These Precious Things

The final (Day 20!) prompt from Writing 101:

For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual. [. . .]

How long is long? That’s entirely up to you to decide. You can go with a set number — 750, 1000, or 2000 words, or more (or less!). Alternatively, you could choose your longest post thus far in the challenge, and raise the bar by, say, 300 words, 20 percent, three paragraphs — whatever works for you.

I’m not exactly sure I’m going to push the “longform” angle too strongly. After all, I am long-winded even in the lightest of breezes. (A quick survey of prompts 11-19 from the Writing 101 experience reveals an array of posts ranging from 615 words up to 1,040. And that doesn’t even take into consideration the posts where I get extra-ranty: this morning’s post about Burwell v. Hobby Lobby went to 1,255, while my attempted takedown of George Will went on for a full 1,609 words.)

So I don’t know how much “longer-form” this will turn out to be when compared to other long posts I’ve posted, but if nothing else, I will write something that surpasses the 1,040 mark (the longest of the set of Writing 101 posts I’ve written in the last week.)

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These precious things
Let them bleed
Let them wash away
These precious things
Let them break their hold over me

~ Tori Amos, Precious Thing

I’ll admit, my first thought when contemplating writing about my “most-prized possession” is the same one I have whenever I’m asked to name my favorite move/book/song: Just one?!?

I am a collector, you see.Which is really just a polite way of trying not to call myself a hoarder.

Invertigo-Fun-in-Limbo-1During the move and the endless unpacking process, I’ve had a chance to really think about various possessions and ask myself about my level of emotional connection to them. To ask myself: what is that value of this to me? Is it precious? Is it prized? Or am I just holding onto it from inertia?

And there have been a number of objects that, when interrogated through that lens, have made their way straight out of the moving box into the Goodwill box. But there are still a lot a lot of Things left, which is where my habits of clinging and attachment and cocooning myself for protection come strongly into play.

I read once somewhere about how a key distinguishing feature between a hoarder/clutter-bug and someone of a more minimalist persuasion boils down to the level of emotional meaning the clutter-bugs infuse into objects. (Too lazy to look it up right now.*) I can’t speak to the minimalist perspective because that has never been me, but I can sure say I’ve lived — am living — the piece about infusing objects with emotional weight.

And the strength of those emotional attachments create the spiderwebbing that has kept me bound to so many things. The books I have held because they symbolize the years I spent in grad school, or my spiritual journeys through neo-paganism, Unitarian Universalism, and buddhism. The veils and hip scarves from when I took belly dancing classes and was more comfortable in the movement and miracle that is my body. The artwork and knick-knacks that remind me of different childhood years, different homes, the seasons and tides of my life. These precious things hold memories for me, which makes them harder for me to release.

Then in addition to my sentimentality, there’s a whole other complex that imbues objects with disproportionate value to me. The trauma-driven need for safety: the desire to have supplies on hand hand so that I can be prepared for life’s twists and turns. That’s where the different stashes come into play. Office supplies, candles, kitchen tools, clothes across the various body sizes I’ve had during the past couple of years. Never know when a lemon zester will come in handy.

Add these two complexes together, and no wonder I’m having such a hard time releasing the clutter. Especially when you factor in two other threads.

First are the items that I know I don’t want to keep but that have such familial baggage around them I haven’t figured out how to free myself. Some day I could tell you a whole damn story about this antique china I got floating around with nowhere to live and no real soul-resonance for me. I know these items should not be in our house, I have known it to my bones since the lightning bolt of awareness hit me back in early February. But I hold such intense layers of fear around the shit-storm I would cause if I tried to get rid of these items that I remain paralyzed, stewing in my childish immaturity.

Also, I know that amidst the stuff-mountains inspired by these various complexes rest objects that are legitimately of sufficient value — whether emotionally, spiritually, or practically — that they are truly precious. I might eventually get myself to a place where I am living an incredibly minimalist life, but even in my most zen-like of imagined homes, I see a coffee maker, my journals, my wedding ring on my finger.

These precious things. Let them break their hold on me. Let me continue to examine and discern and piece by piece, may I release and be released.

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Well, this did not rate as “longform” for me, but it’s been an odd, upset kind of night, so this is quite literally the best I can do with this topic in this context. So, 946 words it is.

* Scholarly blasphemy! Someone come rescind the Ph.D. I never finished! (Oh, wait…)

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Image credit: http://artsmeme.com/2011/09/21/invertigo-dance-theatre-fun-clutter/

Osho Zen Tarot: Letting Go

Releasing Old Selves

Quick HCG update: my ketosis levels limped through the weekend at “small,” so I made it to today’s final shot, as scheduled. Since I still have a couple more days of transition from this phase to the next, I don’t have a whole lot else I want to say about the topic for now. It’s a little bit like reaching my birthday and searching within myself, expecting to feel different — but I’m not really feeling all that different.

Instead, after skipping out on JALC for the whole weekend, I feel like writing about some of those weekend activities. Call it the “Endless Unpacking Weather Report.”

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As is my wont, I got some more boxes unpacked this weekend. The process for each box is slower than you might think, because of all the clutter that got boxed up in random assortments when we in such a hurry to pack up a year ago.

In my effort to make this new start a fresh one, I’m trying to be very deliberate during the UNpacking, assessing every item to feel into whether or not to keep it, and, if I’m keeping it, whether or not I have a sense where it will be living. (If I don’t have a sense if where the item will live, I sometimes invite myself to rethink whether it’s really something to keep.)

Osho Zen Tarot: Letting GoAnother technique I’ve been using is to pull cards on things to get some guidance about whether an “on the fence” item should be kept or added to the Goodwill pile.*

And for the record, there’s a LOT of “on the fence” items. I read something somewhere about how a tendency towards indecision can actually be a precursor to hoarding behaviors, and I would say that pattern has played out to some degree in my own life. I can definitely tie myself into knots now and again, agonizing about what decision is the “right” one — and I mean that in all sorts of life’s corners, not just with possessions.

With possessions, though, there’s often an extra charge to it. The things speak to me so strongly about different phases of my life when I was involved in particular endeavors or activities. Music studies, theater, my Ph.D. program, studying belly dance, leading an earth-based rituals group at Philly’s UU church. And so on and so forth.

It doesn’t make sense, but it’s hard for me to contemplate letting go of those old selves. There’s part of me that hangs on to the fantasy that I might re-engage with one of these old passions, so the old supplies might be needed, down the line.** And then, even with former paths where I know the door has closed, it still feels like an act of self-betrayal to let go of these talismans. Like somehow, if I release the objects, its as if I’m telling myself that that old path was a waste of time and energy.

So, by turning to card-pulling, I’m practicing my level of trust in Spirit, and reminding myself of the faith — the knowing, really — that every “wrong turn,” “abandoned direction,” or “closed door” has been an essential ingredient in bringing me to the self and place where I am today. As one of my consciousness teachers once reminded me: “You’re never NOT on your life’s path.”

And for the most part, it’s been a successful experiment. There’s still been a weird moment or two, when the cards have guided me to let go of something unexpected. Like when the guidance came through to put my copy of Canterbury Tales on the Goodwill pile. It was deeply puzzling, like becoming slightly unrecognizable to myself: as a Lit major, of course I should have Canterbury Tales on the bookshelf.  So what does it mean to that identity when that book goes away?

I guess it’s time to find out.

* I [heart] my Osho Zen Tarot app.

** I still remember how, when I started graduate study in music history, I purged some of my literature collection, as a sign to myself (and the world?) about how I was dedicating myself to musicology. Two years later, when I transferred out of musicology into a literature Ph.D. program, there were at least four novels I had to buy again. This has scarred me for life.

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Image credit: http://sourceofmichael.com/2013/04/19/3123/