September 20, 2010

I don’t want what they don’t have

I’ve been on an almost ten year exploration of how to let go of stuff.  And money.  Money and stuff.  You’ll kindly note, the ten year reference magically matches that of my marriage to AB.  Yes.  Yes it does.  And he is so good about not attaching himself to “things”.  He has a few items of value to him.  Keepsakes, if you will.  But his attachment to them is minimal.  If he lost them, he would be disappointed, but not shaken down.

Letting go of stuff, for me – well, that’s like…akin to sacrilege.  Somehow, stuff became part of my identity.  Still is, if I’m honest with you.  And I have many tubs of stuff in my attic.  Scrapbooks and pictures and letters, cards, and clothes I can’t seem to let go of.  I mean, important clothes.  Like dresses or camp t-shirts, or concerts t’s.  Whatever.  You know what I mean.

And then there’s my little house.  I mean, I am not a clutter person.  At all.  But I like my house to be just so.  Especially when people come over.  And I’m really worked up about things looking right and being clean, and having nice things.  My house.  My stuff.  Somehow equaling who I am. 

And more and more I see women everywhere acquiring stuff.  Things.  Items.  Building nests and in some cases cocoons and in other cases, tombs.  Tombs of things they want.  Need.  Have to have.  Love.  Desire.  Can’t do without.

Today, I was at the mall with the kids.  And we strolled casually past the entrance to Pottery Barn.  The grown up one.  The one with every perfect and beautiful thing for your home just inside…just over the threshold of that doorway.  Perfect decor for Fall…pillows, warm ivory throws, candles, couches, table settings…fixtures…on and on.  And while my eyes lingered on each gorgeous piece in the window displays, and I casually had to caress the drool away from my mouth, I audibly said “yes, please…” to everything I was looking at.  And on we walked…slow motion like.  I was sad.  And I had a momentary pang of…I don’t know…frustration that I can’t have those things.  That belief that somehow those things would make me happier.  Make my home better. Make things better. 

And this is what I want to ask:  To what end?

The county in which we live is quite…wealthy.  We are not.  Not at all.  But there are many very wealthy people, and many fabulously large homes and even mansions.  The popular thing to do where we live?  Shop and eat.  And shop.  And many of the stores around here cater to that.  The wife or woman shopper – the homemaker.  Scratch that.  The trendy homemaker.  The “gotta have it” homemaker. 

And to tell you the truth, I’ve spent many years battling this feeling.  Though we’ve never been in a position to afford those luxuries, I’ve always been at war with myself…internally…wanting what I haven’t got.  Wanting what she’s got.  Wanting what I think I need.  Wanting this perfect thing or that incredible thing.  Wanting the perfect house.  The perfect wardrobe (ha…that’s hilarious coming from this baseball hat wearing, t-shirt/jeans loving mama!  But still…)

To what end?  Isn’t there more to life than stuff?  Aren’t relationships and life experience better than a new couch or dinnerware?  I have been to some really, really discouraging places.  Poor, poor parts of the world.  And yet.  I have dined with people who’ve shared with me, maybe what very little they had to offer – in a sparse one-room living area…and had some of the best, most memorable, most meaningful times of my life. 

I’ve spent the last few years of my life trying to let go.  Let go of my need for what the trends say my house should look like.  Trying to let go of what fashion mags tell me I should look like.  Trying to let go.  Trying to embrace the “less is more” approach to living.  Trying to donate more, purge more, and let go.  Find ways to give more.  Or start opening myself up to letting go so that I can do what God would have me do.  Or listen more closely so that I can be who He wants me to be.  Better serve those He would have me serve.  Understand what He truly desires for me. 

And I’m pretty certain, it isn’t stuff.  I’m pretty sure the proverbial washing of someone else’s feet does not require a porcelain washing basin from Restoration Hardware, tempting though it might be.

I’m pretty sure, fine though all these things are…that He didn’t put me here so that I could spend x number of years doing as I please and making myself happy and surrounding myself with stuff.

Letting go of the need for a better car.  A bigger home.  Finer things. 

Because I’ve sat across the table from those who the world would consider to have nothing.  And I have to tell you, they seemed to have so much more.  In so many ways.  So much more than I had accumulated in my own life.  They had more inner joy, peace, and happiness in their humble surroundings – than I’ve ever managed to conjure up in all my years of trying to be what I think I’m supposed to be.  Who I’m supposed to be.  What I’m supposed to be. 

Stuff does not equal happiness.  Maybe temporarily, but you can’t take it with you.  I’m learning more and more, that I must focus on others and let go of myself.  Move towards the happiness that comes from living free from the burdens of “keeping up”. 

Stuff is just stuff at the end of the day.  Home is really where those you love are.  I don’t really think having stuff…no matter how expensive or nice, is really having anything at all, at the end of the day.  And for that matter, I don’t think it’s the point of this life. 

Living life matters.  People matter.  Relationships matter.  Serving others matters. 

All these years spent thinking that I want what “they” have?  I think I’m finally learning that I don’t want what they don’t have…

Now to apply it.  Help me, Lord.

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Briana's Mom said...

I so get what you are saying! I am very bad about being attached to "stuff." But I am trying so hard to let go. I have been on a purging kick lately. The garage sale I had was a first step. I'm so ready to get rid of some of my stuff. I have even told people not to buy me "knick knacks" as gifts any more because I don't want any more stuff cluttering my house. If I do want to buy something, I only want things I really need and will really use and even then, it doesn't have to be expensive. You are so right. Stuff doesn't equal happiness!

Jodi said...

amen sista!

Shannon said...

When people in NJ ask me about where we moved from (same county where you live), I always describe it as “shopping and eating” and that’s saying something as I live 20 minutes from what most people would THINK is the shopping and eating capital, NYC.

Your PB window drooling made me think of my friend who listed a house in our town for someone who works for PB as a store designer. She recently listed and sold this home, which was fully furnished from PB. On the outside, this house was nothing spectacular but inside it looked just like a PB catalog (of course, that’s what the owner did for a living and she got it all at a nice discount!). In this slow housing market, the house got 4 offers all within 2 days of being listed. A bidding war ensued and the house sold for WAY OVER asking. My friend, the listing agent, told me the people totally bought the house for more than it’s worth just because of the way it was furnished (and the furniture isn’t included)! I am sure they are going to have the disappointment of their life when they walk into their new home and the PB catalog look is gone.

Cate said...

AMEN! AMEN! and AMEN! That was my biggest pet peeve about living in your city: the shop and eat and must keep up with the Jones mentality that seemed to saturate everything. I. hated. it. Now, that doesn't mean I don't like nice stuff, and we actually just bought a piece of furniture from Pottery Barn that we will have forever, but when your live becomes about just acquiring stuff, well, what's the point? Relationships matter. People matter. Stuff is just stuff you have to dust.

Tracey said...

It is so funny that you posted this today because I was thinking something very simlar on the way home this afternoon. There is a song that I was listening, I'm not sure of the name, but it talks about my "world of 1" and how we are so self centered and don't pay attention to those around us in need. And we give, but we don't truly make a sacrifice. I am very, very, very blessed. Beyond what many people know. I have a home, a family, food everyday, money in the bank, a car to drive, medical insurance and access to quality care. So many in our country and elsewhere do not have even half of these things. And yet, there is always that desire for more. I too am working on being happy with what I have instead of always trying to acquire more and more.

S.Wise said...

here's to a second: "Amen Sister!"

Jodee said...

You go girl! I couldn't agree more! The grass is always greener on the other side!

Tammy said...

I very much appreciate this post! My husband and I attend a church that is made up of some very wealthy people (my husband is actually on staff there), but we are anything but wealthy. They are always having gatherings of sorts and I'm always terrified someone will suggest our house as a gathering place... The thought that they might see how little we have, or how our furnishings aren't from PB, or how old our carpets are has mortified me in the past. I appreciate the reminder that God doesn't measure us by those things, and that I can hold my head up when I start using the measuring stick that matters - relationships, love, and generosity... Thanks for the reality check!


The Gang's Momma! said...

I hear ya girl. I am so there. Stuff is just stuff at the end of the day.

I am moving into a heightened focus on what I can strip from my life - my family is quaking! - in order for my space to more accurately reflect my passion. In fact, in the direction we're heading, I think I'll be keeping Craigs' List very busy in the coming months. I just don't want to sit in my home, knowing I have STUFF, when I could have INVESTMENTS in the Kingdom instead. I keep asking myself, "To what degree is my STUFF holding back my INVESTMENTS?"

You should check out my post on the Jamie Lee Curtis article in Good Housekeeping - I linked to it a while back.... It's got my wheels a'turnin!