Saturday, September 13, 2008

Letting go of the past, one box at a time

What a challenge this is for me, winnowing down the stuff of past lives.

Doing this takes a certain willingness for self-revelation and self-acceptance that I've not found lately, but events are forcing me into action. Chris and I have resolved that we will not move in the winter-time (moving him here from Missouri at year-end in the snow was NOT a lot of fun...), so we have set ourselves a deadline of October 31 to be headed to Champaign. And Sue and Jeff are set to abandon the condo/boat-anchor by the end of this month, or the first week of October. (I'll keep my "office" here until the end of October, and hold whatever garage-sale we choose to have.) But the clock is running...

And so the questions that happen in any consolidation of households begins. Everything from furniture to table-settings to glasses and pots-n-pans: Yours, mine, or both? And what do we do with the leftover? Keep it? Sell it? Give it away?

Tonight, I went out to the storage unit, and started sorting through books - the theological library that would have gone with me into ministry. Books that I had duplicates of (one to keep and one to loan-out, like Tom Bandy's Coaching Change and Adam Hamilton's Confronting the Controversies). The songbooks that had one or two songs that I once had fantasies of singing at church, someday - even though my singing voice is not anywhere close to "solo" quality. There were half a dozen Maranatha/PK song books, the music to Keith Green's Ministry Years (companion to the two-CD silver set), and four different Steven Curtis Chapman song-books (each with one or two meaningful songs in them). I've got a box of books and music that will go to a friend's congregation in Maumee, and half a box (or more) that will go to the local ELCA congregation. A box of cookbooks (mostly untouched in the last five years) that will go to the local library, along with three or more boxes of fiction.

Going through these boxes has brought me to a couple unpleasant realizations - one of which is how intellectually stagnant my life has been lately. With the exception of the last couple Harry Potter books, I'll bet I haven't read ten new books in two years. I've tended to find "old friends" from my family bookshelves and re-read them, rather than exercise my mind all that much. I need to work on that...

I've also realized how little of my reading has been about my faith, too. Part of that is, I think, a kind of retreat from organized church in the whole. Reading Can Mainline Denominations Survive? and Helping Congregations in Decline just isn't appealing when I have no immediate desire to be part of a congregation in the first place. And books like Sharing the Word: Preaching in the Roundtable Church by Lucy Rose (while an excellent resource) just don't have as much pull when planning sermons is not on your horizon (near-term or far, for that matter).

And when 99% of my music listening is from my iPod or internet streaming radio, I wonder about the value of packing and hauling perhaps two hundred pounds of CDs that I already have digitized (and backed up). (My pile is not as bad as the picture, but it's still three or four hundred CDs...) There are some, like The New World Symphony, John Williams' Summon The Heroes and Rick Wakeman's Journey To The Center of The Earth that are just much better in their uncompressed, raw beauty. But other than their archival value (in case both the PC and its 250GB backup drive are lost), what do you DO with CDs these days?...

Even my fiction collection has come under close scrutiny. Yes, having a copy of The Unabridged Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galary is a beautiful thing - but even if we manage to find the duplex of our dreams, I don't think we'll have room for two walls of shelves being just my library. And to be honest, that thing could be one more "old friend" keeping me from fresh ideas, fresh fiction...

Some decisions are easy; some aren't. At fifty-one, what's really important in my life, materially? Will I ever again have the kind of dinner party where I'd use those glass platters with places for olives and pickles and such? Or will strategically-placed Corelle soup bowls do just fine for that?

It boggles the mind.

There were some tears tonight, too - fresh tears for ministry dreams that I'd been sure were dead and buried. Thoughts of what-could-have-been and what-I-would've-wished-for. Opportunities lost, others thrown away. And resolve - the songbooks from John McCutcheon and Peter, Paul & Mary went in the "keep" pile, along with Discerning Your Congregation's Future and other books I just might want if I ever get back "in the fold" again...

And let's face it: there are somewhere between two and three million people without power tonight, thanks to hurricane Ike. There are people who would be blessed to actually have options on where to go to live. So these are definitely concerns of a much higher quality than a lot of people in the world have to deal with. So I'm grateful - don't get me wrong.

But I don't want to squander what I have, either. I'm not running from a hurricane; I'm moving to the next phase of my life. But the question is, what am I willing to carry into my next life? Because in the end, it will be Chris and I unloading this stuff once we get to Champaign. I need to be willing to physically carry it, this time. And the companion thought echoes in the back of my head - what will I regret jettisoning, once I get there?

Time will tell. Prayers for guidance, discernment and endurance will be most welcome...

6 comments:

Black Pete said...

I do Not normally recommend doing this, Steve man, but in the case of the songbooks, photocopy those meaningful songs and ditch the books. There is the tension between ethical use of copyright material, and the reality of too much stuff for too much space. Free up the books for those who long for songs to sing, and keep only what you need.

Black Pete said...

Ooops, I meant "too little space".

Michael said...

Well, Bucko, back in the day when I had a vow of poverty (and tried to take it seriously), I came up with some criteria for my periodic moves and for an annual traditional cleaning and donating of stuff that the community did at Thanksgiving.

If I haven't worn it or read it in two years, I can get rid of it.

If I can find it easily online, at a public library or some such, I can get rid of it.

If I no longer believe in it (like stuff I myself wrote over the years), I can get rid of it.

Why store stuff away when you can give it away?

And bottom line, the odds are always going to be that you can get rid of it. Donate it to some group that is gathering stuff to send to the people hurt by Ike and such things.

Travel lightly and lightheartedly.

Heidi Renee said...

freecycle.org

we have moved so many times, it's a pain in the tookas, but i have found that freeing yourself of past things that just tie you down is like loosing tons of weight off my body - i never realized how much all that crap owned me, instead of me owning it.

you can do it!!

Im A Foto Nut said...

Steve,

You may consider selling your CD collection to one of those used CD shops. (If they even have them anymore.) Another thought is some church library may be able to put them to good use too.

When I think of all my piles and piles of crap it just makes me sick. I haven't had my own home in so long (almost 11 years) I keep thinking when I eventually get my own place again. Thing is some of that stuff will be out of style, or already is by now. I keep telling myself that getting rid of it will only cause me to have to reaquire it again someday. The monumentally stupid thing is that I even buy things to add to the pile so.....(shaking my head) I have half a basement full and a large storage unit just for good messure. Ach du lieber!

What's this about REreading books. I haven't yet read all of the books I have and continue to purchase at yard sales, thrift stores, clearance tables and God Forbid for full price at big box book stores. We must both be sick to have one keeper and one loaner copy. (shakes head again) My dream is to have my own in home library one day with complete works in hardback of all of my favorite authors. It makes me ill to think about getting rid of, giving away my books. I have always called what I have "Keepitus" is there a 12 Step program for that?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I get the rest of it... but talking about throwing out the unabridged Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... that's just crazy.