Living in the past is not an option. For years now, the universe has been telling me to get rid of stuff. It’s necessary as part of my life’s mission. I still don’t know what that mission is, but the universe, or else that little voice inside my head, has been pretty loud and clear. I love my stuff. I hate my stuff. It’s all a crutch. And yet I’m so very thankful not only to have been generously given wonderful things in this lifetime, but also for the incredible memories attached. But that’s the crutch bit. “Everything’s made of cheap plastic. You can’t rely on anything. This guy told me the other day that they make appliances only to work up until the warranty. It’s a disposable world we live in nowadays.” That’s what the refrigerator repairman said a couple of days ago. He came about the new refrigerator Nana just got three months ago. It’s already freezing up. He’s right.
Ten years ago I was forced to part with a lot of my stuff and my mom’s stuff. Two years ago, we had to let go of a lot of Nana’s and the family’s stuff. Nana and I still think about things we had and gave or threw away, lost or sold. And no matter what, the memory of that thing being in perfect condition and how it guided you through certain times holds strong, not so much the state it was in when you had to let it go – stains, size, holes, rust, bugs + all. But most of it lasted years, and carried with it years of memories.
Yes, I have read Marie Kondo’s book. Some of it is annoying (like how in the hell can anyone keep their sock drawer in order for more than a couple of days), some of it I get (like thanking your things for their job/presence and letting them go – that’s nice). But that’s easier for things that are falling apart or that you didn’t care that much about to begin with. What about all of those things from your childhood? Those things given to you by loved ones who are no longer here? Like just about everything I own now. It’s both beautiful and depressing to look at them. Beautifully depressing. Maybe I don’t want to be peppy and happy all the time. But do I also want to lug around everyone else’s baggage the rest of my life? Why is it that letting go of them also feels like you’re letting go of the people? A few years ago, a friend asked me what happens when we forget everything from the past. She realized her past was fading. There are things I can’t remember, but my stuff is often there to remind me, at least about the feelings. What if I give those things away, will I forget everything too? A few days ago, Jake Weisman tweeted (I still can’t get over saying “tweeted”),
I’m with Jake! How do they remember everything in such detail? Or are they surrounded by so much of their stuff that they are forced to remember? If I write a memoir, will that give me permission to get rid of all of my stuff once it’s all packaged nice and tidy in a little book? What if I want to write more books and need additional material? What if books no longer exist by the time mine’s ready to be published? OMG. The thought.
All of this randomness came out of one little morning’s moment. When I was a kid, Nana liked to make me a hot pan of biscuits. I liked them too, duh. I usually do most of the cooking now that she’s 91. So if she makes me biscuits it’s easier for her to do the boxed kind. But they’re still delicious, and her making them for me makes them that much more so. After crawling out of bed, I put my coffee on; she’d already had her coffee and oatmeal at 5am (about three hours prior). She got up out of her chair excited to make me biscuits. All of a sudden, weak spell, head down on counter. She has them every so often. I helped her back to her chair, and not only made myself a biscuit, but also fixed her one with butter and fig preserves. She was disappointed she couldn’t make them, but happy to eat them. How roles are reversed. I told her she only faked a weak spell because she likes being catered to like a queen. She laughed. Then we started talking about the dishes she and Mom used to make, about how everything changes. For supper I made her smothered cabbage, cornbread, steak and sweet potatoes. “Now this is the food I like to eat,” she said between bites. I knew that. That’s why I made it. She’s not always up for some of my other dishes. “Something different,” she calls them. Sometimes she uses her fingers to eat. It’s easier than cutting things up with a knife, even though I try to cut things up for her now. She wears a bib. I should wear a bib; OxiClean loves me. Food just tastes better when you eat it with your hands. I am excited that she’s happy. Happy with her biscuit. Happy with her country-style supper. I wish I could hold onto it all. I take pictures. I film. I record. I hold onto stuff. But then I realize that the most precious memories of all are right here in the present moment. Be in the present. Feel this moment right here. Be thankful for it. For all of them.
All those wise thoughts don’t make it easier for me to get rid of my stuff. I still have a big job to do. But maybe in the little things, making biscuits, hearing my mom’s laughter in mine, being in this very moment and enjoying Nana’s smile as she eats with her fingers, maybe all of that is way more important. So at some point I’ll sit down and individually thank all of that stuff for coming into my life, for bringing me so much joy and tears, for adding to the person I am today. And then I will let them go. But not today. In this moment, I have to go and make Nana more steak, cabbage and cornbread. Bon appétit.