Sunday, May 13, 2007

A showdown with the keeper

I’m in a showdown with keeper in me. It must be my age, because the keeper in me has always been so docile, so easy to tame. Just as being keyless is one of those rare exhilarating moments in life, getting rid of my stuff has always been the same. All the stuff I accumulate, drag around, worship, care for, put away, clean (there’s a good reason to get rid of it!), lose and go crazy trying to find. All the stuff that weighs me down.

But this time it’s different. My attitude is bouncing back and forth from elated to desperate. How can I possibly leaving that handmade basket behind? My rose vase? My oak table? My purple wine glasses?

What the hell’s wrong with me? Have I become so attached to things that I can’t let them go again?

My husband and I traveled to Nepal years ago before we got married. I had just sold or given away everything that I owned that couldn’t fit into two big suitcases, except for my books and paintbrushes. I have a thing about my books and paintbrushes. Those I packed in boxes and shipped to Italy.

Everything I needed for our month long trip in Nepal was in my fancy REI backpack. I remember feeling so proud of myself as I walked around the house trying out the pack that I was soon to lug around the Himalayas. I was such a good and efficient packer! The pack wasn’t heavy at all!

Nepal was a wondrous and very foreign country. And let’s just say very pedestrian. That pack began to weigh more and more everyday. And my husband, being the chivalrous hard body that he is, often stacked mine on top of his (that’s around the time that I realized I should consider marrying him). The farther we walked, the more stuff I left behind. I didn’t really need two changes of socks, so I gave one to the family that had rented us a room in their home for the night. And I didn’t really need two pairs of jeans either, so I left those to someone else. My pack became lighter and lighter and my back began to straighten. My step became swifter and I stopped whining like a brat.

Near the end of our trip, we came upon a sadhu.

This isn't actually him, but it's pretty close. He was living in a lean-to perched on the bank of a river, and was in a loincloth and nothing else. He had no shoes and nothing to cook or eat with apart from his hands. The trail passed just a few feet from his home, where he sat cross-legged looking out onto the river. As I passed him, his haggard face lit up in a serene smile as he brought his hands together in front of his chest and bowed. Namaste. Literally, I bow to you.

I try to remind the keeper in me of that moment, and tell her to shut the fuck up and get a grip! Stuff comes and stuff goes, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the only thing we really own are our experiences. Our memories.

And that’s why when choosing between stuff and living, the choice is pretty simple.


Cate said...

What an interesting person to come across who can make you realize exactly what is important. I came to a similar conclusion when I was 6 months pregnant with my son. I came home from work only to find my house had been broken into and ransacked. All of my jewelry was stolen except for what I was wearing. I was SO pissed because a necklace and a bracelet that I had received for my baptism, I had planned on putting on my baby for his baptism was now gone. The week before I stayed home from work because I was so tired, and I kept thinking what if I was robbed while I was home? That's when I realized that material things aren't important. Life is way more important and that memories are what you can always carry that no one can ever take away.
***But those purple wine glasses sound so pretty****

sognatrice said...

Great post; I think we can all relate to this. Just the other day I wrote about my baby silverware that my mom sent me and how cool it is to touch them and feel a memory; it is nice to have some of those things around, so long as we keep it in perspective, I think (I'm the same with books, and I *really* need to get more of mine shipped to Italy!).