Monday, June 18, 2012

Stuff and Me

I’m not a person with a lot of stuff, but the stuff I have is meaningful to me.  In some respects, I feel like I’m walking a line between someone who doesn’t want to have any things - who can let go of everything - and someone who has a few tokens of having lived a life and continues to live it.  My case is not that I need things.  I don’t really.  If I lost all my stuff, I would live on, and be happy, and get new stuff, or not.  I am good at paring down on items.  Every time I move I get rid of many things, and I only have items that fit two criteria: I use them and they are beautiful to me.  I have only half a closet of clothes.  I have only one bookshelf of books.  All my art is on the walls, and comes from people I care about or events that I’ve been through.  I don’t have anything I wouldn’t use, like plates for special occasions.  I’m ruthless about eliminating paper goods and trinkets.  But there are some things that I like.  I bought myself this new couch that is comfortable and attractive when I got a salary and could finally afford something that wasn’t just to fill a space.  I have a cabinet filled with craft items that I got from a good friend.  I have a dresser in my bedroom that I’ve had since I was a baby.  I have not bought a kitchen table and chairs, or a desk, because I don’t want just some ugly cheap crap that I don’t like – I’m waiting to buy something I like that I will use.  

So when the time comes to switch houses again, what do I do?  Get rid of all this stuff, lighten my load, or move it with me?  There is the matter of literal expense – of course I’ll need a dresser when I get to a new apartment.  Is it more economically feasible to move the item or replace it?  Is it more environmentally and logically sound to keep what I have, fix it, reuse it and move it, or give it away and replace it?

Perhaps even more importantly, lurking beneath the physical, is the big question: who am I and what do I want to be?  Am I a person who needs and has nothing, ascetic, completely unbound, or am I a person who enjoys what I have gathered?  Are they mutually exclusive?  I know that everything eventually changes and falls away.  I don’t want to cling.  Can I hold lightly to these things or should I just let them go completely?  There is tension between having the useful item and tying myself up with it, between letting go of clinging to the thing and having no regard for the thing at all.  I don’t feel tied up with the things.  I don’t want them locked away.  I don’t define myself by a chair.  With people, it’s similar.  I love my friends and family, and I don’t want to lose them or get rid of them, but I don’t want to suffocate them and try to keep them unchanged, and I don’t want them to feel like I don’t care if they stay or go.  I care.  Stuff feels different somehow.  Stuff feels more like an all-or-nothing proposition.  Have it or don’t have it.  Cling or burn.  

Why do both make me feel so sad?  I feel on one hand like I want to let go to prove that I can, but that doesn’t make me happy or satisfied, it makes me feel like I’m trying to prove myself.  And to whom am I trying to prove myself – to myself, to someone else, to everyone else?   On the other hand, I feel like I want to hold on to some things because it’s logical to minimize waste, to like what I have and not toss it with such little regard, but that makes me feel weak.  It makes me feel like I’m succumbing to a feminine desire to have a pleasing environment, to nest.  Why am I ashamed of that?  Why do I feel like this desire is valueless frivolity?  Holding loosely with appreciation should not feel so ugly.

There is, at last, the judgment.  Ugly, unattractive, creeping judgment.  Judging myself for both my instincts and my choices.  In some ways thinking about instincts makes me feel powerless, and I want to be ‘better than’ them with logic – because logic is ‘better than’ instincts.  Because my instincts are generally more feminine, and these feminine qualities are ‘less than’ the ‘greatness’ that humanity is capable of, that I should understand them, and overcome them to a tangible goal.  I don’t even intend on going into anything more about feminism, women’s work, etc. now – perhaps later.  Ironically, this increases my desire towards BOTH mutually exclusive choices - to eliminate everything (to fight my instincts and prove my logic and freedom from the tyranny of stuff!) and to embrace my things (due to my instincts, to prove that I find them valuable and worthwhile, despite my feeling that society values them less – fuck you, society!).