“In the end, we are not our things. We are spiritual beings.”
I have spent the last two weekends filling up this dumpster. On the surface, as you can see, it appears to be just a load of assorted junk. But if you were to dig a little deeper you would discover a past that is every bit as interesting as the geologic record of history recorded on the side walls of the Grand Canyon itself. Except in this case, I am likely to be the only one that knows its history.
Take, for example, those table legs sticking up in the left-hand corner. They came from a church sale that Laureen and I went to one summer. We had been staying down on the Cape in a condo in Mashpee for a week-long vacation. We had such fun that week. We drove all over the Cape, going to thrift shops, antique stores, and church sales. That particular table came from a church sale – St. Vincent’s – right on Rt. 28. We were somewhat astounded when we found it because it was the identical table to our dining room table back home – a table that Laureen had carefully refinished many years ago and which came with her after her divorce. The same table that I am sitting at right at this very moment.
That particular table – with its legs sticking out of the dumpster – cost us all of $20. Fortunately we had her Jeep Grand Cherokee with us on that particular vacation. We ended up driving around with that table, and all of its assorted parts, stuffed in the back of her jeep for the remainder of the week. By the time we headed for home at the end of that vacation, her jeep was filled to the brim with stuff we had found on our trip. The plan, at least with that table, is that she would refinished it and we would sell it. Those legs, sticking up from the dumpster – well, that was one of our dreams – one that didn’t quite happen.
And that little spot of paneling that you see sticking up in the back of the dumpster – Laureen hated that paneling. Interestingly, it was largely because of that paneling that we bought our house just about thirteen years ago now. She had gone to look at the house first, with our real estate agent, and the moment she saw the house, and that paneling, she knew I’d want it. And she was absolutely correct. We bought the house six weeks later. In the end, she did have to live with that paneling on the walls of our kitchen for about three or four years, until she couldn’t take it anymore. And then, with her father’s guidance, she patiently filled in all of the grooves with a special filler so as to flatten the surface, sanded the surface smooth and then she painted over it with a beautiful Southwest-style yellow. But I know the paneling is still behind the paint.
That little spot of blue right in front of the paneling – well, that’s the underside of some Pergo flooring. The very first house project we undertook shortly after moving into our house was to remove the carpet in the bedroom that was to become Laureen’s art studio, and lay down Pergo flooring. I had never undertaken a project like that but in true accountant fashion, I planned out the entire grid (how to lay each plank and the lengths needed) in an Excel worksheet. Laureen’s dad came over to help me and in one day, with his guidance, we laid the entire floor down for her. Her dad later made two beautiful doorway thresholds for us out of oak. I think that was when I really started to bond with Laureen’s dad. In the end, Laureen passed away in that room – her art studio. I guess perhaps there is no better place for an artist to pass on than in her (or his) own studio.
Off to the mid-upper right there is a white strip – kind of hard to make out the details. That was something my mom had given me. There were two of them – framed with glass covering the images, which were all of these English heraldic crests. They were very old pieces. Unfortunately they got thrown into our basement and time was not kind to them. In my zeal to de-clutter, they have been sacrificed to the Dumpster Diver gods.
There is so much more below the surface. This is what our lives come down to – accumulating stuff and then, at the end, getting rid of stuff. I was thinking about this last week as I was driving – so much of the “stuff” in that dumpster represents dreams and plans that Laureen and I had. And we did manage to manifest some of our dreams and plans – like the flooring in her studio – and some just never happened. I was getting sadder and sadder as I was pondering this and then the thought came into my mind – “We are not our stuff”.
Perhaps as living beings we exert some sort of gravitational pull that attracts stuff to us, and then when we pass, the stuff is released into the Universe again? A cosmic Estate Sale if you will, or more like a Cosmic Recycling station.
So there is a part of me that feels relief in letting some of this stuff go, just as there is another part of me that is sad in assisting in its departure. But I do know that it is time, and also that I have only scratched the surface of this releasing.
In a moment, as soon as I finish writing here, I am going to continue the cleanout. So much stuff, so little time. I am always feeling pressed for time these days. Too many meetings, too many things to do, not nearly enough time to simply pause and reflect. Perhaps in this particular case, it is better not to pause and reflect too deeply or I might find myself pulling everything back out of the dumpster and sending it on its merry way, empty, while I tightly cling on to the stuff that still has emotional residue wrapped around it. Oddly enough, or not, it seems that almost every small scrap of something in my house has some emotional residue on it.
It has come to me lately, or been brought to my attention, that I may have to consider selling my house and moving. A part of me is very reluctant to do that. This is the place where Laureen and I came into being and where we coalesced into the people that we became. This is the center of our great and beautiful love story. Indeed, we did live our own version of “Love Story” right down to losing the main character in the whole damn story – my “Ali McGraw” if you will. Cruel irony, life is sometimes. If I wasn’t a pragmatic Taoist I might actually believe that God had it in for me. After making me wait 40+ years to find the love of my life, I only get to be with her for thirteen short years, and then it is pulled away in a moment.
But I am not bitter. I grieve, but I also heal. It is the way of life. Everything changes, everything passes on. Great civilizations come into being, grow, and disappear back into the sands of time. Clearly we are meant to do the same.