This holiday season has been filled with purging for me. No, not of Christmas cookies - of belongings.
I had already planned to get rid of most of what I owned in June when I move west, but I have begun "purging: round one" as I slowly move out of my farmhouse and in with Oldman. I'm keeping only what I absolutely need between now and June. Everything else is either getting sold, given away, or tossed.
I was excited to get rid of excess . . AND I was quite surprised at all of the attachment I found when letting an object slip out of my hands for the last time. I couldn't believe how hard it was for me to let some things go. But when I began to look at all I owned in terms of what is valuable enough for me to put in the back of a truck and drive across the country, all of a sudden I was willing to let a lot more go. Things I had kept around "just in case. . ." or "because maybe one day what if. . ." or for "oh remember when. . ." suddenly looked like unnecessary baggage weighing me down.
Things that have passed on from my possession, in some form or other:
- The set of little, ceramic statues of a mariachi band from my honeymoon in Oaxaca, Mexico.
- All ten seasons of "Friends" on DVD.
- An old Hofbrau House beer stein from my dad's time in Germany.
- The set of knitting needles I once thought I might learn how to use.
- The shelf of my super-all-time-favorite fiction books (Poisonwood Bible, Ishmael, 100 Years of Solitude, Red Tent, Life of Pi, Anne of Green Gables, etc.)
- Two baskets full of half-used shampoo, lotion, and other toiletries
- All of my board games (Taboo, Scattergories, Balderdash, Trivial Pursuit, etc.)
- Several pieces of past Halloween costumes (a pair of wooden, 7", platform heels with glitter, a rainbow mohawk wig, a grass skirt and coconut bra, etc.)
- All of my eyeshadow (it's been literally years since I've put any on. . . I don't think I remember how)
- My five and three pound dumbbells
- My GIANT book of astrology
In the end, it felt pretty great to take eight garbage bags to the dump, not including the three I took to the thrift shop, or all of things I gave away to friends and family. However, I couldn't help but take this opportunity to ponder . . .
Why do we humans feel the need to surround ourselves with THINGS? Other animals don't do that. You don't see a bear setting up a little coffee table with books and a shelf with knick-knacks in her den. You don't find a bird tucking souvenirs from all the flights she has ever taken into her nest to pull out later and reminisce. And you certainly don't find ants hanging pictures and curtains up in their anthill.
Are my set of favorite paperback fiction books and my little statues from Mexico me? Who am I without them? Who was I before them? Why have I kept them around?
I have been listening to The Grapes of Wrath on audiobook in the car lately. I just got to the chapter when the Joad family is forced to take every last absolutely non-essential belonging into town and sell it, in preparation for their journey west, out of the dust bowl, during the Great Depression.
Tom Joad ponders some very similar topics in a beautiful, long paragraph that begins with "Who are we without our pasts?" and ends with the emphatic decision: "Leave it. Burn it."
I've taken your advice, Tom. I'll see you soon out in the wide open west.