A friend came to see me while I was packing up and asked if I was going to post a picture of my desktop. It is visibly empty, and all cared-about belongings have been removed from drawers. Last week was a frenzy of sorting, tossing, shoving into suitcases, trying to be clear-headed, vomiting, washing, and leaving behind my most cared about “stuff” in the world – my best friend, D. He has been left with the chaotic mess of empty envelopes, half-filled plastic bags, coat hangers, shampoo bottles, and the like. While absurdly we continue to wait for his paperwork, he has to sift through the rubble. In the meantime, S. and I are on the other side of the planet, shuffling about dazed, waking up at 3 a.m. not knowing what day it is, and feeling empty without him.
the more things change...
The best I can do to describe my present state of disorganization is “spinning.” I grab a very very important new piece of paper — like my bank account information — put it in a logical place, and promptly forget where I put it. Then I grab my passport and join it to the pile where I think I’m going to need it next — like with rental applications — and then I need it for banking and can’t seem to find it. I’m a whirlwind of mess, chronically sleep deprived, untethered, cry at the littlest, “maybe that’s daddy?” when S. hears a noise… and so on. And my “stuff” is not here to hold me down, make me feel embedded, push roots into the earth, or any other metaphorical fodder that it is supposed to do. My landmarks are missing, the biggest one being my partner, and it feels like my legs have been chopped off in a sense.
None of this is to complain, because I’ve fallen into a weird community of genuinely happy, smiling, friendly, eager to serve and please people. Strangers stop and talk, everyone looks relaxed, the sun is so brilliantly white that everything outside seems to sparkle until 4 p.m. when it starts to get dark. Then the lights sparkle some more on the water. I feel guarded and suspicious of all this openness. In fact, I thought I had been living in a very friendly town until yesterday. Now I don’t know what to expect. Unanchored, weightless, temporary, and very sad.
Posted in weight of things
Tagged bag, best friend, chaos, desk, desktop, empty, float, light, mess, packing, roots, rubble, sort, spinning, stuff, untethered, weight
Yesterday a dear friend/former student and her husband came to say goodbye to us for the n’th time. I gladly took the opportunity to unload more books, but especially the TV that has been sitting to the right of my desk for the past several years. Now that it is gone, I moved the printer to that spot and the sunshine is suddenly flowing unobstructed through the window. It just feels good to give items away to a good home. In fact, it’s my biggest problem with holding on to stuff. I’m generous by nature and I hold on to things people have given me and things I think someone else can use. Throwing something out, just into the trash, is painful for me. Recycling is OK … trash is painful.
So thank you, M., for taking a bunch of our stuff off our hands again yesterday. She also offered to take my family portrait from when I was four years old. I first said yes and then retracted the offer. I’ve never known what to do with that relic of my family before it was entirely fractured (or before I was cognizant of the fissures), but maybe my daughter will want to look at our goofy clothes and my toothy smile someday.
Stuff out the door and I’m feeling lighter already, even if there’s a lot more to sift through here in our home.
Posted in from my hoard to yours, hoarding identity, memory hoarding, weight of things
Tagged fracture, generous, give, hold, hold on, home, light, opportunity, painful, portrait, recycle, relic, sift, stuff, trash, window
While unpacking and repacking yesterday, I realized that when I travel I really do enjoy leaving behind little objects. When we were in Australia last year, I left an expensive blouse in the hotel room on accident. I knew I couldn’t go back to get it, but part of me was thinking, “Oh well. I’ve left a piece of me behind.” It felt kind of good.
Last night I was going through my tubes of shampoo and deodorant and whatnot trying to guess which things would not be coming back with me in a few days. I’m trying to finish up the little pouches and pastes to make my bags lighter, and it makes me happy to think about leaving it here on the road. Is it purging, or am I just marking my territory… expanding my clutter to the far reaches of the world while it lives on in my memory?
Posted in hoarding identity, memory hoarding, weight of things
Tagged deodorant, light, objects, purge, shampoo, spread, suitcase, travel, world
up in the air
For our movie date night this weekend, D. and I watched Up in the Air on demand. The story line has George Clooney living out of a suitcase, with a home in Omaha that is more empty and less attractive than the hotel rooms he frequents on business travel. His character says he travels some 320 days of the year and he gives seminars using a “backpack of life” metaphor.
The movie gave me pause. The man lives a stripped-down life, empty of people but not human contact, empty of things, but still he hoards intangibles. He has a life goal of reaching 10 million air miles, he belongs to hundreds of fidelity programs (Hilton Honors points or Marriott Rewards, for example), he even has a collection of hotel keys in his wallet and frequently mistakes the one he needs. He has a certain amount of clutter, small as it may be, and comes into contact with hundreds of people daily because of his job as a professional communicator.
In his speaking engagements, the man asks the audience to imagine all of their things from little to big (knick-knacks to couches) being put into a backpack and to feel the straps dig into their shoulders. The unbearable weight of things is then compared to the unbearable weight of people as we are asked to put in our acquaintances and fill up the backpack until we get to our most significant other, and again he asks us to feel the weight.
I’m highly suggestible and participated in the imagining. While the “things” felt somewhat heavy, the people backpack was incredibly light. I do not feel burdened by the people in my life and said as much to D. He quickly reminded me: that was not the case when he met me. I suddenly remembered the dread I felt dealing with my family and friends and the incredible weight on my life they incurred, especially as I was going through my divorce. I had all of these relationships that seemed to be important but were not giving me support in return when I needed it. In fact, they were more crushing to me than the weight of actually ending of my marriage.
It took me a year or more to clean up the relationships, to learn to let go, to break up with friends. Today when I think about the people in my life and the amount of space they take, I cannot see this as a burden. I feel incredibly light and joyful when I think about putting my grandma in that backpack, or my daughter who I would carry a million miles over, joyfully, or my husband who has carried me in countless times of weakness.
I’m sometimes bothered that I have trouble building deep friendships with people and D. and I frequently discuss – why is it that no one seems to like us? Or for me – what’s my problem that I keep choosing friends who will not be available or able to help me when I need it? But the stripped-down life that we live now, knowing who the real friends are, is far less heavy than the one I lived under false pretenses six years ago.
The point of the film, for me at least, is that absence can be just as heavy as fullness. The George Clooney character was tied up in his inability to commit or settle and he had real moments of burdened pain because of these absences and superficialities. In the end, empty is just as burdensome as filled-past-the-brim.
Posted in hoarding identity, weight of things
Tagged absent, acquaintances, air miles, backpack, burden, clutter, collect, divorce, empty, friendship, George Clooney, heavy, hoard, light, pain, people, relationships, suitcase, things, travel, Up in the Air, wallet, weight
Thinking about this blog last night, I felt a sense of sinister sadness in the posts that does not reflect my actual life. The subject, however, is weighty. While I consider myself a generally happy person with a very blessed life, much of my childhood to which these objects and images are attached is a dank blue memory. Some moments are yellow, few are golden, and generally speaking my memories are dingy, grainy, black and white, with my own past commingled with my imagining of my mother’s childhood. Somehow I feel I’ve lived her life in another manner although she has never, not once, indicated I’m taking a different path for her.
So while my present is actually filled with vibrant living, everything attached to this blog is heavy. I think I can dredge up moments of the past, bring them to the light, and leave them here so that my reality may be lighter than the past. For me it is thoughts of my imminent future that sparkle.
It is not without a certain nostalgia that I write about objects, but each one is melancholy in its own rite, anchoring me too much, emblematic of what I’ve already left behind.
Now on to finding ways of expressing that lightness that comes with the freeing from things.
Posted in weight of things
Tagged anchor, black and white, blue, dingy, grainy, light, melancholy, memory, mother, nostalgia, stuff, thing, weight
The two days in this week have felt like a year in terms of the stuff I have sorted. Over the weekend I went through a manic flurry of posting items on craigslist and unloaded all of my remaining wedding crystal today. Three people from craigslist have sent me thank you notes in the past week. That seemed odd at first, but the one I received just now really got to me.
just unpacked the crystal….it is beautiful! Thank you very much. I appreciate the wisdom of a woman that knows when to hold onto things and when to let them go. I remember when my children were young and I was thinking how much better off I’d be if my wedding crystal & china were plastic! Anyway, thank you. Enjoy your travels.
I’m genuinely pleased that someone else will enjoy what has been taking up space on a shelf for the past five years. We have consistently used the champagne glasses, but we have others. Letting go of those items feels a bit like cleaning out a wound to let it heal properly. It’s a painful confrontation met with relief. Although melancholy while packing up the stemware, I feel lighter without it.
Posted in from my hoard to yours
Tagged champagne glasses, cleaning, craigslist, crystal, items, light, stemware, stuff, thank you, things, wound