Saturday, January 18, 2014

Thoughts About Stuff

On Thursday, my long awaited sea shipment arrived in Malawi. I sold and packed up my house last May. Eight months, two continents, three countries and one very ornery customs agent has transpired since I’ve last laid eyes on it. By this point, I had completely forgotten I even owned most of this stuff, having come up with somewhat suitable replacements for most of the important items.
As I watched the giant truck pull up and my life unload, I was overwhelmed by my feelings for these Things. See, I never thought I was a person defined by crap I owned (and yes, most of it IS crap). In fact, in the past, when household item would break (vases, lamps, etc) I really wasn’t all the concerned about it. Not because I didn’t like those things (my ex boyfriend once broke a vase that was a cherished gift from my sister), but because they are just Things. Being an adult, I realized it wasn’t the vase I loved, but the hard won relationship with my sister it represented.

I worked hard to cultivate this zen-like attitude towards my possessions. I purposely don’t have the latest tech gadgets (who can keep up?), never shopped more than once every other month for new clothes.  When things broke, I’d shrug my shoulders, clean it up and vow to be more careful next time. I do all this because I want a life and a lifestyle that isn’t defined by ownership, but by relationship. I felt pretty good about myself for this. Smug, even.

Enter, Malawi. For the first six months, I lived out of the two large and one small suitcase lugged from the States. Because of my old attitude towards things, I knew I could do it. It even felt liberating to be pared down to three pairs of shoes.  I was living out my values; making do with what I had. It was freeing, but also left me feeling….untethered. It wasn’t unpleasant, just a bit odd.

So, as that truck pulled up, I found myself enormously grateful. This Stuff, is isn't just Things anymore. These Things represent my Life. My couch provides a safe place to snuggle (along with the quilt my mom and I made together). My soft and smooshy pillows support me as I dream. My bike fills me with joy. I need these things because they represent and make up a part of my life that was missing: comfort, happiness.


I didn't realize it until Thursday, but this representation of a home (My home) is sorely overdue. This may not seem profound from the outside, but it was a paradigm shift for me. I had ignored and downplayed it for a long time, but stuff does have importance. I’ve flapped in the wind, felt the freedom of temporary things for eight months. It was a gift I’m not sure I’ll ever have again, but I am ready to nest.  I am ready to move into the next phase of this adventure, and bring Home officially to Malawi.  And I needed my Stuff to do it.

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