It is still fresh in my memory, the time when my daughters were growing up. We were shopping crazy until the very last moment, and it still didn’t “feel” enough. Toys, clothing, books (yes, we still read good old fashion books in a paper format) more toys, more of this and that…
Looking back, I confess that perhaps, in those times I thought this was how I could buy my daughters’ love… or may be I was subconsciously making up for growing up in communist Romania, where Christmas celebrations were either low key, or non-existent but we were allowed to celebrate The New Year and still had a Tree and presents. In truth, a PRESENT. In those days, getting one toy and having the luxury to eat bananas, was enough.
But this was not communist Romania, this was America, the land of plenty and I was integrating, plainly said, doing what the vast majority of us does: BUYING INDISCRIMINATELY.
Whatever the combination of psychological reasons, just wrapping up our daughters’ the presents was taking us hours, and with the awareness of today, I wonder how many trees we helped destroy unknowingly…
The feelings I recall having in those times, when my kids were growing up in America, were of panic… anxiety that it was not enough. It seemed that the measure of love was how much STUFF we were able to place under the Christmas Tree. There was also a “high,” I was experiencing when getting all the stuff, and an even “higher high,” watching my girls unwrap the presents. Some were immediate favorites, others were thrown in a corner and forgotten. Today I would take those less fortunate toys and donate them to a shelter, but in the years of my youth I lacked such wisdom, so, the “stuff” was stored in the basement, and when the basement overflew with unnecessary objects, I started to use the barn in the back of our yard…
Years went by, and after twenty years, our marriage was about to end up in divorce. Divorce, like cancer or suicide are events which in my opinion are so painful to even think about, that as normal human beings, out of a need to protect ourselves, as a coping mechanism, we refuse to believe they could happen to US. If and when they happen, it is a shock. No matter how much our logical minds know all along that over 50% of marriages end up in divorce, that a suicide is completed every 14 minutes in the U.S. and people die of cancer, it is hard to believe any of such events could be close to our home.
Yet, here I was, in the mist of the “stuff” accumulated over a period of 20 years, trying to clean the house, no longer our home, before settlement, before the new owners came to inspected their new home. Yes, we sold the house and it all needed to be removed, memories of good and bad times illustrated by the accumulation of things.
At the beginning of the cleaning process, I tried to discriminate, to determine what was worthy of moving with us and what needed to be thrown away. Suddenly, I realized that more than half the things we have accumulated over the years were not necessary for anything, except the impulse and the greed of the moment to HAVE MORE of this or that!
That feeling of desperation is still with me. The moment when I realized that I was running out of time and the mountains of broken plastic toys were still spread allover, and I no longer had the time to sort them out. Things which at the time of purchase had meaning, brought joy and I thought of them as being necessary, suddenly transformed into disposable “stuff.” I started shaving everything in big, extra strength plastic bags. One, two, three, four bags… By the time I was finished placing the trash on our ex-front lawn for the township pick up in the morning, the entire fresh, well-maintained lawn was covered by ugly black plastic bags! An ocean of stuff put in a hurry in impersonal black bags. I stopped counting at 53! Our life of 20 years summed up, ready for pick up and taken somewhere, in a place I’d never know. What I do know, and am ashamed of, is how I contributed to polluting our Earth and how useless the “stuff” turned out to be.
Since our divorce and the sale of the house, many years ago, each time I am tempted to buy an object, I close my eyes, take a deep breathe and instantly in my mind’s eyes I SEE the ocean of black ugly bags filled with the unnecessary “stuff” of a broken relationship and the pain and confusion that accompanied it. This image alone, is sufficient to make me put back the “stuff,” and instead offer gifts of my heart, presents that could be used. It could be baking a loaf of bread, offering a necessary service, such as a hair-cut or simply writing a note showing love and appreciation.
The lesson I learned is that who truly loves me, appreciates the part of my soul that goes into the simple gifts of life.
If there are people in one’s life who measure love by the amount of “stuff” they receive, it is one’s choice to stay with the big black trash bags or not.