Things Are Not Memories
We just finished our move. In the process of moving we decided to purge quite a few things. This happened both on the packing and the unpacking end of the big event. Today I gave away the final, and probably most valuable, item in the collection. Actually, it was probably the most valuable and memorable thing I own. What was it, you may be asking? It was a case full of over $1,000 worth of CD's collected from my past. The collection was over 20 years old, stemming from my college, and early post-college days of mis-guided consumerism built upon a belief that an awesome music collection made me a respectable Washingtonian and well-rounded person.
This evening a person I don't know came to my door, picked up the CD case, thanked me profusely for it, and drove away. She heard about it on a Facebook group called Buy Nothing, which is part of the Buy Nothing Project. I highly recommend checking it out yourself! We received all of our moving boxes free from the group, and have used it to give away tons of stuff we simply don't need any longer.
This CD case, and the CD's within, had profound meaning in my life. I had spent a lot of money as a sucker to Columbia House back in the day, building up an AWESOME collection of classical, opera, broadway, and contemporary music. This case followed me for the next 20 years. The music from this case still resides with me in multiple locations since I downloaded all of it to my Google Play account and keep it electronically backed up on a storage hard drive. It's the CD's themselves I realized I don't need any longer. It's been several years since I listened to a CD personally.
This brought up several questions during the packing and moving process. What is the real value of things? Is it the memory the thing brings up that I value, or the thing itself? Do I have the memory without the thing? The answer to that for me was: The memory is there (as is the Google Play backup) so I don't need the thing. This was true of CD's, statues and carpets I purchased while travelling the world, books (Oh so many books!) and everything else I posses.
Over the past few years I've cut down on my clothes collection so much my closet is a simple (and far more nimble) version of its ancient self. My shoe collection is down to just a few pairs (for different uses), and I now am proud to be down to only one (1) Suit (which I hope to rid myself of within the next 12 months!).
Things themselves mean nothing to me. If I can give away the thing I've had the longest, and cherish most as representing a past I've far since outgrown, then I can get rid of anything. Nothing I currently posses needs to stay with me, and will hopefully leave my life before too long.
Now, I don't want to confuse anyone here. I don't possess Jan or Joshua. They are very meaningful parts of my life I never want to lose. They are also their own people, which no one can possess. Since I don't possess them, I cannot (nor will I ever try) to give them away. Yet, everything else can walk out my door right now, and I'd be alright. Admittedly, I'd miss some of my Time Life World War II Series books, but not for the books themselves. I'd miss the notes I took in the books for stories I have yet to write, but I'd eventually get over that as I have more stories to write than time to write them anyway. Not to mention, each and every one of those stories is in my head, percolating up there until it's ready to come out.
Which brings up a key point I just realized - I do possess one thing which would be hard to lose: My Mind. I've already lost lots of physical abilities, so those I can get used to. My mind, though, would be a hell of a loss. Not so much for me, unless it's an expansion of my increasing memory loss, but more for Jan and Joshua to see me change before their eyes without any physical sign of why. So yes, it is a thing, as well as a memory (actually the vessel for all my memories). If I lost that, I would lose something of immense personal value. I would lose my memories, my now, and my future. I would lose my me.
Ok, then, I'm willing to lose everything but my mind. Jan may suggest I've already lost the one thing that counts most. Hopefully, that corny joke stays in jest. Everything else, I'm happy to just give away.
What are you willing to give away?
What memories do you have inspired by things?
Could you have the same memories without those things?
Have you purged your home recently? If so, how did that feel?
Packing Up COMFY
In July, we have moved to a new home and are packing for a one-month trip to Europe. That is NOT COMFY! However, as I have packed and unpacked and begun packing again, I have gotten COMFY with the notion of travelling light, keeping memories thoughtfully connected to a person, relying on family and friends for your true home.
As I literally went through all of our belongings, I found some things easy to part with, some things I parted with in regret, and some things I just had to keep! I had no trouble donating clothes I did not wear in the prior season, craft supplies for which I had big (never going to happen) plans, and toys that never held interest for Joshua.
There were a few things that I had trouble parting with. They held memories, but the things themselves were not necessary. The memories are held in my heart and with the people with whom I experienced them. The silliest thing was an old pair of boots with holes in the bottom (which I did wear last winter). Joshua and I went on many fun adventures while I wore those boots. They were warm and comfortable. The memories did not slip out of the holes in the bottoms of the boots because I had Joshua to remind me of the snow puddles we jumped in, the trips to Grandma's house in questionable weather, and the outings we took after too many school snow days.
One other item I had trouble getting rid of was a bowl of seashells. These were seashells that I had collected over the past decade or so on trips to the beach with Jeremy, and then, of course, Joshua. The shell collection started on a trip to the beach with Jeremy. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a fairly sunny day, but there were rain showers all day. The lifeguards were not on duty and there were few people at the beach. We spent the entire day there; built sand cities, played in the waves, ate a yummy lunch (and a less yummy dinner), and waited until after dark to watch our sand creations washed away by the tide. It was likely the most fun beach day I'd ever had. But the sea shells were not the COMFY, the experience was.
Having given those examples, I will now (somewhat) contradict myself! I found beautiful, long, hand-written letters from my then-90+ year old great aunt. Kept them. A printed copy of our original wedding vows. Filed away. The picture of the embryo that turned out to be Joshua. Got it. The reproduction of Van Gogh's Sunflowers painting that hung in my Grandparents living room. Hanging in our kitchen. The amber bird statue with a broken tail from my Great Aunt Stella and Uncle Frank. Perched on top of the microwave. These physical things, for some reason, connect me to the person. For that COMFY reason, I keep them (fortunately, they are all small in size!).
Reflecting on this and thinking ahead to packing for our trip, I will take the usual clothes, toiletries, and plane essentials. And, perhaps the most COMFY item I will take, is a quote I have cut out from a magazine. It is a Helen Keller quote that my Uncle used while speaking about my Grandfather at his funeral: Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.