Surrounding myself with possessions
I surely have more than I need
I don’t know if this is justice, hard earned,
Or simply a matter of greed
A matter of greed.
Dan Fogelberg, “Loose Ends”
I’ll bet you didn’t know that there is an American Institute of Stress. It is apparently housed in Fort Worth (which sounds pretty stressful to me) and has the worthy mission of “preventing human illness related to stress.” (I don’t know why they need to specify “human” illness, since it doesn’t seem very stressful to be…say…a cat, but whatever.) Anyway. I stumbled across the American Institute of Stress because I am moving my residence, and I was researching whether “moving” is on the list of most-stressful things. It totally is. The move was necessitated by the recent retirement of my spouse. (Also on the list. Retirement, I mean, not my spouse.)
Turns out there is a thing–The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory–that will score your odds of suffering a stress-induced health breakdown. (It’s too stressful for me to take the test right now; I’m moving.) But now that I know this thing exists, I feel entitled to my feelings about moving.
Because: Holy Mary, Mother of God. Where did all this stuff come from? Why do we have two humidifiers, five corkscrews, two ice cream scoops, 40 bowls, and approximately 1.5 million things to hang on walls?
Oh: and So. Much. Glassware.
Since we’re (“only”) moving across town, we’re doing that thing where we are chipping away at it, a little bit at a time. It took me a couple of sessions to get up to speed on packing, because the grim reality of the task revealed itself gradually. One closet, one drawer at a time, accompanied by a growing feeling of doom.
Once I got on a roll, though, it started to be wonderful. Like…all that chi was unblocking. And therapeutic: I bet we are donating or throwing away over half our stuff. (And since it’s Lent, I’m totally calling this whole process a spiritual discipline.) But lest you think this is some kind of monastery-inspired down-sizing, I hasten to say this is not self-denial. We had twice the stuff we needed. At least.
Why do we have so much stuff? Why is it hard to throw away/give away/donate/admit we are powerless? I’ll bet moving wouldn’t even be on the stress-list if people didn’t have so damned much crap.
I’m not kidding about calling this a spiritual discipline. To have an incarnational world view is to see God in all things, and in all our ways. Any task can be offered to God as an offering, and all our tasks are connected. Freeing up space in my life is freeing up space in my spirit. It’s nice.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment.
Thích Nhất Hạnh, “Being Peace”