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We come with all these parts and no instructions how they go together. Mark Nepo.

A few weekends ago, my partner and I put together a loft bed for a family member while they were away. It was a well-known brand of Swedish flat-packed furniture, and we’d been left all the bits and pieces to re-assemble it in it’s new location. And the instructions too.

My partner is an engineer and mechanic by trade. Having put all the bits of wood in the bedroom, he began placing them in different piles. I watched for a while and then enquired whether he’d like to read the instructions. Nope. He’d roughly worked out how it would all fit together. He could visualise it and it sort of made sense to him. The instructions were used to identify numbers of screws/plugs/dowels etc and very occasionally a ‘what bit does it say to add next’ guide. 

I’m always impressed by people who can do that. I’m glued to the instructions when it comes to furniture self-assembly! And if I wasn’t in such a hurry to have the thing built and being used, I might take more time to test what goes where, how it fits together, and gain a greater understanding of the mechanics of the thing. But I don’t, and am therefore always reliant on the instructions. 

Mark Nepo said that it’s tempting to want the answers before we begin the journey. We come with all these parts and no instructions how they go together. We like to know our way. We like to have maps. We like to have guides. And yet we are more like a living puzzle when each day shows us what a piece of the puzzle is for and perhaps where it might fit. And over time a picture emerges through which we begin to understand our place in the world. 

There’s a constant craving to understand whether we are on the right path at the right time. Whether we’ve reached a point of maturation or development at the same time as others (our peer group by which we measure ourselves). And we spend no time discovering and settling into our unique design and rhythm.

I know for a fact if I spent more time having a go rather than reading instructions, I’d learn faster and have an experience along the way. I’d get a feel for the pieces which naturally fit together and my confidence with the unfolding design would increase.

I wonder what’s stopping you from throwing away your self-assembly instructions and just getting stuck in?


With thanks to Mark Nepo.

And the assembled bed looked something like this….I just made cups of tea in the end!


loft bed.jpg