Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I'm not that person...really!

So, as I'm attempting to go through 14 years of accumulation in the house to prepare for a moving sale, I'm feeling more and more uncomfortable with how much stuff there is. Where did it all come from? Why are mortals so fixated on collecting things?

For me it is often about solving problems. My brain searches frantically for a way to fix an issue in my daily routine. Sometimes to the point of fixation. And then I come to believe I've found the solution in a particular object. I acquire it and presto! Problem solved. Sometimes. Too often it's only mildly improved and I'm stuck with the thing I thought would be the cure. Hence the piles of useless junk I'm currently wading through.

Some of the mound can be attributed to obligatory or well-meaning gifts that you receive but really don't need that get stored away just in case you find a need for them someday. Too many of those, I'm afraid.

Another pile comes from "useful" things that might come in handy at some unknown future point. For me, that mountain takes far too long to prove its worth and occasionally I'm filled with an irrational, disproportionate fit of purging (to my husband's horror) which results in the chucking of much of it.

The reality is that the clutter of my life makes me nauseated. I don't like possessing so much evidence of my hoarding. Every time I'm confronted with the visible evidence of my inner magpie, I want to throw up. I don't want to be that person. I don't like being surrounded by piles of things that really don't matter much in 10 years from now. It seems wrong and grabby and ungrateful somehow.

I suppose I should be thankful for the opportunity I've got right now to do this. But some days it's just hard. The mess that results from digging out the clutter can blacken my mood like nothing else. And particularly at Christmas time that seems particularly masochistic to me. But it needs to be done, so I guess I'll just have to find some suitable music and soldier on. Never thought I'd have to create a house-purging playlist. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When Does Home Just Become a House?

As I begin boxing up the past 14 years of our life in this house, I can't help but ask myself what will be the tipping point for me? When will I reach the point where the emotional attachment to this building snaps and it just becomes a place I once lived and am now leaving?

Last night I felt a twinge as we started going through books. Part of moving requires a weeding of acquired things. And with books, especially well-loved books, inevitably there are those titles you have to simply part with. Either you didn't enjoy them after all, or they're simply too damaged to retain, or you never did form an attachment to that particular title. But so many of them harbour memories and feelings that you touch briefly and then fit into yet another box.

At the end I began looking around at all the art and photographs on the walls and asked what would happen if I took them down. Would the increasingly fragile thread binding me to this place snap or simply weaken further. It was almost frightening. We become so attached to the stuff that characterizes who we are and what's important to us. And moving overseas means I simply cannot take it all with me. Some things will have to simply go away. I will keep some objects too difficult to replace or too precious to lose, but much of it will  just have to leave. And then who does that make me? Am I equal to the task of re-establishing my identity without the crutch of so much STUFF?

I know ultimately I'll be grateful we were able to do this at this stage of our lives. We all have a lifetime to accumulate, and if that lifetime occurs in one place without interruptions, the mountain can be daunting to deal with when the end is reached. We've had enough interruptions over the years that it's not smothering us yet, but it's sobering to realize just how much piled up in 14 years. And yes, it was all useful at some point. But much of it has outlived that usefulness in our lives now.

What really constitutes a home? It's more than just the physical shelter. There's a feeling almost ingrained in the actual structure that reaches out to you when you find it. When you look for a home, you view it waiting for that feeling. And when you find it, you usually find a way to make it happen. But when it's time to leave a place that has been your home, what act is it that severs that tie? I'm trying to figure out when I will cross that boundary in this packing and disposing.

Maya Angelou said,
"I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself."

That's what I'm currently living in hope of. I'm trusting that the things that make a home for me are going with me this time. And they always have in the past. But it's hard knowing what in this collection of things will be needed in that process and what can safely be left behind. Probably a lot more than I realize.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

One step forward, two steps back...I don't know why spring so often seems to be that way. This morning when I got up and headed out to walk the dog in the frost, it was a reminder that I often allow myself to assume that what I've been enjoying is the new normal and then feel betrayed when the real normal shows up.

And I suspect I'm not better than anyone else for flinching a little when nature readjusts. But I don't know that I'll ever really like it. We're programmed for perfection and comfort, and anything outside that usually takes adaptation, which we're not always programmed for.

I've been thinking a lot lately about expectations and where they come from. We can box ourselves in pretty tightly if we try to meet them all. I guess I've been feeling a little trapped of late and occasionally resenting all the things I've allowed on THE LIST. And I'm the one that put most of them there, so I really can't blame anyone else for the situation. But that doesn't mean I don't try to or take my bad moods out on the people around me from time to time. And I know I shouldn't, but sometimes it just happens.

It's interesting how frustrating the quest for change can be. We can know we want to make real lasting change in our lives and we can do so well for so long and then have a small relapse and feel like a complete failure because of it. Why is that? I suspect it's because we're not very good at recognizing how transformation actually happens. You're talking about changing something from one form to another. Rarely is that an instantaneous process. It's not like the mixtures high school teachers use to illustrate chemical reactions. We're not changing our color by adding another solution to the mix...we're attempting to change the actual state of our beings. We're talking about refining the raw material until there are no more impurities or flaws. There's a reason there are so many clay analogies in the scriptures referencing refining and purifying. Clay is a porous, amalgam of minerals that will absorb water and become pliable and plastic. It can be dried out and crushed into powder. Even after it is sculpted or shaped into a form and dried, it needs only to have water reintroduced to eventually break it down again. It is only when extreme heat is introduced to the material that it can become vitrified and capable of being impervious to moisture. That's what we're trying to do with ourselves - take a porous, fragile individual that absorbs too much of their surroundings (good and bad) and transform them through extreme circumstances into a sturdy vessel capable of surviving so much more. So perhaps we shouldn't be quite so ready to condemn ourselves for the occasional slip. We're still fine-tuning the process. Personally, I have to remember to step back occasionally and take note of how much has changed rather than how successful I am in the moment. Hard to remember sometimes, but I'm getting better - and that's the whole point anyway, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

some things are just fun to think about...

Occasionally, it's really fun to follow a train of thought that just makes your head spin - in a good way...

In Ether in the Book of Mormon, chapter 3, verse 1, the brother of Jared obtains 16 small, clear stones by melting rock. The estimated time for these events in around 2200 BC. According to archaeological information, glass was initially bead created by grinding the melted material, and the first evidence of a blown glass bead is from India dating roughly 1730BC. When you start thinking about it, it's pretty interesting. Did the Jaredites introduce the basis for glass-making to Asia as they journeyed overland to the eastern coast of the continent? Did they already know how to melt silica to create glass, or was it something the Lord revealed to them? It was the early to mid-bronze age after all. They possessed the skills to create tools and smelt ore. And in portions of the sub-Sahara, the iron age technology was already beginning.

It always makes me wonder about the origin of innovation. Who really creates the innovations? Our religious doctrine indicates that all knowledge is a gift from God for mankind to use in discharging our stewardship over the earth. So our development of culture and technology is ultimately under the Lord's direction, isn't it? Which makes it sort of pointless trying to determine the chronology of scientific advancement throughout world culture. If we receive the knowledge necessary to cure a disease through revelation, it's not really the accomplishment of the scientist/doctor/researcher that gets the credit for it, is it? A lot of scientists would be very uncomfortable with such an idea. History is essentially a list of who did what over time, and if man is merely the conduit, doesn't that change the significance of events drastically?

Yeah. Kind of a weird thing to think about. But comforting too. Because if you believe that the Lord is omniscient, then He possesses all knowlege. He can teach us anything we could possibly need to know via revelation. That doesn't mean He doesn't expect us to work for our solutions. I believe he does. In fact I think we often earn the solution by the work. The brother of Jared certainly did. It takes a lot of heat to melt rock to the point that it will produce glass. About 3000 degrees fahrenheit, in fact. Not your average bonfire. And he had to know what kind of rock/material to melt to produce glass. He didn't just find some quartz and figure it would do. The verse says he,

"did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; "

No small feat. And glass was obviously a reality in their lifestyle and had come up in conversation with the Lord, because in chapter 2, verse 23, the Lord says,

"What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces;"

There is an implication there that windows would be made of a breakable substance, like glass. And earlier in the chapter, their group prepared a vessel capable of transporting fish for their travels, not to mention figuring out a way to transport bee colonies as well. They had ingenious technology for their era. And their society had been created because they pled with the Lord to preserve a common language for them. It's all very remarkable and humbling at the same time.

We like to think our society is so advanced, that technology and science is exploding forward all the time. And for the most part it is. But sometimes I like to realize that none of it is new. The Lord already knows all of it, and is still portioning out that knowledge as He feels we can use it. That's pretty exciting, because it means that if we can imagine it, it's probably possible with a fullness of that knowledge. Teleportation may be a reality for us someday. See what I mean about fun to think about?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's So Funny?

Yesterday's love fest was strange as usual. I awoke happy that I'd remembered and was somewhat prepared for the day with a card and bonbons. I shoveled sidewalks and brushed off the vehicles so my husband would be able to leave for work unimpeded. I was even early for work for a change. It was a pretty good start.

I watched how everyone around me dealt with the day and kind of wondered how this all happened. The pampered and spoiled made sure to tell everyone verbally and electronically just how loving/loved they were while those without that privilege smiled politely and complimented them on their good fortune. It was somewhat lopsided. And I realized that generally the loved and happily hooked up can be blissfully unaware of the pain they inflict on the single. It's actually kind of mean. It's yet another one of those market manufactured celebrations that has the capacity to wound and maim. Just like Mother's Day, Halloween, and increasingly Easter.

The romantic connotations of Valentine's Day seem to have come about due to Chaucer's poem celebrating the engagement of a teenage king to his teenage queen to be. All he did was link Valentine's Day with the time of year the birds choose a mate. Which is kind of ridiculous, really. What birds are choosing mates in February? His calendar was totally different from the one we use today, obviously. There was no ode to Saint Valentine. He was simply fixing a setting for a cheesy poem that sounded romantic and wouldn't offend royalty. And some entrepreneurial genius (probably a florist or chocolatier) concocted a story about a Saint Valentine secretly marrying army sweethearts in violation of the mandatory celibacy hundreds of years after the fact. And now we have this huge retail fiasco where men and women rush around trying to find something to prove that they really do love their mate, because somehow if they don't the relationship is cosmically doomed. It's a colossal money grab.

In 2007 in the United States, Valentine's chocolate accounted for $14.4 billion in shipments from chocolate manufacturers. That's ridiculous. Granted, the Canadian debt is projected at $586 billion this year, but still. With a population of just under 35 million for the entire country this year, that's 400 valentine's chocolates per person in one day. Not likely.

I love my husband. I tell him often and show him every chance I can. I hope he believes that I love him. I don't happen to think obligatory flowers or candy can save a relationship. Sincere gestures of love and affection are never a bad thing, but letting the retail monster dictate relationship skills certainly could cause some long term issues. Love is holding hands - can't buy that one. Love is doing things the other person likes and learning to like it too. Love is taking turns cleaning up nocturnal barfing disasters. It's never a bad thing to remember how much you are loved and want to reciprocate, but I really resent being told via a manufactured occasion that I need to buy this or send that or my loved one will feel cheated and sidelined. It's obnoxious.

And it's kind of funny, really, because I adore chocolate. I could rhapsodize for hours about various chocolates and what's best for what occasion. I should embrace an excuse for chocolate whole-heartedly on the basis of that alone. But I can't. Being told when I should do something just makes me cranky. If it was perhaps Valentine's Week or month I might be able to get past the angst and enjoy it. I suppose I'm just not much of a joiner when it comes to dollar driven holidays. Oh my poor grandchildren. Whatever will they do? Maybe I'll mellow by then. Probably. Maybe I'll be just as gooey as everyone else buying a special something for everyone I can think of. It just bugs me. Enough said.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can't I just skip this part?

So, for the second day in a row I have been acutely aware that I'm not a young thing anymore. It probably has a lot to do with the reality of my achy creaking joints. And the weather. I seriously never anticipated being one of those people that could sit in a rocking chair on the porch and predict the weather via the throbbing in their big toe. And sadly, I suspect that in my mid 40's I'm right on track to be forecasting quite accurately for the next 40 years. And that's depressing.

I was doing so well with my new resolve to make healthier choices and exercise regularly when the weather suddenly decided it had been slacking off with winter and renewed itself with a vengeance. Now my knees feel like someone takes them apart while I'm sleeping and then reassembles them without looking moments before I try to get up each morning. The hobbling really isn't a good look - especially cocooned in winter gear trying to walk a dog in the dark when the dog is trying to use only 3 of his 4 feet at any given time so he doesn't have to step on the frigid ground and possibly fuse his pads to the ice. And I refuse to put contact lenses in at that time of the morning, so I have to leave my glasses home because the inch of space I can peer through makes them ice over in seconds. And as the inside of my nose goes crispy with each breath I can't help but ask myself, "What on earth am I doing? Who was the moron that decided people could adapt to this?"

I have always truthfully told myself that the universe was definitely in order when it decreed that I was born in the latter part of the 20th century with indoor plumbing, central heating, electricity, and so on. I am definitely not pioneer material. The first bad storm would have sent me straight to my grave in all likelihood.

Perhaps I'm a wee bit whiny about my lot...all I know is that I miss the days when I could just get up and go and not even realize that it was a big deal to have such luxury. Curse my immaturity. Not really. Anyway, it's days like these that have me fantasizing about spring, and balmy breezes, and becoming a snowbird someday. Heck, I'd do it now if it was even remotely possible. It's not. Oh well.

So I'll have to find ways to delude myself for about 4 months or so that it's really not that bad. And hopefully the pathetic limp will shape up in a week or two when my body decides it can adapt to subarctic conditions. We'll see.

Youth is a disease from which we all recover.  ~Dorothy Fulheim

Friday, January 13, 2012

Leaving Marks

Just lately I've been thinking a lot about our society's fixation with making marks. We mark our homes. We mark our bodies. We mark our relationships. We seem to be preoccupied with being seen. Why is that? And not all of us feel like that. Some of us try desperately to not be seen or to simply blend in. Notoriety or anonimity. We seem to crave them both, and sometimes in the same day.

It's a recurring theme for me, especially when I feel as though I'm not really getting anywhere I want to be in this life. And fortunately for me, there is always plenty of direction available to remind me that I don't have to always be stressing about making my mark in the world. Recently I found this in a talk by President Howard W. Hunter from a 1982 General Conference address titled, "True Greatness."

"True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a one-time effort or achievement. It requires the development of character. It requires a multitude of correct decisions for the everyday choices between good and evil that Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke about when he said, “Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 21.) Those choices will also show clearly what we are.
As we evaluate our lives, it is important that we look, not only at ouraccomplishments, but also at the conditions under which we have labored. We are all different and unique individuals; we have each had different starting points in the race of life; we each have a unique mixture of talents and skills; we each have our own set of challenges and constraints to contend with. Therefore, our judgment of ourselves and our achievements should not merely include the size or magnitude and number of our accomplishments; it should also include the conditions that have existed and the effect that our efforts have had on others.
It is this last aspect of our self-evaluation—the effect of our lives on the lives of others—that will help us understand why some of the common, ordinary work of life should be valued so highly. Frequently it is the commonplace tasks that have the greatest positive effect on the lives of others, as compared with the things that the world so often relates to greatness."

I get frustrated sometimes trying to fit in time to accomplish things. But too often those accomplishments are not the little things that will matter in the grand eternal scheme. It's tricky balancing those small important things with the visible things that make me feel like I'm not a waste of space. It's the reason why I get a little down if I haven't been able to produce some pottery in a while or weeks have gone by without me fitting in time to exercise and eat responsibly. I'm hard wired for visible progress and achievement and it's desperately hard for me to break that conditioning. I have to ask myself repeatedly if I'm making the best choices in how I use my time and hope that I'm gradually improving my judgement skills. Because I still need to see that I'm doing okay from time to time. Maybe some day I won't, but for now it's part of who I am. 
It's funny, but every time I finish a piece of pottery and trim it before bisque firing I ask myself if it's going to be good enough. Then I scratch my initials into the base in a way that hopefully no one else does so it can be differentiated from everyone else's work. A lot of times I'm not sure I should put my mark on it and I break the piece up for reclaiming before its existence is more permanent. It's one of the things I love most about pottery - the ability to take things back if you recognize their flaws before they're fired. I wish my other choices in life could be corrected so easily. But then the trick is in the recognition at that crucial stage, isn't it?  And that's really the case with any mistakes we make in life...changing our minds before it's too late. 
With a new year I feel a stronger inclination to pause long enough to make that judgement call when I'm choosing. I don't know how long it will last, but I always hope that this year will be the one when I finally figure out how to make my mark in the right way.