Sometimes I fall down the rabbit hole of my own thoughts. This happened as I waited for my therapy appointment to start one Wednesday. I had taken my place on the comfy little love seat, appraising the décor as usual while waiting for my therapist to grab our waters and claim her leather office chair across from me.
Various beach-themed decorations surrounded the room, something I had noted as a little odd since my first visit. We’re in landlocked Colorado, after all. But maybe she’s from somewhere else, or just really likes the coast. I don’t know. There’s never been much time in my hourlong sessions to delve into her life.
During this appointment, as my eyes cast around the room, I noticed the sign hanging above her office door. The background was a soft baby blue covered with loopy cursive lettering. With a little difficulty I read, “Life is a be..” and because the font was the kind that runs all the letters together my mind filled in the ones I couldn’t quite make out in that moment.
“Life is a bench.”
I had a second to consider how random a phrase like that was before my mind corrected itself. Of course it was, “Life is a beach.” I knew that because I had read that sign on four other visits, plus it was an actual saying. But I’m also used to my mind starting to read a word and then filling in the rest in incorrect, and often odd, ways. Just one of fun things my mind does to make reading more difficult.
I didn’t have long to ponder on my newly minted phrase before my therapist took her seat and we got started. Still, throughout the session and afterwards I considered what “Life is a bench” would mean if it were a real thing people said. That thought bubble lead me to wondering about the original version of the phrase.
I thought I had a fairly good idea of what “Life is a beach” meant before I started this thought process, but as I tried to explain it to myself I realized that I wasn’t totally sure. I figured it was a play on words of “Life is a bitch” but with bitch traded out for beach I wasn’t exactly sure what the connotations were.
So I did what any good English major does when we’re curious about something; I researched. Luckily this curiosity was easily quelled with a quick Google search. Here are the two most common ways “Life is a beach” is used, according to the internet:
The first example is from urbandictionary.com and shows pretty much what I thought the phrase meant. This made some sense in the context of my therapist’s office, considering people often go to therapy when their life is a beach that they need help confronting/escaping from/to keep from drowning.
The second example was this:
But what about life being a bench? If life being a beach can either be code for our shitty struggles or a positive repurposing of a classic phrase, what connotation could “Life is a bench” possibly have?
So I thought about benches, what they’re used for and how they make me feel. They’re places of rest on long walks or while your kid plays on the playground. They make great spots for people watching at the park or mall. For some, they are where you sleep when you don’t have a home. For others they’re a means of advertising everything from realtor services to crappy fast food.
Then I recalled the only memorable bench I’ve ever encountered in real life. Tucked away on a Northern California cliff side, this bench faced a little island at the edge of the ocean. We stumbled across this humble treasure during our honeymoon road trip as we looked for somewhere to explore after a long day of driving.
From behind it appeared to be a normal bench, a little wooden place to rest, but coming around to the front you could see that it is hardly a simple place to sit. Transcribed across the front were the words, “Now I can sit on your lap anytime I want to. Grandpa Barton & Grandma BonBon 7/29/14”
For some people that might not seem like a remarkable thing to see on a bench, but for me, as a new wife full to the brim with hope and excitement for our future, finding a piece of love solidified into something physical for the world to enjoy felt (and still feels) very powerful.
Then, as I spent several days trying to write this post and figure out what it means when your life is a bench, a very relevant Vlogbrothers video went up. This video featured Hank Green as he explored Amsterdam during his visit for VidconEU. While looking for nearby attractions he came across reviews for the “The Fault in Our Stars bench”.
If you’re unfamiliar, The Fault in Our Stars is a best selling book by John Green, Hank’s brother. This book was turned into a movie and on the poster for the movie is the very same bench in Amsterdam. The bench is featured in the book and movie briefly and has apparently become a little famous in its own right as fans visit to recreate the movie poster and to get a little closer to a story they loved.
It truly felt like kismet to be contemplating the value/meaning of a bench to then have Hank Green post a lovely and poignant video along similar lines. At the end of the video he leaves his own review of the TFiOS bench and it really said many things I couldn’t find words for. I’ll leave his review below, but I highly recommend watching the whole 3ish minute video HERE.
(Hank Green’s TFiOS bench review, with specific parts bolded by me.)
“My brother wrote a book that made a bench famous enough that it has 75 (now 76) reviews on Google. That’s really weird and also amazing. If you’re just wandering around Amsterdam, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to accidentally come across this bench. It’s a fine bench, but ultimately it’s just a bench that is in no way special, except because of what people bring to it. I guess that’s like most important things…and also people…we aren’t much unless you know our story. I sat by this bench for a long time watching people come up and take pictures with the bench. Some of them don’t care that much and are just looking for something to do between events, but others were clearly excited to interact a bit with a physical space that was important to them, or to their relationships (there were a lot of friend groups and couples.) It made me happy. My brother is a little bit obsessed with road-side attractions in America, and it is very cool and weird that he unintentionally inspired a canal-side attraction across an ocean. Each person brings their stories and their connections, each person makes it a little bit more than it was ever meant to be. Again, I guess, a little bit like all of us. John, I’ll see you on Tuesday.”
So where exactly does that leave me as far as my thoughts on “My life is a bench”? Well, like most sayings and benches, it can mean lots of things. Maybe sometimes it means that your life is a restful place to sit on a sunny afternoon. Other times it might be that your life is a cold hard surface upon which you wait for morning. Right now, my life is a bench where I await an unfolding future, with enough butt room for my husband to sit comfortably at my side as we wait and see.
Is your life a bench right now? If so, which type?
Thanks for reading this bit of randomness, and as always,