hemnesI spent all yesterday morning in a certain kind of Hemnes hell that anyone who has ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture–especially one with casters and drawers and 17 similar but not interchangeable screws–is familiar with.

But my gals needed a  dresser for their ’80s neon wardrobe, and so I took a deep breath and committed the time and the patience that I normally don’t have to the task.

While I was screwing and tapping and sliding and matching bits and pieces, I queued up what I thought was a clever (if a little obvious) blog post in my head about resisting the urge to try and cram a round peg into a square hole (or, in IKEA parlance, peg number 4001128365 into the hole meant for peg number 4828811165433).

I learned this lesson the painful and expensive way after trying for perhaps too many years to force myself into a marriage that didn’t fit. The wordless instructions, in the supposedly universal language of love, made logical sense but didn’t construct something solid and sustainable. (One could argue that the end result of an IKEA assembly is furniture that isn’t solid and sustainable either, but go with me on this–presumably if you put it together properly your Expedit supports your books and your Tromsö loft bed doesn’t send your kid crashing to the floor in the middle of the night. )

In my triple-clever blog post, everything one does in a marriage was directly analogous to the options one weighs as you assemble an IKEA piece: You can analyze, try a different perspective, bang, cry, cut corners, skip steps, ad-lib with outside nails, call in the experts and force things into where you think they should go, which will result in an unusable pile of particle board. I was then going to sum it up with something pithy about allowing yourself the time and wisdom to figure it out, which you eventually will, even if you abort the mission and call one of the expensive assemblers to come do the job for you.

But now I’m thinking that the IKEA-assembly-as-life-philosophy analogy only goes so far. With Hemnes, there’s a picture of the completed dresser for you to look at so at least you know that you’re screwing up, if not how to fix it.

With a relationship, not so much. There’s no agreed-upon end result, except perhaps the vague shared desire for “harmony” and “peace” and “support,” which obviously can mean very different things to the two halves of a couple. (Add sister wives and things get exponentially more complicated.)

In any case, as arduous as the process of assembling the above was, it was therapeutic and unlike life, perhaps a task better undertaken alone. This cracked me up (thanks Marina!).