Friday, April 04, 2008

Discarding

I. I may need to make a few stabs at this. I have things to say about work and transitions and call and energy and drive and time and material goods and priorities, and it may take me several tries to get it right.

II. I took on a lot this year. A fulltime seminary committment, a 137.4 mile trip from my driveway to the seminary parking lot, a drive which I make there and back weekly, twice every other week. A certificate program in spiritual direction that meets on Wednesdays during those every other weeks. I am often frustrated and discouraged; I have to spend about 80% of my academic time on a subject for which I have no aptitude, meaning that the things in which I long to submerge myself receive short shrift indeed. I balance competing theologies and loves, making my both/and-ness a wearying grace at times. And yet I am utterly filled with a deep sense of joy and a tremendous inner energy. I love what I am studying, I love the conversations, I love the way my life has opened up. I am astonished and delighted and amazed by what fills me, swirls around inside me, and flows out of me.

III. I took on a lot this year because I could. I am old enough to know that some days the phone rings and life as you know it comes to an end, and that when you emerge months later it is to a foreign and not altogether friendly country around which you must erect a new and shaky scaffold. At the moment, everyone for whom I care and am directly responsible is healthy and functional, and so I have a freedom that enabled me to take on a lot. And so I did.

IV. Nevertheless, it all hangs together by a slim thread. Today, with a couple of hours allocated for errands, I went to the vet to pick up the dog's prescription food, headed to the local college to pay a bill and order transcripts, stopped by our old church to pay for reservations for the luncheon after the dedication of the new wing next week, ran into Borders to purchase some cards for a friend who has just had a very serious emergency surgery,and walked over to Office Max for yet more paper and dividers. And when I got home, it was to a message that I had left my checkbook in the college cashier's office. For a moment, I thought I might actually cry. There was NOT another half-hour in my afternoon to drive back there -- but, of course, I had to wave my magic wand and make that half-hour materialize.

V. The phone call came as I was sorting through clothes, preparing to discard as much as I can. I am painfully aware that one thing is simply not happening this year, and that is: any attention at all on my part to either the mundane or major tasks required to maintain a household. And so I have started to give some concentrated, albeit tentative, thought to the spirituality of sustaining material life, and some fragments of time to the effort.

VI. And so: I cleaned out two dresser drawers today. Do two dresser drawers merit an essay, or even a paragraph? Perhaps.

VII. The dresser itself I would like to discard. Empire style, curly maple veneer. Too big, too old. We are no longer the young couple who frequented Amish auctions for furniture. We are no longer the young professionals who bought the big old colonial in the inner ring suburb (although it seems that we still have it, along with Mortgage Number 8,000). We want less -- less house, fewer pieces of furniture. The dresser makes me think of the (then) young man named Tim at one of the auction barns -- he was gorgeous (!) and could lift a 19th century wardrobe into the air as though it weighed nothing. My friend Rachel and I both had crushes on him. (Rachel and I were both married, both corporate lawyers, both living staid and conservative lives; our admiration of Tim was a pleasant byproduct of our enjoyment of antique auctions.) The dresser needs to go the way of that past life, but first it needs to be emptied.

VIII. How many swimsuits, exactly, have I purchased at Lands' End over the years? Does the Lovely Daughter still want the tank suits that might serve her well as a camp counselor this summer? I want the St. Augustine t-shirts, yes, but not the long and dowdy skirts purchased for teaching in an Orthodox Jewish environment. I want the almost-fuschia velour long-sleeevd t-shirt that never has fit well enough to wear for Christmas dinner, but not the lovely soft pink sweater that makes me look like a linebacker. (I don't actually know what a linebacker is, but the analogy sounds right.)

IX. What it all comes down to is this: I am changing. I am 54 and I don't know what furniture I want or what clothes I want. I don't know how I want to allocate my time. My priorities are not what they were and not what they are going to be. I am really, really happy, and really, really bewildered.

X. And so the dresser and most of its contents need to go.

8 comments:

Diane said...

I get it. It IS a spiritual exercise.

Carol said...

So much. I have, at times,responded in similar ways when life finally becomes so jam-packed that I don't know what to do. It's quite cathartic. But my I suggest packing some of these items in a box in the basement or attic "just in case"?

Stratoz said...

you made me think of a friend I had 23 years ago, who worked and studied full-time. I studied full-time and did not work. I don't know how he did it for sure, but like you, the man had a passion for what he was studying.

Yesterday Mosaic woman and I drove by the college where I had taken a couple spirituality courses. Part of me wishes there hadn't been a spark of interest.

may the dresser find a nice home.

sunflowerkat321 said...

As taxing as it is, I think that making choices and changes would naturally be followed by the kind of simplification that you are doing. When it is done, you will feel a sense of peace.

I was comparing your situation to mine. I am also in the vortex of change but not by choice. I need to do the same type of simplification but a can't. My instinct is to cling to everything familiar. I wish I could get to where you are.

emmapeelDallas said...

Hang on to the happiness...I find that the older I get (I'm 58), the more irritable I become...and I don't like it, but I really have to fight it.

Lisa :-] said...

Often, at this time in our lives, we become afraid that we might be nearer the end than the beginning.

The way to counteract that feeling is to keep creating beginnings. Until the very end.

I've done it. It's hard. But I like it a whole lot better than the alternative.

Throw the stuff away.

more cows than people said...

(o)

Kathryn J said...

I am now completely and totally terrified. I will be living that life with a 10yo and 13yo at home. Off to find a nice padded room somewhere.