The hour glass of life has more sand in the bottom than in the top. Ambition now looks more like leaving a legacy. The type of legacy I’m describing isn’t one directly written by me, but is the description of me by others to be given as a eulogy some day.
I am finding that I want to reduce my many interests to the tried and true ones that have sustained me through six full decades. I am a minimalist by nature, but I like to think of it as being a “conduit”. Good things come into my life all the time. So do bad things. But nothing has to stay. This is especially true of possessions. Anyone who gives me a gift should not expect to see it constantly displayed. I tend to enjoy things for a while then hand them on. At any moment I could pack up my favorite things for a life on the road in a recreational vehicle. That’s an unlikely event considering who I am married to.
So, back to ambition and that eulogy…I would like to be thought of as a quiet, in-the-background support person. I am no longer willing to head up community endeavors, although I will contribute in some way if asked. That is quite a departure from the middle-aged version of myself. These days I make a decision based on whether the end result is worthy of the required energy expenditure.
Here in Maine the snow has mostly melted and people can reach parts of their house where the wreaths and other holiday decorations were marooned. Many people put wreaths over each of their windows, both upstairs and down. These require a ladder for putting them up and taking them down. The ground may have been bare when they were put up after Thanksgiving, but then the snows came. We often joke about the wreath’s becoming “St. Patrick’s Day wreaths” or even “Easter wreaths”. When winter releases its hold, however temporarily, home owners start raking gravel from their lawns where the plow drivers pushed the snow when clearing the driveway, and removing the vestiges of holiday decorating. Spring moves slowly here in Maine.
“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
“You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
(Two Tramps in Mud Time by Robert Frost)
Meantime, inside the house, the effect of approaching spring is felt, as well. Rooms that were closed off in order to save heating them are once again left open. Windows get opened for short periods of time when the sun is out. We cautiously dig out a few pieces of warm weather clothing, but when we wear them we dress in layers such as an over-shirt to peel off and put back on as the day progresses. We look for garden tools we set aside without much thought back in the fall. We try to look optimistically at the dismal flower beds and vegetable garden which don’t yet show any promise. But then, on our village street, neighbors re-appear, kids are bicycling and the song birds are returning and gathering nest materials. Spring may be slow getting here but we get to appreciate in increments as it progresses.
In terms of keeping stuff, are you more like a conduit or a cesspool? Can good things flow into your life, stay for a while, then pass on?
When I was a child of 11 in the 1950’s, I was very impressed by a woman named Muriel. She lived in the same new housing development as my family on Cape Cod. She was a retired showgirl and her husband was in the merchant marine. She was flamboyant and enjoyed the good things of life. She had lots of material possessions. She enjoyed them for a while and then she would come knocking on our door with her arms full of things she wanted to pass on. She had taken a shine to my mother. This was our first new home. We had always rented but now we were owners. We had very few possessions to furnish our home but, thanks to Muriel, we soon had draperies and knick-knacks that we could only have dreamed of. The most amazing thing about Muriel was she had no sense of scarcity. She was abundant in every sense of the word.
Looking back over my life, I see that I too, live with that sense of abundance. This does not in any way resemble wastefulness, but is a sense of holding things lightly, of detachment. I have many items of sentimental value that I will keep as long as I am able, but my identity is not wrapped up in the things I possess. I have what I call a “conduit mentality” about keeping stuff. For every new, trivial item I purchase I discard a similar item. For instance, after a small kitchen renovation, I purchased some newer, small kitchen items. Instead of adding them to the collection of what I already had, I gathered up several older items and set them aside to go out as donations to GoodWill or to a more local “swap-shop” at the recycling center.
I’m the same way with my books. I recently purchased some books to help me learn Windows 10, so an equal number of “how-to” books on previous versions of Windows are set aside to be given away. I chose to donate rather than sell these items because it is part of my life as a conduit.
However, most of the people I work with in downsizing or organizing have great difficulty giving things up. They are older people with a lifetime’s accumulation of stuff. There are many reasons for hanging on to everything, from sentimentality to fear of making a wrong decision. But mostly they are unable to think of being a conduit for the many good things and blessings that have come into their lives.