Friday, August 01, 2008

Possessions

"Possessions are not given that we may rely on them and glory in them...but that we may use and enjoy them and share them with others....Our possessions should be in our hands, not in our hearts."  Anonymous

This quote sums up how I aspire to view possessions in my life.  As much as anyone I enjoy having beautiful things to wear and in my home, it is important to sometimes give our perspective a check-up.  There are several important pieces of advice that this quote gives. When I read it, powerful feelings just keep rolling over me.  I want to pick it apart a bit and tell you what it means to me.

The first thought that it gives me is the ultimate reason for owning things and that is usefulness.  There was a time when owning so many things as the modern American family does now would have been reserved for the rich.  We have lost the meaning of true usefulness in each item we purchase.  It is a symptom of the times and we often don't even realize it.  Of course when there is a new gadget a minute, we find ourselves finding use for many things that we don't actually ever use.  Advertisements create the need for us to find their item useful.  I'm talking to you garlic peeler and margarita machine.

Pride in our possessions can be viewed two ways.  It is not wrong to take care of our things and be happy that we have them.  When the good pride turns sour is when you value yourself more because you have these things.  If you have a certain brand and feel yourself more powerful or better because of it, you are heading into the pride/over-inflated ego zone.  Humility is the opposite of pride.  Realizing that what you own is a blessing inspires humility.  Also recognizing that these things can also slip through your hands may give you a more realistic perspective. After all we can't keep things forever, can we? 

When I was in college, I had a little dog named Dixie.  Someone fed her a bunch of trout bones and she puked all over my white eyelet bedspread that my Grandmother bought me.  This bedspread was so beautiful and very expensive and I was furious.  It was this event in my life that I realized I couldn't put things before people, or dogs in this example.  When we value the thing more than the person, there is a serious issue with guarding these things too tightly.   Even now, I won't buy something that I would be so upset if it got messed up by me or someone else.  My bedspread came clean but I learned a lot that day about possessions.
  
This whole idea brings up the topic of idolizing things.  I have done it many times when I would become obsessed with a brand or even a line of makeup.  I think it is in our nature and a huge temptation to want to conquer, as silly as it sounds.  Maybe it makes us feel included or able to complete something.  If I could only have this certain item, my life would be so much better is the start of idolization.  It's not that there is anything wrong with the having of these things, but a matter of perspective.  When you realize that a LV purse is still just a purse, then you are making progress.  Yes, it has better quality than Target.  No, it doesn't make your life more complete.  When I was in high school I wanted a pair of Guess jeans like nothing else.  I babysat and saved up my $42 (!!!) and got them.  (My stepdad Randy asked me if I got kissed....because I sure did get screwed!  He was always spouting street wisdom like that.)  As a teenager I would venture to say it did make my life a little better, but more because I worked hard for them and enjoyed them immensely.  They later became cut-offs which went brilliantly with my huge teased bangs.

Often I think about this quote when I encounter people who hold on to everything so dearly. What is holding them back from letting go?  It is this psychology that intrigues me so much about cleaning out closets or homes.  We take our possessions and internalize them to become a part of us.  When we have to let them go a part of us feels like it is taken.  Recently my hard drive failed and I thought that I didn't have backup.  Even though I would have lost pictures and music, it felt like a weight lifted from me. Even when we initially resist the purging of things from our life, we have to trust that letting go will bring us freedom and a lightness.  It could mean a starting over or a clean slate which everyone needs once in awhile.

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