For most of my adult life, relocating to a new part of the U.S. became a three-five year cycle. What had at first had been met with strong resistance, eventually became part of my psyche. As soon as the three-year mark would approach, the itchiness to pack up and move to somewhere new and exciting would settle in. Along with that came the dreaded task of sorting out and repacking. Despite the short period of time, it was always amazing to see just how much excess stuff had accumulated.
As the years passed, and a few cross-country moves had been etched into my consumer brain, I eventually learned to do periodic closet and cubbyhole purges. However, in spite of the cleansings, it always seemed that my cupboard was more than half-full; it indeed runneth over. It was not until the move to Chile, and the need to purge and merge two households had forced a heavy-handed sorting out, that I began to feel somewhat set free of the burden of my possessions. In the easing of the weight, I began to understand the peculiarity of the word “possessions,” for it forces one to question who or what really is the possessor.
The 8.8 earthquake that hit Chile three years ago continued the process of elimination. However, unlike previous occasions, I wasn’t in charge of what went or stayed. While usurping of control was keenly felt at first, I eventually learned to live with the loss, and indeed to live without some of my things. There were more important life issues to contend with, such as surviving in post-quake Concepcion, sans electricity, natural gas, water, gasoline, grocery stores, and every other modern human comfort.
While life has returned fully to normal, well at least as normal as heavily traumatized people just waiting for the next big quake can be, in Concepcion, it seems that life continues to change for my mate and myself. In the upcoming months and in keeping with the three-to-five year schedule, we are going to once again pack up and move the research lab; this time, thankfully, to the next building with the School of Medicine, and not to the next hemisphere. Shortly thereafter, we will also change households to another in the same region.
Although these moves are going to be far less dramatic and still a way’s off in the future, I am finding myself stressed out. Not so much because of the packing, but because of the realization that I am still carrying unnecessary burdens. This time, the burdens are of a different kind of weight, they are possessions that belong to past relationships and lives. In some instances, they are things that weren’t necessarily mine, but were passed on by default. As a dutiful inheritor, I have been shuffling them along from one move and new life to another. The memories or lack of memories attached to these items were weighing me down; yet it had taken a ridiculous amount of time to finally grant myself the permission to let them go. The realization that I could let go of the past came in the midst of an extended bout of insomnia and stress.
As is typical of most modern-day families, we have a room that has become the catch-all storage room. Originally, it was to be a combination guest room and stained glass workshop, but somehow that transformed from the temporary storage of boxes waiting to be unpacked room into shelving space for everything not having a rightful place elsewhere in the apartment. It has become a bane to my conscience, because it still screams of a consumerist and “we might need it someday” past. The stuffed to the gills space is also making it difficult for visually-inept potential buyers from seeing the true potential of the room
The shouts that have begun to penetrate my insomniac awareness recently are from items in the room that I don’t particularly want, need or like, but have held onto because they represented the memory of those no longer in my life. So, just as I would shed clothes that were not mine and didn’t fit, I am finally dispensing with these unwanted goods. Not all at once, because there is not only a certain mourning that goes along with their parting, but also the need to accept just how much healing has occurred from past life choices.
For the past several years, I have agonized over the misplacement of my grandmother’s rosary, passed onto me when my father died, and of a cross, given upon my confirmation. Both were dear to my heart, and with all of the shuffling of our boxes from the moving container, to storage in the university, to the first apartment and then to the second, I was certain that they were gone forever. While quietly grieving, I gradually accepted their loss. So, it was with complete amazement that they were found nestled in with the very items that I felt compelled to part with this morning. It seemed to confirm that it was good to let go of the past, as much as it was good to hold onto what had made my life happy.
So, while I’ll never be the purist minimalist, or a counter of the things that I have (yes, some people actually count and limit themselves to a specific number of possessions), it feels good to let go of some of life’s burdens, and make room for new tidings to come.
Note to readers: As I finish typing this post, we experienced a little tremor… just a reminder to not take materialism seriously.