Over 20 years ago, I moved into the first home that I bought. When I did that, I moved a great number of boxes of books and other household goods into storage at the movers. And all of that lived there unlooked at until just over a year ago. Then I sold my condo and chose to move to where I live now. So, I got rid of the boxes of books and the few household chattels which I had stored away. I kept the records which I inherited and also a box which held, so I thought, all my old piano music.
Last week, I finally went through that box. I found that it was filled not only with my piano music but also with music left from when I was high school band teacher about 40 years ago. I recycled some of that and I’ve donated some of that to a local high school. All that’s left now is the piano music I want to keep.
There was a time when I collected stuff. I didn’t throw out old clothes or school papers, or unused furniture. I know that I was building a nest and that I was also building a defense against the outside world. The stuff became my barricade to keep others out and keep me safe. In these last few years, as I’ve chosen to divest myself of that stuff, I’ve jettisoned the culture’s belief that ‘he who has the most toys wins’. I look through the Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue and laugh. Does anyone really buy all those things? Where do they put it?
All this has got me thinking about, not only how much I’ve trapped myself with things, but how I have consumed the thoughts of others without question. I had a principal who was a member of what I called ‘the theory of the month club’. He’d read some education guru or other and adopt their theory and ideas holus bolus without question until he read the next guru’s ideas. Then he’d jettison everything that he had mandated be implemented in our school and replace that with something new. And so it would go. I always wondered why he chose to do that? Why did he never trust his own professional experience and judgment? Why did he never allow himself to craft his own ideas based upon his experience and those ideas from outside educators with whom he agreed? It was such a waste of time and energy.
So, that is rumbling in me. How much does the voice of another infiltrate my thoughts? How much do I give credence to voices out there and not in me in this moment? How much do I consume what has been fed to me about what’s important to know and understand and what I should believe about mySelf and my world?
While I think of it, how much do we consume people and their energy? Oh, we’re not real cannibals and we can cannibalize others for their energy and emotional support. We can look to them to take care of us and choose for us. We can drain their energy as we attempt to increase our own when we do not feel enthused about our own lives.
And I know that I’ve over-consumed food. As Geneen Roth wrote in When Food is Love, when I’ve felt lonely or unhappy or angry or confused, I’ve overeaten chocolate or ice cream [which is it’s own food group, don’t you know] or I’ve raided the refrigerator and eaten, not because I was physically hungry, and because I was emotionally so.
I know how easy it is to use consumption as a distraction: a way to divert our attention from questioning that which we hear and experience and judging its validity for ourSelves, a way to keep us from going inside and coming to know ourSelves on a truly visceral level. It’s like Penny in The Big Bang Theory. When her life is not going as she’d hoped it would, she goes out and buys more and more pairs of shoes. I did that only in my case it was more and more clothes which I didn’t ever wear. They just lived in my closet and I’d look at them and then I’d buy more. Consumption can be a strategy to divert ourSelves. I just never realized the myriad ways in which it was a strategy I implemented to distract myself. Now I do.
I know now that, when I don’t feel tied to the confines of matter or things and any external judgment, history, and the rules and regulations and dogma that was, often, beaten into me as I grew up, my life feels easy and light and open and full of potential – full of ‘now’ with no drag of the past or fear of the future, devoid of any need to control everything. And I know that I don’t feel unsafe.
And unquestioned consumption is no longer a diversion strategy.