There is an entire industry consisting of multi-million dollar companies which exist for the sole purpose of providing us ways to haul around our shit.
Think about it.
Samsonite. Jansport. Chanel.
We have so much that we run out of places to keep it on our own person so we have to fashion straps to a large pouch and drag it around.
Turtle syndrome – even more painful than it sounds
I was walking out of school one day with my counterpart, Nazgul, when another teacher tagged up with us.
“What’s in his bag?” The teacher asked Nazgul, pointing at the turtle-like shell connected to my back.
“Ask him yourself,” Nazgul said, a kind head jerk thrown my direction.
“My life.” I answered automatically.
“Good answer,” she nodded, adding one of those breathy nose laughs for good humor.
Then it hit me. My life is things. It’s not people. It’s not situations. It’s not doing or even being. My life is a laptop computer, a water bottle, various power chargers and apparently a few used Kleenexes and empty candy wrappers. My life is sad.
I remember one occasion vividly, if not for its harrowing sear, then for the humiliation. I had detaxied and was standing in the center of the large bazaar in Naryn City with a giant backpacking bag on my back and another 40L bag strapped to my front, and was unsurprisingly looking around at where to pick up even more shit. I looked utterly ridiculous. Two kids passed me in the bazaar, stopped, turned around, came back, circled me, and then lost it in fits of laughter. I’m not even exaggerating. They absolutely lost it, doubling over and slapping their knees all while pointing and generally drawing the type of negative attention to me that I deserved. I looked blindingly stupid.
I couldn’t tell you today what was in those bags. I know I didn’t touch three-fourths of it on my two day journey. So why had I felt the need to carry it around all weekend?
Let’s see, what am I forgetting…oh yes, my sanity.
I eat pieces of stuff for breakfast
It’s just stuff. And this is one of the hardest lessons for me to learn.
I’m getting better at it. I’m getting better at letting people touch my things, pick them up and mull over them. (Or maw over them with their grubby little fat fingers, placing oily little fingerprints on every surface and…ok, ok, breathe.)
Once, for a secret-santa-slash-white elephant gift giving party many years ago, I parted with my SpongeBob alarm clock I paid seven dollars for at a CUB Foods grocery store. It spelled out the word FUN in big plastic letters and launched into “F is for friends who do stuff together, U is for you and me…” at whatever interval you set it at. It was glorious. And giving it up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I still think about that clock.
Now two plus years into the Peace Corps, I’ve given away so many items I don’t really think about it anymore—books, chargers, food, clothing items, cookware, to name a few. I still get a little cringy when anything under the age of 12 walks through my door and starts pawing stuff, but as long as they don’t smash anything I can’t cheaply replace, I let them go on touching. (While quickly thinking of an intriguing story that would usher them to further shelves beyond the line of my room.)
We need things. We do. Our quality of life insofar as health and well-being and options depends on them to some extent. But we know that life is not measured only in number of years spent trudging along, dragging our stuff behind us.
It’s measured in the time we give each other.
It’s measured in the wide space in which we allow our minds and souls to soar.
It’s measured in growing and stretching and experiencing and engaging and finding new and fantastic ways to love life, love each other and love the world.
It’s measured in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights and cups of coffee. (Oh, wait, nope. That’s just my Rent DVD.)
And now I’ve found another thing to get rid of, another item to lighten the load, and a refocus on things that matter—the things you can’t carry because you always hold them in your heart.