Sunday, September 14, 2008

You Can't Take It With You

by Cassondra Murray

But if you could.....what would it be?

Let me back up just a bit....

Eight years ago we bought a house that was built in 1849. (I hear some of you groaning as you read this.)

Since we bought the house we've gutted most of it, (yes, old house lovers, we've preserved all we could of the original everything) moved some walls around (only in the new part though--the part that was built in 1900.) replumbed, rewired, re-kitchened, and almost everything else you can do to a house. We even jacked up the house, dug and poured footers, built a real foundation under it, and set the house back down on the real foundation. Before we bought it, the house had set, for 151 years, on pillars of stacked-up rocks.

And yes, WE, as in just my husband and me and whoever we could bribe with pizza, did all of this work.

Then we got tired. We hit a wall--a metaphoric wall--in this old house. We hit the end of our energy. And we stopped. We've had a bit of trouble getting going again.

Though we're not nearly done, we accomplished a lot before we hit the wall. We took the house from having big holes where the windows and doors should be (we moved those, or enlarged them) with all of the ceilings torn out, interior walls down to the studs, and no water or power, to a liveable structure. We live in it now. We've lived in it since early 2002.

What we have NOT accomplished yet is the creation of functional closets.

Two people, both creative, both with hobbies (and LOTS of paper) living in a house with no closets.

Oh, and there's a cat or two in here with us.

Can I just say that old-fashioned, furniture-style wardrobes go only so far?

Recently I've been trying, and failing, to clear stuff out. PILES of it. I need a certain level of Zen to be mentally healthy, and let me tell you, that level of Zen was breached a long time ago.

First my grandmother's house got sold. Guess what I got?

That's right. Stuff.

Then my Mother In Law passed away after a long illness.

Yup. More stuff.

The garage (not attached) is full. The henhouse (chickens have all gone to the Great Henhouse In The Sky) is full.

And the house is full.

The other night, as I lay on the couch with my husband, and stared at the glossy white beadboard ceiling (it's the only space in the house not piled up with STUFF) with the insulation poking through the hole where the ceiling fan should be, a couple of songs were running through my head--ones I'd heard on the car radio that day. One was a Brad Paisley song called "A Letter To Me."

You can hear "A Letter To Me" here if you want to see and hear. It's a cool video.

The other was a Tim McGraw song called Live Like You Were Dying.



Those songs melded with my wish for space and less stuff, and a question popped out, along with a heavy sigh.

What if I had to get rid of it? All of it? Almost.

That almost is what I'm after.

What if I knew that I had only three months remaining here, and I had to put my affairs in order, and get rid of everything EXCEPT a small cedar chest full of stuff? What would I keep?

You can't take it with you, but what if you could?

Let's suspend disbelief here for just a moment.

What if, when we die--or cross to another dimension, or go on to the next life, or whatever it is you believe we DO when we are no longer here, in these bodies--we were given the choice to take something with us....whether it's one significant item, or, let's say, a small chest of stuff of our choosing?

What would I take?

I've considered this at length, and I'm having trouble.

A picture of my dad? My scrapbooks--the visual record of my life? My manuscripts? Songs I've written? Chocolate, in case I am unfortunate enough to come back in a world where there isn't any?

My journals?

This is the big one. What about your journals? Your diaries?

I have bound notebooks going back about seventeen years--a page or two a day in longhand at most, with gaps of time in between when I didn't journal. Some of it angry, some of it heart-wrenching in its description of the emotional pain I was in at a given time. Some of it full of "I will never again...", some "I wish I hads." Incomplete perhaps, but there they are.

My guts. My pain. My joy. My life lessons.....my potential "letter to me" right there, all in thin, bound journals.

Should I take them? Would you?

The potentially good thing about dying is that it might allow us to "start over." Whether in Heaven, another life here, or some other existance. Fresh. New. No baggage.

And no wisdom.

And that's the trouble. If I take the journals, I get the wisdom. I get to know what I'd do differently and what I'd do the same. The proverbial "life instruction manual"--at least, for the person I was in THIS life.

But I also get the baggage and the pain of knowing the difficult times I went through here, in this life, as Cassondra. There's no way to separate it.

You know that saying..."Would you go back to being 21 again?" Most of us would say, "Not unless I can take my 40-year-old brain!"

Pretend for a moment, that when you die, you get to go to Rivendell. To be with the elves, the way Frodo and Bilboa Baggins did when they grew old or weary. You get to go and start over, in a brand new life. You can take a small chest with you. In it, you can place whatever you choose NOW, to help you along in your life THEN.

Would you do it?




What, in this life, can you not live without? What could you give up and maybe be better off? Could you, as I wish to, travel lighter, and perhaps live more fully?
If you knew that three months from now you were going to "poof" out of this dimension and into that one, you would be brand new again and wouldn't remember ANYTHING, what would you do?

Would you take something with you from this one?

Would you want to know who you were here? What you accomplished? Who you loved?

Would you want to know what you'd do differently, and what you'd do all over again? To learn from this life's mistakes?

Or would you want to take your chances with the world and all it throws at you--with no instruction book--no hints at all--just like you did this time?

63 comments:

Kirsten said...

Where is everyone? Out packing their trunks?

I, for one, would leave the trunk behind. If I'm going to a better place, I don't think I need the stuff with me. I can't bear to think of not being with my husband and kids, so I am going to ASSUME they are with me, and who needs pictures when you've got the real things? And really, everything else is gravy. The family is where it's at.

I'm just not a stuff person. I've always wanted to live so that if the house burned down tomorrow, I wouldn't be devastated, and I think I do.

I hope they have computers on the other side, though. I really really hope they do. ;-)

Cassondra said...

WOOOOOT Kirsten on the GR! Whatcha gonna do together for the next 24 hours? ;0)

Kirsten said:

I'm just not a stuff person. I've always wanted to live so that if the house burned down tomorrow, I wouldn't be devastated, and I think I do.

THIS is what I'm after. And funny you should say that, because today I took two oak shaker-back bar stools to a family across town whose house burned down last week. They lost EVERYTHING. Insurance may not pay them a dime. But they and their kids were not at home when the fire started, and all are safe.

They're starting from scratch to get the things they need, and LORD that would be painful, but the important things are safe.

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Kirsten.

I still have most of my school papers and books that I probably won't use. My trunk would be filled with pictures, letters, cards and gifts that I received from family and friends. I don't think I would want to leave the trunk behind. I want to take it all with me, especially my memory and knowledge of everything I've learned.

Cassondra said...

jane said:

My trunk would be filled with pictures, letters, cards and gifts that I received from family and friends.

It would be something else, wouldn't it, to see evidence of all the love you had in this life--and all the people you'd touched, even if you couldn't remember them specifically. What a boost that would be!

I don't know that I would want to take it all, but it would be tempting to try for a little of the wisdom of years.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Kirsten, a while since the GR has visited you, isn't it? Have a great day with him!

Cassondra, what a thought-provoking post. I never used to be a 'stuff' person, although there were always a couple of treasures I'd drag out of a burning building. In recent years, though, I seem to have accumulated a lot of STUFF, a lot of it inherited. It does tied you down, doesn't it, no matter how lovely each piece is individually! Not sure what I'd want to take with me - definitely the books I've written. Too much heart and soul went into those for me to want to leave them behind! That poor family you know - as you say, at least they're safe, but how tough are things going to be for them? Ack!

Carol said...

Kirsten I hope the Rooster has good time at your house ...some birds don't have a long life!

Just in case there is a place...or I'm reborn or something!!
Can I take a modern Medical kit, with instructions and have myself innoculated against every thing possible,
ie Hep-abcdef /polio/tetnus/ mengiaccocal/diptheria... you get the picture!
and a pic of DH/DD/DSon...
Oh and a warm coat, I don't want to be cold!
Cheers Carol

Suzanne Welsh said...

Morning Kirsten...you do get the GR today!

Cassondra, what a thought provoking post as always. I have to tell you first that I love that Tim McGraw song. I get tears everytime I hear it, but this was the first time I saw the video...and his dad pitching in it! Yep, full-blown-tears-down-the-cheek moment here!

What would I pack in my trunk? I'd pack the bracelet my dad made me while I was in nursing school. It was made out of nuclear grade carbine steel that he welded together on his lunch breaks while helping build a nuclear power plant in the 1970's. Is that why it's special to me...no. It's because my father had never, ever, in my whole life bought me a present just from him...and this one present....he MADE for me and one for my sister.

I'd take the minature nursing laminated nursing school diploma that is in my wallet. Why? Because I worked hard to get it, and continue to work hard to be the best nurse I can be...to honor all those nurses who've come before me...and all those I've taught.

My wedding rings and a poem my husband wrote me. One shows my committment to him, the other, his love for me.

My scrapbooks filled with pictures of my family, both my pre kids family and especially my with kids and grandkids books...Simply, because I love the memories all those pictures and thoughts inside them...the love and happiness. I'd also take along some pictures of my writing friends in Dallas and the Bandits...coz I love y'all!

Helen said...

Well done Kirsten

Cassondra what a wonderful post very thought provoking I would have to take photos and special things from my family I would find it very hard to decide what to take I really am a horder so to speak never know when you might need something.
Honestly would be very hard I am going to have to think

Have Fun
Helen

Marisa O'Neill said...

Good morning Cassondra - what a great post! Ok, first, no closets? one word... YIKES!

I was just thinking similar thoughts the other day as I was cleaning my house and wishing for a maid - why do I have all this stuff? Half of it I haven't used in a year. I'm also the kind of person who regularly goes through my 'things' and purges. It's a good feeling to purge and rid my self of stuff I haven't used in a year, it makes my 'world' lighter.

And If I had a choice - right before I was sucked into an alternate dimension - of what I would bring with me - I think I would choose the people I love and sweedish fish.

Deb Marlowe said...

Congrats, Kirsten! Are you going to put the GR to work?

Great post, Cassondra! Sympathy on the no closets. How do you do it?

Man, I really hope we get to take the wisdom we've picked up along the way, and the love we've shared over a lifetime. That's what it's all about, to me.

But Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk would be nice, too. :-)

jo robertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jo robertson said...

Very thought-provoking post, Cassondra, and as always, beautifully expressed.

LOL, Kirsten, everyone else may be packing her trunks, but I'll bet Tawny's making a list first. Hmmm, maybe Tawny would take only her LIST. That's not such a bad idea.

But I'm like you, Kirsten, I'm not a "stuff" person and there isn't really anything material that I'd be devastated to lose. But if I'm without my memories, then maybe I'd take my wedding ring.

Just because.

Buffie said...

Wow, we are going deep for a Monday morning!

I try not to be a stuff person, but it is so hard to do when kids. I want to keep quite a bit of their stuff from school. Memories in a box, if you will. My husband shakes his head at me, but the man can't say anything because last year we cleaned out the attic and found where he had kept the wrapping paper from gifts I had given him when we were dating, and that was 20 years ago! I think the reason I want to keep the kids stuff is to hold on to them as a child. They will be grown and out of our house before I turn around.

I think I would only take my love ones with me. Just like someone else said, why take pictures and stuff when you can have the real thing.

Buffie said...

Marisa -- LOL at the swedish fish!

Kirsten said...

Hey Carol, how did you know I've got fried chicken on the menu for dinner tonight? ;-) Very practical list, BTW! If I'm going to Rivendale, I hope some of those elves can keep me warm, cause I forgot the coat!

Suz, that is such a great list of things to bring. I think my list would be longer if I didn't lose things all the time. LOL. My philosophy re. stuff is really just a coping mechanism for dealing with my completely inability not to lose things -- even very precious things. That bracelet your dad made sounds just amazing.

Marisa, I love the swedish fish idea! I never thought about all those tastes I'd miss. Hmm. Now I need to think about filling my trunk with coffee.

Deb, the GR is hard at work on the WIP even as we speak. I'm just hoping he'll be good at dialogue. I'll let you know.

Jo, you got me on the wedding ring. I think I would have to bring my engagement ring. My wedding ring is a plain gold band that cost about $30 -- my husband and I both tend to lose things, so we didn't want to get anything too fancy there! But my engagement ring is special -- no diamond (I'm not really a diamond gal) but a gorgeous opal flat set into a simple setting that my husband scraped and scraped to save enough to buy. It's unique and beautiful and means so much to me. I think it will have to come to the other side. :-)

Louisa Cornell said...

Hey, if the GR does a good job on your WIP, Kirsten, let me know! I could always use some help!

Wow, Cassondra, that's a tough one.

I would definitely want to take everything I have learned in my almost 50 years. I worked to hard and took too many bumps and bruises along the way not to take it with me!

I would want my family with me and that includes my pets. I would want all of my friends with me, especially my CPs and writing friends. I don't care where I'm going, but I will be writing and I will want to have a good time!

For me the stuff I would take would be all of my photos, scrapbooks, postcard albums and photo albums. The record of my life. And I would take my manuscripts and my WIPs. Like La Campbell, I have put too much in them not to take them.

My wedding rings and my letters from my DH and my letters to him. They are a real comfort to me now so I would want them with me. AND my first edition Byron that my DH bought me.

I think I need a bigger trunk!

Amy Andrews said...

Okay too deep for me Cassondra. I think maybe because I'm one of the only nurses I know that still gets totally creeped out by death. Most of the people I owrk with are kind of Zen about it - me? Nuh!

Also I guess becasue I don't believe we go anywhere after we die - we just go phht! And if I were to be sucked in another dimension I dont think I could bear having the memories of this life and not be able to have the tangibles - my kids hugs, my husbands smile, my sisters laugh - so I guess I'd rather go memory less.
Oh boy - this is giving me the heebie jeebies!!!

But thanks for the songs - love Letter To Me. Imagine going somewhere there was no Brad???

M. said...

I am charmed by the image of a henhouse full of books.

It reminds me of the first page of "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith, when she reflects on how she wrote her best poem sitting on the henhouse.

Cassondra, your house and its adventures sound like a marvelous setting for a novel.

Susan Seyfarth said...

Cassondra, you are a marvel. I read your posts & every time I think, "Damn. Wish I had written that."

Because I lay awake last night thinking about all the walls in my house that need moving, all the electricial outlets that need to be put in more convenient locations & how awesome it would be to tear down the nasty, dated, floor to ceiling rock fireplace & put in granite.

And then I thought about built in bookshelves & window seats for all my stuff.

And then I read Kirsten's post & realized that I'm a slave to my junk. The thought of leaving it all behind & starting again gives me a huge rush of happiness. :-)

So I think I'll leave it all behind. Maybe I'll take a romance novel in case there's a waiting room in the great beyond, but otherwise, if my family's waiting for me on the other side, I'm good.

But you have my enduring admiration for what you've done with your own hands in your house. Can you come over? I need help with the fireplace. And the kitchen. And the window seat. And the deck...

terrio said...

Like Kirsten, I'm not a stuff person. Which is why I'm totally amazed I've managed to accumulate so much stuff in three short years. When I moved to the coast from Arkansas, I brought very little. Not even furniture. But three years after moving into my apartment, I have more stuff than anyone needs. How does that happen?

If I knew I was going and would be starting over with nothing, I'd take only one thing. A picture of my daughter. Even if I have no idea when I get there who she is, I'll still keep it with me. Other than that, I'd leave everything behind.

Great topic, Cassondra. But I almost think a better Brad song for this blog would be "When I Get Where I'm Going." *G*

Donna MacMeans said...

Cassondra - What a great post!

So you'd have no memory of the person you were in the previous life? Well heck, all the sentimental stuff wouldn't mean much then, would it? I'd take my books because memory or not, I can always enjoy a good read.

The house next door to mine burned to the ground before our house was built. The family there lost everything. Insurance replaced the necessities, but all the family photos & scrapbooks were gone. Heirlooms, kid's school projects, everything that can not be replaced - gone. She said she now keeps the new sentimental things in a safety deposit box - not the traditional valuables, but the really important "this is life" stuff. I guess that's kind of like your trunk.

Cassondra said...

Anna Cambell said:

It does tied you down, doesn't it, no matter how lovely each piece is individually! Not sure what I'd want to take with me - definitely the books I've written. Too much heart and soul went into those for me to want to leave them behind!

It DOES tie you down I think. I don't know why we do it--and I think you've nailed one of the roots of the problem. The pit we fall into is the appreciation of each piece. It's hard to get rid of something that's functional and beautiful and that you like or love. I've adopted the "It's beautiful and functional, but there is no place right now for it to fit into my life" mantra.

But it's that "right now" part that I have a hard time with. Involved in an ongoing project, I have a lot of stuff stored that has a purpose when we move on with the rest of the house--but in the meantime, it takes a lot of energy to store stuff.

That's energy I really need to live and love and WRITE, ya know?

I think the books, songs and poems I've written will have to go into the chest as well. Otherwise, the work of a soul will be lost. And if I don't have memories, then that's one way that I can learn something about who I was ya know? The work tells.

Cassondra said...

Carol said:

Can I take a modern Medical kit, with instructions and have myself innoculated against every thing possible,
ie Hep-abcdef /polio/tetnus/ mengiaccocal/diptheria... you get the picture!
and a pic of DH/DD/DSon...
Oh and a warm coat, I don't want to be cold!


Whoa! Interesting thought--that we could come back in a place more primitive than our own with medicine and stuff--of course, they'd probably have DIFFERENT diseases, so all the shots and stuff...well...we can only do what we can do, right?

I did think, when I thought about the chocolate--that really, I should pack it with food in case I came back as a Klingon. Did y'all see that episode of Star Trek and see what they eat? Ew!

And a coat--now that's a good idea!

Cassondra said...

Suz said:

my father had never, ever, in my whole life bought me a present just from him...and this one present....he MADE for me and one for my sister.

Oh, Suz. That would be my most treasured possession. I want to see that bracelet. You have to bring it next year to D.C.

I love this list you have. You'd have a picture of your life here as best you could compile it. That's very cool.

Cassondra said...

Helen said:

I would find it very hard to decide what to take I really am a hoarder so to speak never know when you might need something.

*Sigh* This is our downfall isn't it, Helen? This..."never know when you might need something." Especially when it's something perfectly good. I grew up in a family of hoarders--depression era folks who kept wire ties and string. I'm not that bad, but I have this love for old things--antiques, especially primitive ones--and get this "oh I know where that would be perfect on the porch rail"--but the porch doesn't have a rail yet, ya know?

*sigh*

Cassondra said...

Oh, and I forgot to say...the WHOLE HOUSE feels lighter and more "free" energetically since those bar stools are gone. I never wanted those things.

They were gorgeous, solid oak, shaker-back, swivelling bar stools. Probably cost $300 each. A friend moved and offered them to us and my husband brought them home and I remember thinking, "Oh. I don't really want those." But what do you do? Toss them at the edge of the road?

There's too much of the conservationist in me to toss out functional things. And the trips to Goodwill or the Salvation Army don't get made nearly often enough--time to clean/load/drop off/get receipt, etc.

My philosophy is that if I don't absolutely love or want it, I should not let it in my house. LIVING by that, though, is a more difficult matter. And once it's in, it's HARD to get OUT. It's like it sticks or something. :0/

Cassondra said...

Marisa said:

I'm also the kind of person who regularly goes through my 'things' and purges. It's a good feeling to purge and rid my self of stuff I haven't used in a year, it makes my 'world' lighter.

That's EXACTLY how it feels to get stuff cleared out. My soul gets cleared right along with it!

I think I would choose the people I love and sweedish fish.

Okay, the people I love--I get that. But Swedish Fish? Is there a story here? Tell.

Cassondra said...

Deb Marlowe said:

Man, I really hope we get to take the wisdom we've picked up along the way, and the love we've shared over a lifetime.

This is what I want, Deb. I mean, I'm gonna make mistakes of course--but it would be nice to make DIFFERENT ones--having learned from the ones I made this time around--and maybe be the better for it ya know?

Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk would be nice, too. :-)


Oh, YEAH. Note to self: Install refrigeration unit in cedar chest.

Cassondra said...

Jo said:

But if I'm without my memories, then maybe I'd take my wedding ring.

Just because.


Wow. Imagine being there, opening the chest, and finding a wedding ring. You'd KNOW it must have deep meaning for you, because of all things in life, you chose that to bring. If I opened my chest and found a ring like that, I think I'd wear it all the time. As a connection to the good things about who I was.

Cassondra said...

buffie said:

Wow, we are going deep for a Monday morning!

Sorry about that y'all. Really, you see, we were going deep for the middle of a Sunday night. That's the trouble with us night owls. We get all deep and stuff in the darkness, then when we wake up it's (smack head) WHAT was I thinking sheesh!

Memories in a box....I think the reason I want to keep the kids stuff is to hold on to them as a child.

This is exactly it I think. In holding on to a THING, it feels as though we can maintain a stronger contact with the memory of it in that moment. I don't think that actually works, but it's an awful tempation.

And as to the 20-year-old wrapping paper....(sigh)...I have some of that. Small bits I intend to scapbook with (I have SO much time to scrapbook ya know?) and I limit myself--all of his memorabilia in one plastic tub--and all of mine in one plastic tub. Otherwise it just gets overwhelming.

Cassondra said...

Kirsten said:

But my engagement ring is special -- no diamond (I'm not really a diamond gal) but a gorgeous opal flat set into a simple setting that my husband scraped and scraped to save enough to buy. It's unique and beautiful and means so much to me. I think it will have to come to the other side. :-)

Oh, that sounds BEAUTIFUL! I think I'd have to bring that too--not only because of its beauty, but because of all the little "knowing one another" things that went into it.

And I love opals. They MAY be my favorite gem. That's the first jewelry my husband got for me when we were dating too--an opal ring. My body energy cracks them though--can't wear a watch against my skin, and can't find an opal that I can keep whole. :0/

Cassondra said...

Louisa said:

I think I need a bigger trunk!

LOL! That's what I was thinking as I read your list! And that's the trouble you know...

But your wanting to take the stuff you've LEARNED--that's what I want. I want the accumulated wisdom of years. But the trouble for me is how to start fresh with just the wisdom but without the baggage. Ah well. Good thing this is hypothetical. ;0)


I don't care where I'm going, but I will be writing and I will want to have a good time!


I LOVE THIS! Maybe that's all you need to take with you--that attitude and knowing yourself that well. If I were you, I think I'd have to take some kind of recording of me singing. But then...who knows if they'll have a CD player there????

Wouldn't that just be rotten? To go to all the trouble to make and pack a CD of yourself singing at the height of your talent, and wake up to find there's no technology to play it, nobody knows what it is, and now it's hanging from a leather string in a tree with everybody worshipping it or something.

I think I'm beginning to see why "you can't take it with you" is much simpler. :0/

Cassondra said...

Amy Andrews said:

And if I were to be sucked in another dimension I dont think I could bear having the memories of this life and not be able to have the tangibles - my kids hugs, my husbands smile, my sisters laugh - so I guess I'd rather go memory less.
Oh boy - this is giving me the heebie jeebies!!!


I'm thinking this is a good way to look at it. To have the memories without being able to touch the people would be hard. I'd choose no memory too.

Sorry about the heebie jeebies! And I can see how most nurses get very Zen about death. I think you'd have to in order to be okay with it. I don't know how you do that amazing work and see it all the time if it creeps you out.

For this exercise, we'll just say we're going to "poof" there. ;0)

Cassondra said...

m. said:

I am charmed by the image of a henhouse full of books.

It reminds me of the first page of "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith, when she reflects on how she wrote her best poem sitting on the henhouse.


HA! I WISH the henhouse were full of only books. Unfortunately it's everything else.

I have, however, written while sitting in the henhouse--when it was full of chickens. I love the sounds they make. Very soothing. And it was, in fact, poetry if I remember correctly.

Cassondra said...

Susan said:

And then I read Kirsten's post & realized that I'm a slave to my junk. The thought of leaving it all behind & starting again gives me a huge rush of happiness. :-)

I sometimes have this reaction too! I said last week that if I were not afraid I'd burn something really important--like the mortgage--I'd dump all this paper in a big box and take it out to the fire pit and toss in a lighted match. Just get rid of it and start over!

And I do the same thing you do about the house....lie awake thinking about the extension cords snaking from room to room (some rooms still need more outlets) and the windows that still need redoing and the siding that needs putting on the back of the house and...

Okay I'm obsessing again. Gotta stop. Ready to poof now. WITHOUT all this work hanging over my head. Whew.

flchen1 said...

Zowie, Cassondra. I'm a packrat and I'd be hard pressed if I had to fit all I wanted to keep into a trunk... Aside from loved ones (I'm assuming they don't have to fit), I'd keep journals, photo albums, and the hard drive (with a gazillion more photos on it), plus however many keepers from my bookshelf would fit :) Maybe one or two teeny baby outfits, just for yuks...

Congrats on the GR, Kirsten!

Cassondra said...

Terrio said:

But three years after moving into my apartment, I have more stuff than anyone needs. How does that happen?

I dunno. It's like, "if you build it, stuff will come." Or something. It's some sort of phenomenon like gravity--but we haven't explained it scientifically yet.

If I knew I was going and would be starting over with nothing, I'd take only one thing. A picture of my daughter. Even if I have no idea when I get there who she is, I'll still keep it with me. Other than that, I'd leave everything behind.

I love this. You would open your small chest, and there, wrapped in tissue or in a frame, would be a picture of a little girl. You wouldn't know who she was, but you'd know she MUST have been important to you.

You could write yourself a note to accompany the picture...."Whoever you are now, you won't remember, but this was your daughter--your most amazing accomplishment, and the thing that mattered most to you. She was perfect."

No baggage about what wasn't...just a touch across time of something incredible that WAS.

Cassondra said...

Donna said:

So you'd have no memory of the person you were in the previous life? Well heck, all the sentimental stuff wouldn't mean much then, would it? I'd take my books because memory or not, I can always enjoy a good read.

That's just it. With no memory of the previous life, you get a fresh start. No sentimental stuff--no baggage.

But you'd take your books and you COULD write yourself a note--"You won't remember, but you wrote these books. You were famous and talented and you made people laugh and cry and FEEL with what you wrote."

Wouldn't that be something to open?

That's what I meant by "If I could write a letter to me"--only not when I was younger, but for the young person I would be the next time--wherever and whatever that means.

Seems to me that the art a person creates would be a view into the soul. And since it's really the same "soul" wherever you are, it should resonate, shouldn't it?

Okay this is way too deep. Somebody tell a joke!

FO! WHERE ARE YOU WITH THE PUNS?

Oh, she's in the writing cave. Dang.

Cassondra said...

flchen said:

I'm a packrat and I'd be hard pressed if I had to fit all I wanted to keep into a trunk

Ha! She's outed herself! Right here in the lair! She's one of us!

Okay. I have those tendencies, but I'm fighting them hard. And having no closets is helping me in the fight.

But my husband is a packrat of the WORST sort. He's getting over it too if I have to kill him to get him over it.

Note to self: Order flchen a bigger trunk. MUCH bigger. ;0)

p226 said...

I don't care about material possessions. At all. Not my firearms, not my bike, not my car, nothing in my closets, nothing in my dressers, nothing hanging on the walls, none of it. If it all disappeared in a fire tomorrow, life would go on. Lack of those possessions would represent little more than an inconvenience.

I do care about my wife and son though. So it's not *what* I'd want to take with me, but *whom.*

Though... there is one item. There's a watch. A colorful swatch watch circa 1986 or so. My father has it. He's had it for years and I did not know. One day, I walked into his "study" and there it was hanging from it's band on a nail in the door frame. When I saw it, I stopped cold. Transported backwards in time nearly twenty years. It was a Christmas gift to her from me way back when. And my father had been the first responder on the scene. He said once that it was the hardest day of his life. He said it was like losing a daughter. And at some point between the asphalt and the ambulance, he had slipped my gift from her lifeless wrist. No one had known this but him.

And there I was, frozen in shock at the sight of this watch hanging from its nail. Dad apparently noticed the shock on my face as I stared.

"Yeah. I keep that there as a reminder that life's too short to get hung up on stupid shit."

I just blinked. My dad is far from the world's best dad. But maybe two or three times in my life he's dropped a little nugget of wisdom with actual value. And let me tell you, that was a valuable lesson. And when I go, I need to take that watch with me. I need to carry the lesson that it represents. That life is too short. To never take those you love for granted.

Cassondra said...

P226 said:

And when I go, I need to take that watch with me. I need to carry the lesson that it represents. That life is too short. To never take those you love for granted.

Wow. This is exactly what I mean. It's the wisdom that I want to take. And the only things I'd want to take are those things that would do exactly what that watch does for you. Be a teacher.

Assuming nothing at all except what's in the trunk will go with us, there'll be no memories of the girl the watch belonged to, or the boy who gave her the gift. But if the lesson could be transported, THAT would be of real value I think.

A lot of people are very old before they recognize what that watch has to teach.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Cassondra said:

Oh, and I forgot to say...the WHOLE HOUSE feels lighter and more "free" energetically since those bar stools are gone. I never wanted those things.


I have to tell y'all the story about my uncle. He's in a nursing home now and my parents have had the job of cleaning out his home to get it ready to sell. His wife passed away years ago, but before that she inherited her entire family's estate...including antiques. Then she and he were both rather eccentric horders, which only became worse when he lived alone. He'd go to Sam's club and buy things...like entire racks of men's short sleeved button up shirts, in every size.

So when Mom and Dad went to his house they found his two car garage packed with this stuff. What to do? Well every week for months, they'd pile these brand spanking new shirts, pants and shoes into the back of the car...stuffed the car actually, and Mom would take them with her to the local homeless shelter where she helped serve lunch with her church.

So one day at the start of the school year, this lady comes up to Mom and tells her, "I have four sons in highschool, and they all wear men's size clothes. I didn't know how I was going to dress them for school year, but now they all have brand new clothes."

So, if the stuff isn't being used by you...the good karma is to give it to someone else!!

Cassondra said...

Suz said:

So, if the stuff isn't being used by you...the good karma is to give it to someone else!!

This is what I think too. And what a cool thing your mom and dad did with all that stuff--finding a wonderful use for it--people who needed it.

It was really like some kind of divine thing with the bar stools. A co-worker of mine said, "does anyone know of any bar stools available for a family who lost everything in a fire?"

My hand shot up about 900 miles an hour. We just had to determine that she needed counter-height stools and not "table-height" stools, and they were outa here!

I don't envy your parents the job of going through the stuff though. We helped a friend do that last summer when she inherited the estate of an eccentric physics professor. It was AWFUL. It did get my husband to say, afterward, "I don't ever want anyone to have to do that for me when I'm gone." He's been getting rid of stuff ever since!

Cassondra said...

Oh, and Suz, so glad you're safe and well there in Texas.

Nothing like a monster hurricane to put things into perspective on what's important and what isn't.

I'm actually surprised you have power already.

Suzanne Welsh said...

As far as I know all the power in the Dallas/Fort Worth area stayed on. East of us, especially near Tyler and south to the coast was another matter.

Anna Campbell said...

OK, OK! I heard there was a pun emergency in the lair so I stuck my head out of the deadline cave to come to the rescue. I'm a trained punamedic!

The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy says the only thing you need to take is a towel. Something in that, I think. There are many things one can do with a towel! Especially if one visits Towelouse in France or Towelsa in Oklahoma (?). Imagine being 24 hours from Towelsa and not being able to get dry after a shower! One would look all towel-selled.

OK, OK, breathe deeply, Fo. Back to your cave and torturing your characters! Up, up and awaaaaaay!

p226 said...

Thanks, AC. Thank you for the strange looks I'm getting from my coworkers as I bang my head on my desk.

Terry Odell said...

On a totally realistic level, we're going to be facing retirement in the not-too-distant future. (I'd be ready today if we could afford it!). Every time I walk through my house, open a closet or look at a shelf, I ask myself, "would this stay or go?"

I think what I'd want to take would be the things that hold the memories. (Or is it because I want to start fresh with all new clothes, furniture and kitchen stuff?!)

So, we'll probably end up carrying all the bric-a-brac we've collected over the 4 decades of our marriage. I remember when we moved into this house about 20 years ago, and it had cathedral ceilings and vast empty wall spaces. I went to Pier One and bought tons of cheap baskets, etc. and covered the walls. One by one, as we traveled, or our kids traveled, or my parents traveled, we replaced the original wall decor with items of special meaning. I would hate to leave those behind.

flchen1 said...

Cassondra, I applaud you in your fight, and hope that some of that rubs off on me! My husband's not a packrat, and this is probably the one big conflict in our marriage that keeps on giving. Argh!

Helen said...

Cassondra
I forot to tell you how wonderful the house must be and when you get the enegy back and finish it, it is going to be one truly amazing place that will be so special because of all the love and effort that went into it.

I really should stop hording and have a big clean up but it all takes time but it is on my list of things to do!

Have Fun
Helen

Cassondra said...

Anna Campbell said:

There are many things one can do with a towel!


SNORK! Okay Anna you owe me a new laptop screen. Somehow I don't think these screens are meant to be spewed with coffee and wiped with a Panera napkin.

And see...that's EXACTLY what I need--a towel! Snork!

Actually there's some truth to that assertion in the Guide to the Galaxy. It's awful being stuck without a towel when you need one.

Hmmm...maybe I'll put a couple of rolls of toilet paper in my trunk to take with me. I mean..ya never know.

We have our own trained Punamedic in the lair!

Cassondra said...

Terry Odell said:

One by one, as we traveled, or our kids traveled, or my parents traveled, we replaced the original wall decor with items of special meaning. I would hate to leave those behind.

I don't blame you Terry. Those things are more valuable, in some ways, than any piece of furniture or electronic equipment. It sounds like you plan on downsizing when you retire? Or are you thinking metaphorically along with me when you say "would this stay or go?"

I, for one, would love cathedral ceilings and vast, empty spaces. They're calming to my soul. It's gotten to the point that when I go into TGI Friday's or one of the other sports bar/memorabilia bar places, I feel kind of closed in. It's so cluttered in there!

All my wall art is sitting on tables or leaned up against the walls--or still in the garage--unpacked. :0/ After this long I'm going to be very picky about what I hang on the walls I'll tell ya. If I've been without it this long, I figure I don't much need it.

Cassondra said...

P226 said:

Thank you for the strange looks I'm getting from my coworkers as I bang my head on my desk.

I'm picturing this and LOL!
She has that head banging effect when she gets going with the puns!

Cassondra said...

flchen1 said:

I applaud you in your fight, and hope that some of that rubs off on me!

Don't applaud too hard there flchen! I've got half a bookshelf full of books about clutter control. Now THERE's an oxymoron for you!

Hey, I could send these clutter-control books to YOU! Ha! Rub off on you--that'll work!

Cassondra said...

helen said:

really should stop hording and have a big clean up but it all takes time but it is on my list of things to do!

OH, it DOES take time doesn't it? That's actually one of the main things in my way at the moment. Time to do this--on top of everything else that needs doing...in there somewhere needs to be some writing ya know.

And thanks so much on the house, for the encouragement. I think it will be nice when we get it done. It's not fancy or anything, but like I said, my fettish is for the rustic and primitive, so we like it.

We live, as the crow flies, about two or three miles from the southernmost Shaker settlement, and experts have told us that Shakers quite likely built our house or at the least, did the woodwork on cabinet doors and fireplaces. There's a typical nailing pattern and design that they apparantly used, and our house is full of that.

Nancy said...

Cassondra, an interesting topic! I'm a book person, so leaving those would be tough. I do think I'd like to learn from the mistakes I made this go-around, though. Some of them were major, so why risk repeating? :-)

Kirsten, put that bird to work. I bet he could scrub floors with the right motivation.

Fedora and Cassondra, I also am a packrat. The dh is not, so he's hoping I'll get over it, but we're 21 years in with no progress he can spot, so the odds don't seem to be in his favor. Besides, as soon as I throw something away, an occasion arises on which it would have come in handy. If I still had it.

Anna Campbell said...

P226, you're most welcome. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! It's better towel loved and lost, than never towel loved at all!

flchen1 said...

Hey now, no need for that, Cassondra! I've got a stack of my own clutter-busting books! (Hmm... they don't seem to be doing the trick so far...)

Nancy, I'm sure my husband won't be encouraged to hear that ;) Congrats on 21+ years!

Cassondra said...

Nancy said:

Besides, as soon as I throw something away, an occasion arises on which it would have come in handy. If I still had it.

Oh, I hear you. But you know, I figure, I can get another one if I really need it. At least I'm trying to follow that philosophy.

And as to taking what you've learned, Amen. I've made some major blunders too, and would like the chance to see ahead of time what I would have done differently. Also, I've always been pretty good at watching other people's mistakes and avoiding those. So it makes sense to me that if I had a "letter to me" I might actually make use of it.

Cassondra said...

Anna Campbell said:

It's better towel loved and lost, than never towel loved at all!

SNORK! Fo is on a roll!

Cassondra said...

flchen said:

Hey now, no need for that, Cassondra! I've got a stack of my own clutter-busting books!

Rats. I thought I had a win-win solution there, darn it.

And I just think it's funny that to bust clutter, we go buy more "stuff."

When I was at the RWA conference I attended an amazing workshop by Eric Maisel (not sure I spelled his name right) and he has a ton of books out, and of course I wanted to immediately go to the conference bookstore and grab his book on creativity to help me write more. But I had the presence of mind to say, "what I really need to do is NOT read another book about how to write, but go home and WRITE." (I mean, I have an entire bookcase devoted to those books already ya know?)

A clutter triumph, no matter how small.

limecello said...

Ack - this is really tough. I'd like to take *stuff* with me - but then, starting anew (and going to Rivendell) has an appeal all it's own. I don't know what I'd take - books? Photos? A few small momentos?

Considering how indecisive I am, it could take a while, so maybe I'd be better of taking nothing.

Cassondra said...

limecello said:

starting anew (and going to Rivendell) has an appeal all it's own.

It does, doesn't it? I almost posted some artistic representations of Rivendell on the blog. It always looks so beautiful in paintings. Very idyllic. And of course, the hunky elves don't hurt either, do they?