and the candy bar that was calling to me from the point-of-purchase display next to the register)! But living in an ever-growing urban environment has forcibly decreased my entitlement. I now expect drive times to be longer and people to abound more and more. I understand that I must wrestle with my environment alongside others to fully grasp what will fulfill my various needs.

With determination and anticipation, we entered the store, ascended the escalator and entered the gates of heaven. There, in every showroom, families congregated happily together. He was sitting in the accent chair. She was examining the Hemnes bookcase. He was inspecting the subway tile backsplash over the sink. She was admiring the somehow modern yet vintage chandelier. Together, they sat on couch cushions or ends of queen mattresses dreaming, imagining, negotiating. Karl and I joined them and excitedly ventured into the Willy Wonka warehouse for adults.

Textures tempted our touch. Colors caressed our left-brains. The novelty of each design fed our bodies the dopamine it craved.

I was quickly submersed into a form of reverie that had eluded me all weekend. Worry was replaced with wonder. Preoccupation was replaced with imagination. Dread was replaced by desire. For the not-so-brief time I combed the halls of that gigantic furniture warehouse, I basked in possibility. I ushered in hope. I could, in those moments, completely grasp how creativity is the antidote to anxiety.

I define anxiety as a need to control all things. Whether concretely, or in my mind, I had been searching for control all weekend in the midst of the emotional upheaval surrounding me. I was mind-mapping strategies and drawing conclusions. I was grasping at assumptions and disregarding context. I was using all of my mental faculties to control my world and it was exhausting. Yet, had I simply gone to sleep, taken a nap and hoped it would all be over when I woke up, I would be exactly where I began. Instead, I followed an intuitive hunch that actually displaced the anxiety.

Others might think “shopping” is dissociative. And if it involved random purchases simply to fill a void and did not have a creative intent, I might agree. However, I could have purchased nothing (and in fact, only purchased a bookshelf I had been planning on buying) and I would have still reaped a reward. It was the act of submersing myself in an energy of creativity – both in the tangible environment and in the people who populated that place, where I didn’t check out from the war in my mind, but actually brought about a kind of soothing I needed to re-engage the battle.

At the end of our time, we waited in an impossibly long line that did require more soothing in the form of a cheap latte and ice cream cone. The trip cost us $169 for a Billy bookcase with the Oxberg glass doors. But overall, it gave me more than furniture, and took away more than money. I was given hope. And anxiety was displaced.

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