Before packing for a major move, one thing is essential. You don’t want to haul more than you have to, so picking through everything and throwing junk or donating unused stuff to Goodwill is more than a good idea. The only thing better is to limit what you buy in the first place. Limit the baggage you acquire.
This process often involves finding things you’ve been wondering where you left them for the last… Well, you can’t remember how long that thing’s been missing. It’s when I find that training certificate I meant to scan in last year, left over Incident Action Plans from last summer’s fire season, and that set of headphones that I liked so much I hauled hundreds of miles in the bottom of my day pack without remembering they were there. It’s when I find clothes that I miss and clothes that I hate, and clothes that I like but don’t like seeing myself in. It’s also when and where I find things that make it nearly impossible to avoid things I have been refusing to think about for months.
It started in the front office with that pile of papers that’s been growing since I moved in, despite getting a new desk. The pile just migrated from the old desk to the new and continued to grow at the same rate every month. I can read the years by the layers of utility invoices like the rings on a tree. The accumulation also demonstrates that I lack the ability to discard junk mail. Perhaps it’s a residual hope for something better or a misplaced belief that miracles still happen. In reality, these scraps of paper are useful in a survival situation. More than once a collection of miscellaneous, useless pieces of paper harvested from the back seat of my vehicle have served to light campfires. But does that really justify hanging on to this much crap?
What I learn every time I go through this process is my unending capacity to hang on. In Junior high, I was given an awarded “Miss Tenacity” for a reason. Granted, that was because I focused on goals with the focus and drive of a terrier clinging to her favorite toy and that if another girl tried to grab the ball from me she’d come away with at least a few bruises. Yes, it takes a lot for me to let go of things, but it also takes a while for me to latch on to something too. Trust comes hard which is why when my loyalty is betrayed, I take it very personally. In a world which values quantity of character versus quality of character (I’m referring to the over-the-top personalities of the reality TV and the extension of that into our society) I have developed suspicion as a default. There are only four people whose word alone I will trust, and they earned that status over time. The rest of the world, and everyone in it, must prove themselves or be proven by something outside themselves. Now, some might think I’m harsh for this attitude, or even closed-minded, but remember, the best way to avoid accumulating too much junk, or baggage, is be selective of what you buy.
Most of what I throw away is the kind of thing you find in the check-out aisles in any department store: half-eaten candy bars, Bic lighters, waxy flavored lip balm and Rubik’s Cube key chains. They were impulse buys, which I used to fall victim to every now and then. Impulse items are like those people who like everything everybody else likes, whose personality changes dependent on who they’re talking to. Ask them a tough question, one that makes them think or makes them question, a simple “Why?” and they scatter from your company like cockroaches when you turn on the light. Every now and then, there is one, like that set of ear buds that never seem to die, that seem like they’ll stand the test of time. But then the day comes when a little too much sweat gets into the wiring and the bastard delivers and electric shock that feels like someone stabbed you in the side of the head.
I made that mistake of believing the façade of quality in a person which kept up a front for a good long while, ignoring the little needle-like shocks which should have served as warning bells that the wiring was faulty. When the final shock came, the one that finally woke me up to the cheapness of the person, I nearly lost my grip on reality and questioned everything that I was.
Coming back from being burned like that takes time, and sometimes that getting on the horse adage is not necessary. You don’t always have to go back there. Envisioning that confrontation of your fear and envisioning coming through it victorious yields the same effect as literally facing your fear or harasser. In the end, literally or figuratively facing your demons is up to you, but those “ear buds” have to be thrown away and the lesson learned that if the shocks keep coming, throw the crap away sooner.
Quality shows itself from beginning to end and never fails with ordinary or extraordinary use. It shows in those people who do right for the sake of rightness, not the praise or reimbursement they may get in exchange for doing the right thing, and it shows in those people who don’t have to make a promise, or a contract, to follow through with good actions. Quality is not an ulterior motive luring in the wings, it’s not asking for the money up-front and it’s not high-tension drama. It is seamless belonging, contentment and oneness with something other than itself.
Next week, the game of micro-Tetris starts, but for now, I’m reducing my load. I want to start my new life with a clear conscience, a lightened soul, and the smallest UHaul possible.