Monthly Archives: October 2013

Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Be Defined By Your Dining Set – #3 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

“That’s all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff,
you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time.”
~ George Carlin

I’ve never been one to keep stuff. I was raised by a couple of minimalists who came out of the Great Depression (as opposed to the Mediocre or Meh-Not-So-Great Depression). They  realized that owning possessions can be a fleeting thing and it can all vaporize with just the bad intentions of a couple of greedy bankers.

Yeah, THAT could never happen again, right?

Yeah, that could never happen again, right?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This aversion to owning a bunch of stuff is not rooted in any sort of noble goal to make the world a better place. Nor is it coming from some philosophical belief or my life-long study of Immanuel Kant.

(That’s right, bitches, I got me some Wikipedia!)

I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with being able to put everything I own in the back of a car and take off at a moment’s notice as if I lived the life of some seedy criminal, needing to steal away from a broken down motel under cover of night.

Ultimately, it’s always just been a sign of freedom and independence for me to travel light and not get too attached to things.

My tidy little bubble burst when I got married. Of course, even if you marry someone who has the same minimalist mindset, you still end up with twice as much shit.

It’s pretty hard to avoid unless you are marrying a Buddhist monk. And I wouldn’t recommend that. They are super hard to buy for at Christmas.

I, on the other hand, did not marry a minimalist. To his credit, he is one now (probably because I threw out all his stuff while he was sleeping).  But, at the start, not so much.

When we first moved together to a new house, I watched in horror as we filled up both our cars plus a fair sized U-Haul.

Twice.

overloaded-car

Here’s a sampling of a typical conversation that day.

“Why are we keeping all these random pieces of wood?”

“Because it’s perfectly good wood.”

“But what do you plan to do with it?”

“I was going to make a book case out of it….or something.”

“We already have a book case. And, you don’t know how to build stuff.”

“But, what if in 30 years I decide that I want to learn carpentry or whatever and I find that it’s a huge talent I never even knew I possessed? I’ll need wood for all the awesome furniture I’ll build in my new career.”

“Have we packed the vodka yet?”

Thanks to a healthy combination of booze and compromise, I pushed through the crisis and no one was harmed.

I still have an overwhelming urge to purge. I lose sight of myself if I’m sitting in clutter and start to feel oddly invisible.

I’ve started to realize that I’m allowing my discomfort with clutter to define how I feel about myself. And, at the end of the day, is that really any different than someone who is happiest surrounded by a lot of stuff?

Tomato/tamahto – we have the same affliction at the end of the day. It’s internal definition by outward elements.

I shouldn’t be defined, or define myself, by my possessions or my lack of possessions. Both are false representations of who I really am.

My fear of being weighed down by material items must be some indication that I have issues with commitment, right?

Maybe I have some weird sort of ADD and get distracted way too easily by objects in general.

Or, perhaps it all boils down to some psycho-sexual Oedipal complex. Can women even have an Oedipal complex?

How the hell should I know? I’m not a therapist. I barely even own a couch!

I do suspect, whatever the core reason is behind it, that any reaction that is not within a moderate spectrum warrants closer examination. Getting too much pleasure from buying stuff or feeling too much joy in getting rid of it, is indicative of something else.

Hoarder, minimalist or monk. I guess the bottom line is to be sure it’s a choice and not a band-aid.

“I flipped through catalogs and wondered:
What kind of dining set defines me as a person?”
~ Chuck Palahniuk – Fight Club

 

 

Image credits:

Image #1 – http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Film/Pix/pictures/2011/1/11/
1294755406420/Michael-Douglas-in-Wall-S-007.jpg
Image #2 – http://www.khmer440.com/chat_forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=16852

Don’t Be An Emotional Litterbug – #2 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

Don’t Be An Emotional Litterbug – #2 In The Achieving Emotional Grace Series

“Always leave a bathroom cleaner than how you found it.”
~Viola Barnett, armchair philosopher

Really, you couldn't light a match?

Really, you couldn’t light a match?

I was the recipient of many sage nuggets of advice from my Mom. And, as with most of her lessons, it was intended to be applied in a  much broader context.

Don’t get me wrong, it is no small thing to leave a literal bathroom cleaner than you found it. Only since having children have I truly understood how that can change a person’s life.

But, what if we took that concept and applied it to human interaction? I’m not suggesting we Purell the hell out of the world and its inhabitants. Not that I haven’t had that overwhelming urge when stepping out of a children’s museum.

Hurry, I think we missed a couple over by the touch tank!

But, what if, every time you had any interaction, large or small, with another human, you decided to leave them better off than when you found them, even in the very smallest way?

What if you challenged yourself to step outside of how you are feeling that day and, instead, make it a point to turn someone else’s day around?

And, what if you don’t get to see any results from your effort but you do it anyway, knowing you may not get any immediate satisfaction?

You know the saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions? I’ve had a few backfires in this quest to spiff up my fellow humans.

Some of you may already know my story about trying to help out a local hobo who was very verbose about the fact that he did not like carrots.

In fact, he tore me a new one and I ran away like a coward. So, that is an example, at least on the surface, of my good intention going horribly wrong.

But I posit that maybe it didn’t go as wrong as it seemed. Even if the outcome wasn’t what I’d hoped for, I still would like to believe that I have added a positive intention into the world. Whether it’s noticed by the I Hate Carrots Hobo or anyone who happened to see me try, at least the attempt was made.

And, I did walk away with a huge lesson learned. (Aside from looking more closely at a person’s dental status before offering hard food.)

You can’t go about this with the expectation or hope of a particular response. That sort of takes the focus off of someone else and puts it right back on you. It defeats the purpose of getting outside your own bubble for a minute.

On another occasion, I decided that I was going to try to walk around all day with at least the glimmer of a smile on my face, as opposed to what I expect I usually look like – confused and annoyed.

I won’t lie, I think I probably looked a bit creepy.

Well, this is what it FELT like anyway…..

Well, this is what it FELT like anyway…..

It’s really hard smiling for no specific reason. And I think I was so preoccupied with trying to look natural, I never noticed whether I got more smiles in return than normal or anyone seemed a tish happier.

OK, so again, I lazily went back to focusing on myself, thereby missing the entire point of the exercise.

It’s like any habit, I suppose. It takes repetition to make it a natural part of who you are.

At the very least, if I can’t leave someone better off than I found them, I’m trying not to add to the mess.

You don’t have to try to feed the homeless or frighten children with your forced smile like me. But, at least start by making sure you don’t leave anyone in worse shape than you found them.

Baby steps people. Baby steps.

“Just because an animal is large, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t want kindness;
however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo.”

~ Pooh’s Little Instruction Book (inspired by A.A. Milne)

 

 

Image credits:
Photo #1 – http://www.kab.org/
Photo #2 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcas_cherry_point/8580947002/
Photo #3 – Drew, fledgling cartoonist
Photo #4 – Willem DeFoe, who is often not this crazy looking and I’m guessing this is a selfie