….but we are all fabulous.
We are in week 6 of our trip away and I have been thinking about possessions. I brought with me one suitcase and some hand luggage which basically comprised clothes, accessories, toiletries, my Kindle, iPod, laptop, camera and mobile phones and their chargers. I also brought my journal, a drawing pad and pencils and some guide books and papers for work. The apartment we stayed in provided bedding, towels, kitchen utensils etc. and I have had to buy an extra hat and an umbrella since I have been here.
Some things I did NOT bring: every diary and journal I have written since I was 10 years old; the letters my Mum sent to me when I was away from her on holiday at the age of 12; letters and cards from exes, photographs of people I can’t remember the names of or even any of the thousands of photos of people I hold dear; books I have read and may reread ‘one day’; the physical CDs which have been ripped onto my iPod; Christmas cards sent to me in previous years; clothes that don’t fit but might do ‘one day’; the tangle of tights from my sock drawer; the last 10 years of car insurance statements; books telling me how to improve in one way or another; anything broken that might get mended and come in handy ‘one day’; dance certificates that my father who died 38 years ago was awarded before I was born… etc. etc. etc. I could go on for a long time.
Have I missed any of these things? No.
Reading the list, they seem to divide fairly neatly into two camps – those that keep me looking backwards to the past and those that are concerned with the future – the aspirational ‘one day’. But nothing on the list is about living in the present.
View from near our Sydney apartment – a rather lovely present to be in.
Now, there is nothing wrong with nostalgia for the past (in small doses) or optimism and hope for the future and I certainly don’t want to throw everything I own away. I have some photos, books, bits and pieces that have rich treasured memories attached to them. But what I am feeling about some of my possessions is that they seem to be about striving for control in the future and clinging to the past. It’s a fairly futile process, no amount of dance certificates or letters will bring back people we loved or recapture past experiences and in any case they have already shaped us so we carry them with us everywhere we go. There’s also little to be gained by keeping the letters that signalled the breakdown of a sibling relationship or cards that suggest a toxic ex did really love you once. As for improving our future, that is something that has to start today not tomorrow, so if that self-help book doesn’t motivate you to take small steps towards change straightaway, it is unlikely to work.
Striving and clinging are not really words I associate with someone at peace with themselves. While I have been away, although I am still me with many of the same anxieties I have at home, it feels like there is more emotional space around me. There seems to be more freedom to come up with new solutions to old problems, more freedom to see things from new perspectives, more freedom from the tethers to bad habits of thought.
Some of this is a function of suspending everyday life for a while but I see no reason why some of this mental freedom shouldn’t be transferable to home. By selecting only the items that feel meaningful and positive (and possibly only a representative sample of those) and ditching the rest, I can hopefully worry less about who I once was and who I might become and simply be who I am today.