Some Dribs and Drabs

Every day is more exhausting than the last this week, and each day I get slightly less done that I had expected. Which is nothing short of alarming.

However, I continue to feel compelled to post.

So here is a list of some recent realizations, happenings, and events.

cat1) I still do not have a job in Country X. I also do not not have a job. There were, evidently, some delays. I am reminded of Shrodinger’s cat. During the period when we do not know whether the cat is alive or dead, is it still alive? I’m choosing at the moment to think the cat is still alive. I don’t know whether I have a job yet. Therefore, during this period in which I do not know, I have one. That’s logical enough, right?

2) I have come to the conclusion that I do not need to understand absolutely everything. There are some things I simply do not need to get. I’m sure I could if I really, really tried, but I don’t need to. And my time might be better spent doing something else. My father, for example. Possibly my retirement plan as well.

3) If it’s really important, do it first, before you get all tired and forgetful and just want to get the hell out of there. I have returned to the house where I’m sleeping and am realizing I have no clean clothes to wear tomorrow other than a fresh pair of panties. Because I didn’t pack the clothes first.

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Shedding Still

This will need to be short.

The plan for the day involves moving the furniture I intend to keep out of my place. Which is why I fell asleep at last some time around 1:30 in the morning. Sleep is something I don’t do before major changes.

I should, probably, be doing something useful and productive this morning like throw something away–I have come to the conclusion that I have too much stuff. Like a lot too much stuff.

I love getting rid of things. That’s why this is so hard. The parts don’t agree.

Because I’m also afraid I will have nothing left.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to let myself have fun.

Shedding the Load

movingI have been disposing of my possession slowly for about the last two years–since I began to consider the idea of relocating to a Country X or Y or Z some time in the not-so-distant future. I began with the things that have hung around in cupboards and drawers that I don’t like or use anymore.

With D-Day (Departure Day) less than a week away, the pace of this kind of possession-shedding has accelerated. I’ve shifted to disposing of objects I neither need in Country X, or Country Y (actually, India, the first stop–that doesn’t need to be a secret), nor within the next few weeks.

(And that I also don’t find so wonderful and charming just to own that I must simply keep them. Like the fossil I found in my classroom two years ago. I kept that. It’s in a box. You don’t just find fossils every day.)

And then it became things I would not need this week. So, the toaster is gone. I’ve given away the iron today along with the ironing board. I threw the spices out–most of them.

I still look around and think, “I have way too much stuff.”

Something that's been dead a long time is just a keeper.
Something that’s been dead a long time is just a keeper.

My baggage allowance to Country X is 20 kilos, plus a carry-on. Everything after that is about five dollars a pound. And needs to be pre-arranged.

I’d better really need it.

But as the time to leave has drawn closer, I find myself increasingly unable to cope with what needs to be done. I don’t feel anxious. I just feel like watching TV.

Star Trek Voyager has become my crack cocaine. It’s a problem.

Clearly, someone in my head has fallen back on denial. “I’m not really going anywhere,” it says. “It’s perfectly fine to watch TV all day. There are no bills to pay, no papers to sort and file, no decisions to make over what to take and what to continue to shed.”

It will be a hell of a shock to that voice when it finds itself at the airport a week from now, nearly all of my possessions in two pieces of luggage.

It’s scary.

I’m not particularly scared of Country Y. I’m not even very afraid of Country X. Yes, it will be a change. Yes, it’s remote. Yes, the challenges will be daily, unpredictable, and no doubt frustrating.

I’ve taught in a poor school district. I know all about that.

That is not the problem. The problem is the shedding process.

If you’ve just come on-board, (I’m thinking of moving metaphors these days–I’m sure you can understand why…) then you might have missed out on an important episode in my life. The LaLa and Lucey days, when I was taken into care.

There is nothing worse than losing the family dog. Except maybe losing the cat.
There is nothing worse than losing the family dog. Except maybe losing the cat.

Leaving them is far and away the worst disaster that has ever befallen me. It has left me with a lingering sense of exile, of being orphaned–as if I was taken not back to my home, but to a strange country.

And the thing is it left me with a sense that nothing is ever really mine. Parents can be taken from me. Toys can be discarded. Blankies can be stolen. Pets can disappear entirely. And my teddy bear can be yanked right out of my hands.

So as I’m shedding the objects I don’t need and in many cases don’t even want, I’m left with that same sense of everything being stripped away from me.

Nevermind that my girlfriend has already arranged to meet me at the airport. I don’t believe she’ll be there–even though she always is or if she isn’t she finds someone else who can. Nevermind that I will be held and cuddled and cooked for and loved by the person who means the most to me in the world. None of that is happening. Is it?

Paralysis: The Bike, the Cat, the Desk, and the Dentist

Snapshot_20130923_2I’m frustrated this morning. It’s hard to explain about this frustration.

I’m tired of making decisions. I would like a break from deciding anything. I’m not sure I even want to decide my next meal. I would like to have everything decided for me for a few days–to just have the luxury of doing what I’m told. Not forever, but just a couple of days.

And yet isn’t the right to make my own decisions what I have worked for? Isn’t not having anyone tell me what to do the privilege I have sought for so long and so hard?

So it’s hard to explain this frustration, even to myself.

If nothing else, I wish the decisions were easier. I imagine if I were more integrated they would be. I could simply weigh the pros and cons of various paths and decide among them based on the most acceptable set of pros and cons of that option. But when you are dissociated as a person, the pros and cons don’t even exist when you occupy a different mindset. How can you possibly compare two alternatives when reality seems to change depending on which one you are considering?

Let me give you an example.

I have a bicycle. I cannot seem to decide what to do with the bicycle. As a consequence, I have done nothing.

It is driving me mad.

Snapshot_20130923_11 From Perspective A, this is a very useful bicycle. I haven’t ridden it in some years, partly because my health really wasn’t up to anything so energetic as bicycle riding and partly because the area where I live is so congested I can’t imagine riding it in the street. Other people do, but they are probably much better cyclists than I am. So, it needs a bit of repair–the tires are flat, and I did something to the brakes in moving it to my current place. But I’ve done that before to it, and it’s not a terribly expensive repair. It’s quite worth doing.

From Perspective A, it might be worth keeping the bike. If nothing else, I should sell it because I won’t get a paycheck until February, and that will probably end up being worth about 20 bucks. In other words, I could use the cash.

Seen from Perspective A, this is a practical and financial problem, but the solution is not especially complex: either sell it or keep it.

But from Perspective B, the problem is entirely different.

I hate this bike. The bike was in part a gift from an emotionally abusive partner. It represents in my mind a period when I was allowing myself to be exploited even though by then I had other choices. I just didn’t know it. So I went on allowing it. And it enrages me that I did that.

Not only that, but the bike represents the particular way in which exploitation works, because in exploitative relationships nothing is free. I give up my right to have opinions, and in return you will indulge a few of them. I give up my right to be treated with dignity, and in exchange you will provide some warmth and affection.

It reminds me that I was still for sale.

Those are her stuffed animals.
Those are her stuffed animals.

So, from Perspective B, this is not a financial or practical matter. This is a symbolic and emotional decision. What I do with the bike is a way of telling myself I am no longer for sale. You cannot buy me. You cannot buy my silence, or my affection, or access to my body. You cannot buy a point of view off me and you most certainly cannot buy a fantasy from me.

I am no longer for sale.

From Perspective B, throwing the bicycle in the dumpster would be the most satisfying course of action, and therefore the best.

Which do I need most: money or emotional satisfaction? That is really what this is about.

But it’s so very terribly difficult to see both perspectives at the same time,. I wish that when I considered the practical side of what to do with the bike, I could still see the meaning it has for me, and that when I see the deeper meaning it holds for me, I could still see the practical end of things. But I can’t. I cannot hold them both in my head at the same time.

And almost everything about moving has been like this: when I consider the practical aspects of a decision, I imagine there are no feelings involved in them. And when I consider the emotional aspects, I lose sight of the real-world consequences. Because I know both views are incomplete and inaccurate, in some cases I have found  myself unwilling to do anything.

But I can’t wait any longer to get my head together all in one place. It isn’t going to happen. Or if it does happen, it won’t happen soon enough. And in the meantime, some things need to get done.

The cat needs a home.

I need to get rid of some things, including the bike.

I need someone to help me move the things too big to carry myself.

I need to see a dentist.

Those are the four things that I seem to be paralyzed about, that it would actually be better at this point to make any choice at all about than to continue to do nothing at all.

A Wish for Nostalgia

fall_leavesThere is something about going through your whole life’s accumulated crap that gets you to thinking. I wish it wouldn’t. I wish I could stick to the mere matter of, “What do I think will be useful in the future?” and “Is this something I actually like?”

But mostly I can’t manage that.

I threw out photos of my sister today because she is just not a part of my life–I have other photos, but she had given these to me especially as a birthday present. It’s time to let go of the hope that she ever will be. She hurt me, badly, for years. She hurt me when she had the choice not to. I don’t hold that against her, really. But it does mean something in terms of what part I’d like her to play in my future. Because what it means is that she’s a cog in the sad machine of my family’s insanity. And I really and truly want nothing to do with any of them.

I’m sad about that.

There are things I can’t wait to chuck out of my apartment because they remind me of my attempts to make sense of what had happened to me in the past or I bought them with a person who was nothing more than a product of my past.

The past will always be there, but I don’t want to have much to do with it either. The best thing about the past was that I was able to wrench the present out of it.

I’m sad about that too.

I wish it weren’t that way. I wish the past were something I could look back on fondly. I was reading someone’s status update the other day. I won’t bore you with the specifics, but something had reminded her of her college days. “Some of the best years of my life,” she said. The best year of my life is right now.

It’s good not to hold onto the past too tightly. It’s good to be able to step boldly into the future.  But I wish the past were something I wanted to cling to, if only for a little while.

Grace

I'm not quite at the packing stage. But I am full-swing in the getting rid of stuff stage.
I’m not quite at the packing stage. But I am full-swing in the getting rid of stuff stage.

A friend came by this afternoon. I had left some things at her house a week ago–hers was the dog-sitting gig I wrote about a few times. She brought them to me.

As we sat at the table over tea (my drink) and ice water (hers), we talked a little about my leaving. She’s buying an enormous house (in our views, anyway) and there will be plenty of space. She offered to let me leave some things with her.

It used to be I felt I could never ask anyone for anything. I had no one. But they offer.

I don’t know how to explain this exactly, but in general the world is a very kind and generous place for me to be in and it has been for a long time.

My growing up was hard. Life could have remained that way. For some people, it seems to.

I am reminded, writing that, of the therapist I saw in college for a session who didn’t charge me at the end of it. I needed all the help I could get, I suppose. And she didn’t know the half of it.

The secretary from the Dean of Students office at my college whose home I stayed in for three days when I was between places to stay. She had a tiny apartment. It’s not that I wasn’t in the way.

I am even reminded of my teacher in the second grade who drove me to my babysitter’s house when I missed the bus. I didn’t even really know where it was. “Keep your eyes peeled,” she said. I remember that. A funny expression for a seven-year-old to hear. But I did and we found it.

********

This is what grace is. Photo credit: Jon Sulivan.
This is what grace is. Photo credit: Jon Sullivan.

Words tend to stick in my head, in almost the same way those little snippets of songs you can’t quite remember will. Grace was once one of those words. Grace, if you look it up, is the unearned favor of God. It is a blessing given freely, for no reason, just because.

I worked hard to be where I am. I know that. There were days when every second required alertness, planning, self-control just to live through. I’m not ignoring that.

But the other half of it is grace. Some people might call it luck. But I’d rather think of it as grace. Not necessarily the grace of God, but the grace of other human beings.