Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Things We Accumulate

Moving is eye-opening.
It is hard. Not just for the physicality, but for the emotional exhaustion stirred up by possessions and deciding what stays and what goes.

This past weekend, for nearly two days straight, Eli and I helped move both his sister and his dad into new homes.  
Everyone packs differently and handles moving uniquely, and as we are moving ourselves in a matter of weeks, this is particularly enlightening to me...as an observer and a participant (sometimes unwillingly).

Watching my three nephews and nieces pack was ironic.

We told them to go through their toys and after 20 minutes when I went down to check on them, they were scooping trash into a bag.  I assumed that was their "throw away" bag.  I was wrong.
They didn't have a throw away bag, because they are so unaccustomed to actually disposing of something when it is broken that hauling all these shards of crap to a new, smaller home, did not phase them.
When I pulled a random action figure's arm out of the sack, they insisted that it could still be used (though the rest of the body had long since been buried in the backyard).
They said that this arm could serve as a replacement piece for their incomplete Monopoly board, or could simply be used to "build something else."  They learned much of this from their mother, who heaved everything into a box, even if it was a $2 bottle of shampoo with half a shower's worth of suds left in it, high heels that haven't been worn in a decade, et cetera.
My niece, on the other hand, was very brave when it came time to get rid of her baby bed that she had outgrown.  She was more upset about giving away anything with a Princess on it than actually relinquishing the pink plastic that was grew up in.
She is most upset about moving out of Papa's house.  Those two are kindred spirits. She will arrive home from school and jump into his lap for a hug, they watch scary movies together, and he encourages her sense of being a tough cookie, able to hold her own with her brothers.

Eli's dad also welcomed the opportunity to trash anything unnecessary, both because the furniture and objects in the house have not been sorted through as long as they have lived here, so it was an opportunity to weed out the garbage, and to make the move simpler.

Some of the furniture that was in great condition with a few dings we actually had to persuade him to keep, and we let him know about those cool wood-crayons that can easily repair those marks.

He was level-headed throughout the whole move, Eli's sister was an emotional wreck, and the kids were exited though sometimes hesitant.

It made me examine myself and how I function as a mover, particularly with this big move into our first house.

I have moved 6 times in the last 8 years.  It is exhausting.  And can be jarring--you feel like you've just settled into a place and become accustomed to its quirks, arranged your photos on the wall, and then it is time to tear them down again and make friends with a new place.
But this move, out of our dingy apartment in a shitty complex, is such a relief.  I am unbelievably stoked to get out of a place where I have to triple check the deadbolt is locked before going to bed (after I've made sure my pepper spray is in my nightstand), call the police on a monthly basis, shut all the windows when our neighbors light up their daily bowl of weed, scream at the neighborhood children (there are always at least a dozen of them running amok, screaming) "THIS ISN'T LORD OF THE FLIES!!!!!!!!!!!!", and get woken up at 2am by bullet bikes racing or car alarms going off.
The only part I am dreading is the packing. Obviously.
People accumulate to much STUFF. And what we cling to defines us.
My nephews don't want to relinquish anything  because they see it as limiting their future ability to create from scrap; their mother is hesitant to trash anything because of her sense of ownership; my niece gladly gives up things before people (may we all learn to be more like her!!); my father-in-law will do what is necessary to move on in a productive way, and can keep a cool head when assessing if an object has served its purpose.

I struggle with all of these, well nearly. Thank goodness I am not having to move away from someone I love dearly that I shared a home with--it is just Eli and myself moving into a home.

I have a hard time letting go of broken objects because my imagination runs wild with potential for re-purposing them (Pinterest feeds this bad habit, and I am its Crackbaby), and I take pride in ownership and feel a certain possessiveness over things I have purchased that I should donate or dispose of, but just can't bring myself to, and then I randomly can let go of something big without thinking twice (like the couch I have had for a decade, my old nightstand, a favorite sweatshirt) because I know they just need to go--their time with me is over.
So you could call me a multiple personality mover. Which makes things damn difficult.
And as I fluctuate between them, it exhausts me.
We were doing more packing last night and I frequently had to lie down and remind myself that it is better to process it all now, than to throw it in a box and then deal with it in the new house and going "what the hell is this??! Why didn't we throw this away?" at that point.
We want to start fresh, and to do that we need to 
And it feels good.  No wonder Thoreau favored it.  The fewer material belongings, the better off we are.  
I've been throwing away lipsticks, herbal supplements I no longer need, donating clothes I no longer wear, and feeling myself grow lighter.
It is funny to find an object that before I could not bring myself to part with, but now I can easily recognize the necessity of relinquishing it.  And act on it.

I try to think of what I would take if I were an immigrant a hundred years ago with only a suitcase to hold my belongings.

I marvel on how a thing--a THING!! Something that doesn't even last--can be a nest for memory.

I've got to be more willing to let GO.

Packing up everything we have accumulated (soooo much, crammed into that tiny apartment!!!) reminds me of a book I like, The Things They Carried. It's about Vietnam, so the subject matter isn't all that chipper, but it is good, and the very first chapter analyzes the soldiers based on what they have on them.

One guy carries the letters from his girlfriend, another tranquilizers, another marijuana. They carried photographs, M&Ms, guns, and the Lieutenant carried a pebble in his pocket that he thought was lucky.Tim O'Brien wrote "they all carried ghosts." 

We are all carrying things.  Not just one something, but many.
Some of them go everywhere we do--memories, sicknesses, jewelry.  Some things we only carry between our living spaces when we move.  They all define us.
Eli will be carrying his box of memorabilia, his Dallas Cowboys locker that he got as a Christmas gift as a boy, his suits, his TV, the love letters I wrote him in high school.  I will be carrying scads of books, family heirlooms, hundreds of photographs, my artwork, my art supplies, my favorite stuffed animal (a bunny named Carrot Cake).  
I think those are all pretty good things to carry.

It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.
-Bertrand Russell

I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty.
-George Santayana
They measure their esteem of each other by what each has, and not by what each is.
Every American wants MORE MORE of the world and why not, you only live once. But the mistake made in America is persons accumulate more more dead matter, machinery, possessions & rugs & fact information at the expense of what really counts as more: feeling, good feeling, sex feeling, tenderness feeling, mutual feeling. You own twice as much rug if you're twice as aware of the rug.

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