Friday, August 3, 2007

One from the archives

This is the first time I've ever posted anything from the archives. I've been dealing with the same issue I wrote about in this post, so I think it's more apropos than anything new I could write about today. For those of you who have already read it, forgive the repitition. For those of you who haven't, I hope you enjoy it.

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.


Jen said...

I really think stuff is just a way to weigh your life down. I wish C and D agreed with me.

Great post.

anno said...

hmmm... I think my own feelings about stuff are more mixed. On the one hand, I often long for the days when I could pack my entire life into a VW Beetle. And I do believe that in the long run, the only thing you can keep are experiences and memories.

On the other, as I get older, I see the stuff I've accumulated as some kind of external representation of my life, a kind of artwork that's been created over time. Dismantling it, or getting rid of parts of it somehow changes me as well.

Sorry. I'm watching my parents prepare to downsize into an independent living/assisted care facility, a change for which they are not nearly as spiritually prepared as they need to be (or as your sadhu!), and I fear its consequences.

anno said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention earlier... I really enjoyed this post -- very provocative!

jennifer said...

I know what you mean anno aout things becoming a kind of landscape of your life. When I left italy I had to get everything I wanted to bring into 8 suitcases and one cubic meter of air freight.
I find that freeing ourselves of our possessions is a truly spiritual, even if painful, exercise.
Not that this in any way should make me seem like a sadhu! Far, far from it! I love my things as much as anyone else. But I have noticed that I have been forced by circumstance to start over many times, or at least to pare things down to the essential. Maybe that's just my karma...

jen said...


Rebecca said...

lovely post jennifer.

I too, am attached to many, many THINGS - my bed and my bedlinen for one (strange thing to think of first, I know, but I DO love bed) my super-soft sink-in couch - my dining table - I could go on and on.

But I think (I hope) that if it came to the crunch (not sure exactly what kind of crunch that would be) I could part with these things without too much agony...and remind myself that they are only objects after all.

Fourier Analyst said...

Being married to one of the world's biggest packrats, I have started reacting to my panic-attacks at beinig overwhelmed by "stuff" by being ruthless in getting rid of some things. But the truth is that some of the things are truly invested with important memories and representations of one's "self" at different points on life's path. That is why we are so attached to "things". And memory does fail at times. I have a criteria that I use in my disposing, if something brings up a strong memory that I cherish, then I put it aside for review at a later date. If it has no immediate use and no strong memory, then it can be dispensed with. I say this with casual ease, because I know that DH will be going through what I am getting rid of and making his own determination if its fate!

So far, we are bursting at the seams and I am trying not to hyperventilate!!

jennifer said...

Oh Rebecca, I love stuff, too, believe me... I've just tried to remember that it is just that- STUFF.
Fourier analyst (I love that name!) Packrats are a challenge! I hyperventilate just thinking of all the dust! My in-laws still have shoeboxes (with shoes) from the 1950's in their attic! Of course, now these are no stuff anymore per se, but have become relics. I think to really be a packrat, you can't have the kind of pathological wanderlust that I have- it's hard to take it all with you!