Possessions

For reasons that I am not going to go into now, here I am, about six weeks from forty years old and I have ‘lost’ pretty much everything that belonged to me before the age of 37.

It’s a lesson.

Truly. It’s a lesson. An extreme one, I’ll grant you, and I know that a lot of people have reached the same conclusions without having had everything literally disappear from their lives. A far gentler experience for them, but nonetheless valuable for it.

I have never been enormously materialistic; never been bothered about what kind of car I owned, what kind of house I lived in… That isn’t to say that I wasn’t pleased when I was able to buy a newer or more reliable car, or a bigger house for my growing family. None of which I have now, of course. Now, I have a modest car, a rented home, and everything in it was given to me by kind friends or bought – little by little – afresh.

I no longer have any doubts about the fundamental benevolence of the universe. I understand that that is a statement that will challenge many, and I should like to add the caveat that I am talking about my personal experience and, I suppose, my perspective. Was the universe unkind to allow all that I owned to be taken away? I don’t think so. It provided me with an incredibly important lesson:

It was just stuff.

And for a while, life was sparse and quite tough: tougher than I’ve ever known it anyway, which fundamentally just goes to show how I’d had it very easy for a long time. And I liked the Spartan nature of it.

What I am surprised by, however, is how quickly we seem to have acquired more, different stuff.

Before I lost everything, for example, I had mountains of baby equipment: clothes, highchairs, a cot, a swingcrib… All gone. And then, when I was expecting my fifth son, three friends between them – two old friends and one new – spontaneously and out of the generosity of their hearts, provided me with enough baby clothes and equipment to get him to a year old. A new relative gave us a voucher that bought us a new swingcrib. Our little man is very well catered for.

Then there were the eggs. It started with an innocent, throwaway, “We’re nearly out of eggs,” and it seemed to start raining eggs. They were on the doorstep, given us by our neighbours, handed over by friends – I’d be hard put to explain how peculiar it was that we were suddenly, and at a time when a family of seven wanted cakes and scrambled eggs, simply awash with eggs.

And let’s not forget the bikes. We already had two of the children’s that we had managed to get before the trouble began, which left four to buy. Or did it? No sooner had we voiced the thought that it would be nice to be able to start cycling, all of us together, when Jem was bought a bike by a client. The following week, a friend from school phoned. She’d bought her son a new bike, did we want his ‘old’ one? His ‘old’ one turned out to be a super-dooper aluminium-framed bike not more than a couple of years old. The next week another friend did the exact same thing. One to go and we’re there. But… how bizarre?

Anyway, that was a rather long aside on manifestation and the abundance of the universe about which more another day, perhaps.

The place I wanted to get to was this:

Yesterday morning, over breakfast – we do seem to have some fairly profound conversations over breakfast in our house – we were talking about ‘stuff’, our possessions. Every so often, someone will come up with something like: “What happened to the trampoline?” for which, sadly, I have no entirely satisfactory answer.

My eleven-year old showed me his collection of erasers (I know we call them rubbers, but the connotations over the pond are less innocent, aren’t they?) I told him that when I was a little girl, I had a hat and every new place I visited, I bought a new badge to pin onto it. When I ended up living in Russia for a while, it was badge heaven! They sell them everywhere, for next-to-nothing, and they are beautifully ornate.

“I don’t know where they are now, who’s got them.” I said

“That’s sad.”

“Not really. What would I want with them now? But what I do have is the memory. That’s plenty for me.”

And somehow we got onto Rev Kusala again. Okay, okay, I got onto Rev Kusala again. I explained to him that I had heard RK explaining that we only really think we own things, but that itself is temporary. We own them until they break, or someone else decides they want to own them more, or we lose them…

“I’d be really sad if I lost my rubber collection.”

“You would?” I asked. “For how long? A month… a year…?”

“A few days,” he replied with a little smile.

“And if one of us walked out of here and didn’t come back?”

“For my life!” he answered, without a nano-second’s hesitation.

Now we were getting somewhere – priorities were coming to the fore. But it was still not quite right…

“But you’d still have the memories?”

We smiled.

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8 responses to “Possessions

  • bronze

    We lost pretty much all our baby photos soon after Littleman was born. For a couple of days I was sad, I had just had a baby so it wasn’t too surprising but it didn’t take long to get over it. Afterall I have the memories, no photo can show what it is like the first time a child says ‘wuv oo’. Plus I have the originals, that have now learned to say I love you and that is far better than any picture.

  • Lexi Irvine

    Brilliant. I am forever telling the boys that it’s just stuff and we aren’t taking any of it with us in the end…life has become much easier for me since I learnt this lesson. x

  • Susannah

    Oooh, another ‘experience’ I share with you. Both the ‘losing everything that belonged to me’ and the benevolence of people and the universe. For me it took away fear, people worry what would happen if they lost ‘things’, what would they do if everything had gone? Once you have been in that position and survived you have no more fear of it, as long as you have people to love and who love you. In a way there was a kind of freedom about it. . . it taught me about surrender, about trust and about the inherent beauty of what is inside of us. I hadn’t realised how the things I had surrounded myself with, had defined me, until they were gone.

    Roll forward a good few years and we as a couple were faced with a move that meant letting go of ‘things’- we did it easily and trusted that the void would be filled…it was. 🙂

    Now I enjoy ‘things’ but don’t let them get their hooks into me, as my lovely man said the other day, ‘it is best to be non-stick’ (Which we have now shortened to being ‘teflon’ about things! lol)

    So glad you are teaching your kids these things, it will stand them in good stead. x

    Great post.

    • erisian

      ‘Non-stick’ – that’s it, Susannah. It’s the only way to avoid suffering. And it’s the Buddhist way, too, huh?
      I have been given some serious lessons in attachment / non-attachment, but it is truly fundamental, isn’t it? Even children grow up and leave home and if we are too unhealthily attached, then there is more suffering. All round. Which isn’t of course to say that we shouldn’t have a deep, strong, unconditional love for our children, I hasten to add! But if you are too attached to them, in that unhealthy way, you make it impossible for them to mature, grow up, individuate, make their own choices…
      Life is full of lessons.
      It’s a joy.
      🙂

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