I moved apartments this week. I’ve been renovating the
destination apartment for several months now, so I’ve been able to transfer the possessions I use less frequently a few at a time. Nevertheless, the final move, even with Werner’s speedy and professional assistance (http://tiny.cc/3g50ay), has been a big job. Werner said I mustn’t show you this photo in case you got the impression he likes moving heavy furniture, so here it is :-).
Now beginning to unpack, I’m finding duplicate items from the time I lived across two homes – two toasters (I never eat toast at home) several wine racks (I’m all but tee-total now) three garlic crushers (yeah, I don’t mean to brag but it’s honestly true – we were a three garlic crusher family – eat your heart out two garlic crusher families).
I’ve just come across two unopened boxes of Royal Scot cut glass. I used to collect it. I’d buy from that little corner shop in Knightsbridge with the nice green and gold carrier bags. We used to hold glittering dinner parties back in those days. The candlelight sparkled on the glassware and refracted through the wine, sending ruby fairies dancing across the ceiling. Several carefully selected wines accompanied six courses, to a background of clever conversation and tasteful background music. How the self-satisfaction sparkled. But then I started to lose my hearing. Clever dinner party conversation and middle class chatter about the soaring price of houses in London (it was the same even all those years ago) aren’t much good to you if you can’t hear it. Then my marriage ended (my own stupid fault even if does take two); then my business went belly up, courtesy of… well that’s another story for another day. So over the years, and for various reasons I packed my life away into boxes and stored them in the garage, leaving the memories to lie silently under the accumulating dust.
Looking at those now boxes makes the memories sit bolt upright in their cardboard coffins. And it brings a lot of questions too. Like why did I want to live like that in the first place? You may think the answer’s obvious. Doesn’t everyone want a big house in the New Forest complete with swimming pool and admiring friends? Well yes, they probably do. But why? Looking back, those possessions, way in excess of the level needed for sufficiency, did little more than feed my ego with the admiration (or was it more envy?) of friends and hangers on. Some have said they saw me as a role model. Material wealth is a seductive mistress, enticing you with her charms, then incarcerating you with her demands once she has shackled you.
Looking back from the rarefied atmosphere of almost 60 years of age, I observe a pattern in my life. I used to draw my sense of identity more from the outside world than from my inner awareness. Houses, cars, business, feedback from others in all its forms were used to hide a diminished sense of self-worth. As in, ‘if I’ve got all this stuff and I do all this stuff I must be a person of value.’ Not articulated, you understand, but locked away so deep in the dungeons of psyche that you would rarely hear it rattling on the bars to be released.
Of course, external feedback is a two edged sword. If you rely on the outside world for your sense of self-worth, you have to take the negative with the positive. And the tigers and wolves are always out there, pacing around to see whom they can devour through criticism and the imposition of pain. For though they too will never admit it, the imposition of suffering and control buttresses their own diminished self-worth – until they in their turn are devoured in that never ending dance of the Furies.
I have left that world behind now. I am choosing consciously to develop an internal frame of reference. The questions I ask myself now are ‘Why do I want that? Exactly what benefit do I think it will bring? Are there other ways of meeting the need it addresses without damaging anyone else? Without calling excessively on the diminishing resources of a depleting planet?’
I do not decry the choices of others who remain in my old life. It is not for me to do so. Each walks their own journey. I mean only that when it’s time to move on, I do well to let go. The Buddha is reputed to have said
‘In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.’
I’m closer to the end of this journey now, than to the beginning. Would anybody two unopened boxers of Royal Scot cut glass? It reflect the candle light beautifully. And it’s perfect for those who want to chase the ruby fairies.