I made the executive decision some time ago that I was going to sell all my earthly possessions in order to be unencumbered when I moved out West. In order to acquire experiences, I would purge my things. Also when I was working at North Star Academy back in the fall we had Native Americans as guest speakers to teach the children about their customs.
I have always been wildly fascinated and appreciative of Native American culture. I think it is so beautiful, poetic and speaks to the kind of life I would like to lead. So when the classroom of children (myself included) got to make friendship bracelets I was pretty jazzed. But here was the stipulation, the woman speaker told the class, these friendship bracelets had to be made with the intent of giving them away. Already I felt overly attached to this bracelet having only slid a few inexpensive plastic colored beads onto my strip of leather.
I wasn’t unfamiliar with friendship jewelry and its purposes. In middle school I was always buying the best friend necklaces that I could give to my bestie so that she and I could proclaim our allegiances to one another. But the thing with those was, there were always two. Usually it was the same necklace but with two sides of a heart split down the middle and one half said best and the other said friend.
My problem with things—all kinds of things—always has been that I immediately attach a memory to the item in question. In this case, I was happily making a bracelet with Native Americans in my beloved classroom full of first graders and learning about a culture I greatly admired. I wanted it for myself!
Then the woman said this next part, which there has been no recovering from since. She said that in Native American culture there wasn’t a word for “mine.”
“Nothing belongs to us,” she said.
I admired them even more. And I vowed then and there to give my bracelet away. As soon as I wore it a whole bunch first, obviously, as it was now filled with Native American memories and good energy. This also became the first stepping stone in my acknowledging to myself that maybe, just maybe I could part with my things after all. They were just things and parting with them didn’t mean I was losing the memory, just the tangible item.
I have read countless stories about individuals who sell all their belongings, maybe even their house, to travel the world, and while I own a whole lot of thrift store treasures, nothing in the way of footing the bill for a yearlong adventure, all my things feel priceless to me. I’ve always wondered how these people did it? In fact every time I try to put a price on anything of mine, I feel like I am giving up animals from a shelter and that I need to do background screenings on the applicants and find the best and most loving homes where my items will be cherished in the way they deserve.
Most of my things have been in storage from when I moved back home from Virginia after a particularly painful breakup. Putting it all in storage was beneficial because I really had no place for most of my furniture and things at the time, and furthermore it felt like I didn’t have to deal with accepting that a life I was bent on having with a person was officially over.
Furniture and boxes of my beautiful things: books, decor, my art collection have all been under lock and key for nearly a year. I recently decided to tackle the removing of said things and the beginning of the purge. I began to deliver old trunks that used to house my vast board game collection to a cousin’s house and put other things away to be sold at my mom’s flea market. The whole day of moving my stuff felt like pure agony. I cried and moved things. And cried some more.
And most of my tears felt like unshakable loss. A loss of things, felt like a loss of self. Who would I be without all this defining memorabilia? All this purging also stirred up uncomfortable reminders of where all this happy furniture used to be placed in a home I shared with my ex. An ex I planned on marrying. Had picked out baby names with. Showed him engagement rings I liked when he asked to see the styles I preferred.
I spotted this fuzzy little deer he had purchased for me two birthdays ago when he took me to see the Luray Caverns in Virginia as a surprise. He told me I was allowed to pick out any treat and I picked out that silly deer. He asked me if I was sure of all the things in the souvenir shop, that the felt deer with plastic horns (clearly made for a child) was the one thing I wanted.
I nodded excitedly. See the thing about that deer was, I had always loved those felt animals when I was a child. I would see the toy horses in the Native American themed souvenir shops that we would stop at on vacation, right after we passed the Mackinac Bridge, but I was never allowed to have them, because they were too expensive and we were just looking. Acquiring the felt deer felt like a win for childhood me and I loved it dearly (no pun intended) and immediately.
It seemed an absolute impossibility that I could part with this deer. The deer was more than plastic and felt. It was my ex. And birthday surprises. And childhood. And murky, dripping caverns of Virginia. It was my love of nature. And happiness. How did the Native Americans do it? Who could this deer ever belong to that would look at it like that?
I didn’t do anything with the deer at the time. I just shut the lid on the box and my feelings and told myself that maybe I could keep it as a small memento of DC. But I also wanted to keep the flea market ring he’d bought me and the patchwork quilt. Could I justify all these reminders when our love had ended? I doubted it and so I let myself part with the ring (my most coveted of the DC possessions) lending it to my sister when she left for Iceland as she confided in me that it was her favorite ring of mine. I told her it too was my favorite ring and that she better come back with it safe and sound on her finger.
I discovered last night, however that DC who let me keep his Netflix password when we broke up, changed it as I couldn’t log in anymore. I know it seems like small bananas but it smells suspiciously like moving on to me and maybe I ought to do the same in regards to the items I still cling to in the way of him.
So Kia can keep the flea market ring. And maybe I will sell the quilt. But the deer… I just don’t know if I can bring myself to get rid of that cheap felt deer. And maybe the Native Americans would understand? I like to think they would. Also I need to talk to them about my blazer collection which I am also having a hard time parting with… I know I have no right to still own a blazer collection as it isn’t 1980 and I am not an extra in the film 9 to 5, but man do I look downright fetching in a blazer.
I think I am pushing my luck though and getting into a murky misinterpretation of what the Native Americans feel is justifiable to hold onto. Alas, I have claimed to be many things, including a lover of Native Americans, furry creatures and new adventures, but letting go easily has never been one of my strong suits. And so still I struggle to hold on when I know, it is time to let go.