Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Breaking Up And Stuff

Forgive my absence. Winter is unrelentingly harsh; life grows a bit lumpier; the February Theme has become, for me, uninteresting and unwieldy. The thrumming under my skin has started, and I am feeling as if I might fly into a million tiny fragments if I don't escape to a place that is, if not warmer and less snowy, at least NOT THIS.

I know I am not alone, but that knowledge is unhelpful.

Pressing on.

I'm going to abandon this Theme. I'm just not Into It, Not Feelin' The Love, Not--all puns intended-- Enamored With It. Maybe it's not even the theme, you know? Hey, Theme. It's not you, it's me. Things just didn't Work Out. It's better we go our separate ways, and I hope we can still Be Friends.

Breaking up is always a shitful part of relationships, and I have to say that I did try to be a good Breaker-Upper. I did not have extensive Boyfriend Experience, however, so I cannot be too self-congratulatory. I did have a couple of young men who thought they were my boyfriend, only to find out that they were not. If passing on that information counts as Breaking Up, then maybe I had more experience than I originally thought.

But I digress.

Sometimes I wonder if Breaking Up is so lousy because of the Love part or because of the Fear part. What are some of the very first things you hear a person say after a breakup? "What will I do now?" "I don't understand." "I feel like my whole world has fallen apart." Every single one of those statements is completely understandable and appropriate, and every one expresses Fear. Aside from horror movies and maybe roller coasters, no one truly likes to be scared.

And so much baggage! People to tell, stuff to give back or throw away, explanations to go through while you relive the details over and over again. It's like a Death. No matter how you spin it, Break-Ups are awful. Part of me wishes it were customary to do it surgically, like a subpoena is served. Someone shows up with a document, hands it to the Break-Upee, and walks away. The End. I think I would feel better if on the receiving end of that. Maybe.

But we all know what a Sentimental Autistic I have become. I am thinking now of my wedding dress, still in its huge box, supposedly preserved, someplace in our crawlspace. I haven't looked at it since the day I took it to the cleaners about 34 years ago. I could drop it in a Salvation Army clothing bin tomorrow and not care a bit. What do I need it for? It seems a terrible waste of money now. (Why is it that men traditionally rent their wedding clothes, but women buy theirs, anyway? I wonder if brides-to-be are suffused with some sort of biochemical cocktail which makes them eschew the very idea of renting a gown, even if it could be a designer gown of their dreams.  A quick search tells me that this is now available; the comments on the story tell me that it is also not new for large cities.)

I've already tossed all of the other wedding tchotchkes I thought I'd save forever and forever. The handmade ring pillow (our rings fell off of it, prompting a mad search by the best man), the wedding "unity" candle, the dried-out remains of my bouquet... oh, all sorts of things which had nowhere to be. Why save them? We're married, we're together, we have kids for heaven's sake. I don't need any other mementos of our marriage.

I broke up with that Stuff.

It was, if you'll excuse the reference, Hard To Do. It made me feel guilty. It made me a little afraid. I knew it could be seen as if I didn't revere or respect the Past, like I was trashing the memory of our wedding.

It isn't that at all.

When I throw away or donate things that I no longer need, it's for that reason. I no longer need them. I don't need Things to remind me of how much I love my husband or our life together. I don't need baby shoes to remind me of my sons or how much I love them and the human beings they've become. I can't live a full, wonderful life of Now if I have it crammed full of Then. Our story is rich and ongoing. Every day I celebrate Us. I go on, making room for new chapters.


  1. I hang on to too many items that I no longer need. I'm not a hoarder, but find it difficult to break up with sentimental items of no discernible value, even to me. I applaud your ability to make a decision to change-- and then do it. You inspire.

    1. Ally Bean--I live in a teeny tiny home, a sort of Cape Cod bungalow. After a while, space becomes an issue. That is a mitigating factor. Then, in retirement, you are forced to live among the Stuff to a certain extent. It really changes your outlook.

  2. Giving stuff away or just pitching it is something that must be done at least once a year. I've sent all the picture books and baby books to my two married sons - let THEM decide what to keep and what to pitch. I also am sending their school art projects with the same note. As much as I'm spending to send the stuff - it takes me out of the equation of what to keep and what to pitch.

    1. phoebes in sf--I still have some of the boys' Stuff from their Recent Lives that they have no space for. It makes it easier to weed out things that I know have no use. My head is full of memories, and while I know that storage is unstable to a certain extent, I prefer it.

      I do have all of their eleventy billion books from childhood. In case there are grandchildren, those will be necessary.

  3. The last time we moved I was pretty brutal. And also I think I'm not as sentimental as other people. I attribute that to my mothers death. I just didn't see the point anymore - especially because we don't have kids (& live in a tiny house!).

    P.S. For one horrified moment I was afraid you were going to tell us that you had decided to stop blogging - or divorce Rick. One or the other - both equally bad to me :) Whew!

    1. Bug--We are similar with regard to much of your first paragraph. My mother's house is like a museum since my father's death almost 15 years ago. She walked out of it and into my brother's house and that was pretty much it. Her intentions for years and years were to go back there and live at some point, she said. Well...here we are. Stuff still hanging around and why?

      So, you were horrified that I might be breaking up with the Dept? No, I think it's a marathon now. And Rick can't get away that easily, either.

  4. I have been a pack rat all my life. This caused a major trauma on one of our family moves when I was 12. My mother did the packing one day when we were at school. It never occurred to me that, on arriving at our new home, I would not find my 12-foot bubblegum wrapper chain, or my 7th grade art project (the floor plan of my dream house), or several dolls that I could still not bear to part with, even though I had outgrown dolls. I cried for hours over the loss of my “personal stuff.” I had no understanding of the bigger picture of having to pack up and move a family of six. I just felt that I got gypped out of being able to throw it away myself when I outgrew it naturally.

    In subsequent years, I understood only too well my mother’s point of view on what you pack when you move. Having lived in over two dozen places, I can now say: if I have to pack it, unpack it, and find a place for it in the new abode... it has to be useful. Or something ornamental that I would actually enjoy looking at. And if it is something sentimental, it has to mean a lot. Sentimental Stuff is the hardest for me to get rid of, but I’m getting better at it.

    Since I have not moved for 9 years now, Stuff Has Been Piling Up Again, of course. And some of it is the accumulation of Unnecessary Caprichos. I now ask myself three key questions when the temptation to buy sets in:

    1.) Are you really going to USE this?
    2.) Is this future garage sale material?
    3.) If the house burned down tomorrow, would you waste no time in replacing it?

    * * * * * * * * * * *
    I hope you get some respite from the nasty winter you are having. On the other hand, it is still February. Geez.

    1. Ortizzle--The Spanish language has some great terms. I can understand exactly where the term caprichos comes from. (Caprice, it seems to me. I like the idea of little trinkets being called caprices.)

      Anyway. I do have a few caprichos of my own. They have a heartstring connection. The little vase that I wrote about is one. A creamer that belonged to my grandmother is another one.

      I can well understand your sense of loss at the age of 12 when you were uprooted and arrived without several touchstones of your Personal Life. Easy to see the Eminent Practicality now, but back then, it was a trauma. No wonder you lean toward being a pack rat, as you call it. The container isn't important to you; it can't be. You learned that early on. You learned to be a Stuff Person.

      Ugh, this winter. We cannot get away from the Polar temperatures. It is another Polar Vortex, but all of the weather people have been waved away from identifying it as such, for whatever reason. We are locked into this downward airflow from Canada, and struggle to reach above the low teens. At night, we go down into zero and below. Windchills are often -15 to -25. The snowpack (12-14 inches here) makes it worse. Add to that the fact that I have had to be without a car for the past 2 weeks, and I feel like a hostage. Okay. Done.

  5. That's cool. You're not feeling it, you're not feeling it. We understand. Hang in there.

  6. BBunny--Nice to see you here. Thank you. I continue to try.

  7. What you're describing is how I feel in general about blogging of late. I will come up with an idea or get input from others on ideas and then start out all gung ho and then I completely lose steam and/or interest. I'm not sure which of those comes first, and I'm not sure it really matters. I am always a bit distressed about it initially, but then I slowly but surely become apathetic about what is becoming an ongoing pattern for me.

    I think breaking up is hard because of the fear part more than the love part. That fear that the comfort factor will be gone and "re-inventing the wheel" with someone else--or worse (?) not even caring if there is a new wheel--just seems so darned hard. That is why so many stay in bad or simply unfulfilling relationships. The "comfort" appeal is pretty strong. (Reminds me of those who live by "any attention is better than no attention.") Of course, that's true in all relationships and not just ones with other people.

    It's the cold that's getting to us here and I know it doesn't come close to yours. That cold is really keeping last week's snow hanging on, I tell you. We had a brief and enjoyable escape to NC, but it was just as cold there. When you see salt water freezing and forming icy beaches, you KNOW it is really cold. Getting out of our environment for a bit was helpful, so I am really sorry you are a house hostage right now.

    I am continuing my purge/declutter mode. It's complicated by the fact that my mom is now in that mode as well and every time I go to visit, I leave with several bags of stuff that she asks me to take to our charity thrift shop. So far, very few items have made their way into my home permanently though and I add more stuff of mine when I make the drop-off, so things are working out pretty well. I'm currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It's giving me a slightly different perspective and helping me let go of even more items. I'm pretty sure that the author would say that the wedding dress and other wedding items have already done their duty. They gave you immeasurable joy on that day. That is enough. I, too, still have my wedding dress and I'm certain it's going in the next closet purge. Someone might get to use it for a prom dress (that's actually what it was--a very simple prom dress that met my requirements for the perfect wedding gown) and I love the idea of it getting more use.

    While I admit that I'm always one who loves reading about love letters, historic clothing, etc. being found and histories being pieced together from those items, the reality is those things are more the exception now, and you just can't live well with so much stuff weighing you down.

    1. Shirley--Sigh. I'm so OVER IT. This has been the worst winter ever for my SAD, ever. I'm so stuck inside that I'm stuck inside my head, and that's not a very delightful place after a while. I think if there hadn't been The Car Thing, I'd have lasted a bit longer.

      I'm glad that your mom is moving so purposefully and courageously forward after your dad's death. What heartening reassurance that must give you. She inspires you, obviously, as she comforts you with her strength.

      The perspective of things having done their duty is a liberating one. Adding the idea that someone else can get some joy or use from those things only enhances it. I like the feeling I get when I leave a book someplace, which I often do. Someone else can pick it up, read it and enjoy it, and maybe pass it on or even keep it if he or she loved it that much.

      You and I are not going to leave much behind for anyone to learn anything, are we? Our mementos will be few, our writing electronic, and much of value will go with us, having been stored in our hearts and minds.

  8. My daughter has no idea of the reality of life. She asks me why I didn't keep certain clothing items from the 80s in case they came back in style, for her to wear. I think she's seen too many sitcoms, where they put together a whole play of outfits out of outdated clothes from the attic. As if.

    My wedding sari (Indian ceremony) is wrinkled up in a bag on the floor...I need to decide whether to try to get it fixed, since I made the mistake of putting it in the wash last year. Bad decision. Also, our wedding photos are in a gap bag. We've never gotten around to putting them in an album. We've been married 22 years this coming July. At this point, I feel a little supersticious, like fixing the photos might ruin our happy marraige. Stupid, yes, but it allows me to be really lazy, which is a good thing.

  9. J@jj--Bless her heart. Did you take Maya on a tour of the storage areas in your condo and ask her where you would have put it all? LOL.

    Our wedding album (what an enormous expense!) is now in the basement in a big plastic tub with a bunch of other photo albums that we also never, ever look at. Isn't it sad and goofy at the same time? It's a tough call re: your traditional sari. I guess it depends upon whether or not Maya might wear it (if that's an Indian tradition or no; I have no idea what the custom may be), or if you might want to display it or part of it or what.

    Marginally related: St. Patsy was HORRIFIED when my niece took her wedding dress to a seamstress and allowed it to be cut up for her daughter's christening gown. I thought it was an interestingly practical and yet sentimental idea. But St. Patsy is still wistful and resentful that none of her three daughters ever wore her wedding gown. That thing was never preserved, was entirely lace, and was in terrible shape. My mother ignores all of that, of course.

    If the Gap bag is working, why mess with it? Especially if Ted doesn't care. Don't you wish we'd have known of the importance we placed on all this before we spent the cash? Ah, well.

  10. The seasonal blahs are getting me, too, even though - according to Everyone Who Is Not Me, I should be walking around every minute being thrilled that I now live in the UK (so now I have guilt and Being Ungrateful to add to the mix) despite the almost-constant rain and gloom.I know I'll feel much better next week when our stuff arrives from Korea and we can finally move into our rental house and begin living like normal people instead of traveling businessmen. Anyway, all that aside, I was never a huge pack rat, probably due to all those childhood moves. I liked my stuff, and it was always like Christmas when the boxes came from the last place, but it was hard to hang on to too much. Even with my own kids, I was pretty unsentimental about everything except photos, and once scanning technology became a Thing, I created a digital record of a lot of their papers and projects as well as many of those childhood and family photos. The one place in my life where I give myself carte blanche as a Sentimental Collector and Pack Rat is the Christmas trees (I have always had at least 2.) I have been collecting ornaments since I was married- mostly blown glass, but many others as well - that relate to us, our kids, and our lives and times - as well as those that I just simply like. I even went so far as to leave quite a few boxes of ornaments in long term storage in the US because I was afraid they might be damaged in the sea shipment to Korea. (Of course, in the last 4 years, I've collected plenty on our travels in Asia and whilst living in Korea, and have already picked up 2 new ones here in the UK (it's only February, mind you), so by the time we get back to the states I'll probably need 4 or 5 trees.) Anyway, some people would find having to unpack that many ornaments to be a nightmare, but in my case, it's my once-a year Walk Down Memory Lane. Once the tree's up, I spend the next 6 or so weeks (we put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and take it down on Epiphany) enjoying its glow, stopping to look at and reminisce over the individual ornaments, and just generally appreciating all the memories the whole thing elicits. Then, I pack it away until the next year. But other than that, everything else is pared down pretty ruthlessly. When we first moved into our big rambling 1905 house in KY, we got a little OOC about going to auctions and antique shops, since we had acres of space and -as young people did back then - not much stuff. That all came to an end when we moved to AZ and had to downsize significantly (prices were roughly 3x higher for the same space) and ever since then, I have followed a policy of Not Keeping Very Much Stuff If I Can Avoid It. MrL is much more packratty than I am, so we do often argue about this but over the years he's slowly come to see things my way - especially after so many moves. My decluttering guru is the incomparable FlyLady, sort of an online Housecleaning/Control Your life guru (google 'FlyLady' if you're interested) who struggled with depression and being overwhelmed by a cluttered house for many years (but no longer.) She has some great advice about what to keep and what to get rid of, and often talks about the psychology of clutter, and the fear that often motivates people to hang on to things. The other thing that has been helpful to me is a light box, often prescribed for SAD and which I bought in advance of coming to the UK. It might be a bit late in the season, but it can't hurt to be prepared for next year, if you're interested: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/in-depth/seasonal-affective-disorder-treatment/art-20048298. Have been following the crazy, brutal weather in the US this winter and can only imagine how ready you are for spring.

    1. MsC--It's all relative, isn't it? So unhelpful for someone to say to you, "Well, at least you're in England...WHILE YOU'RE FEELING DOWNRIGHT SHITTY." Oh, thank you everso.

      I was smiling as I read your solution to having so many Christmas ornaments, which is to increase the number of trees. We have recently downsized our Christmas trees--literally--from nine- or ten-foot giants to bitty five-footers, and I now make certain that only the boys' ornaments and a few showpiece or very sentimental ornaments make it on. The rest stay in the storage boxes. I keep asking Jared and Sam if they want their ornaments for a tree of their own (they share an apartment), but they look at me like I'm a treasonous idiot. Having more than one tree would never, ever be my solution. Rick is still lobbying STRENUOUSLY for NO TREE.

      RE: the light box. That is an absolute necessity, I think. Just for a frame of reference, I went right to my boyfriend's house (Amazon.com), and got a bit of a chuckle. Many are nearly sold out, and many of the recent reviewers are New Englanders. If you wouldn't mind, could you let me know which light box you recommend? You can email me using the link at my sidebar. Thank you. We are in for at least another six to eight weeks here in NEO.


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