Lately, I find myself struggling with the impulse to have. To possess. To own, I think, but not quite that far. You see, I’m too much in debt (credit card, student loans, medical, and some outlying things) to really own anything. I’ve grappled with ownership, what it is to own, in the past, and I’m not interested in that here and now. Here, and now, I’m wondering about having.
I like to have things. A relative of mine is a hoarder. The nicest person, but a hoarder. It’s a poverty behavior, they say, a trauma behavior, a coping mechanism, a tool of memory, so forth, there are armchair explanations and there are professionals. I do not think they’ll read this, but I do think I share that impulse. To hoard.
I like to buy books.
And trinkets, oh I love trinkets.
This year has been catastrophic, and catastrophically bad for everyone in any possible way you can think it. So I found myself drawn to spending as a way to cope. But I’ve always spent as a way to cope. In at least one aspect of it, because having brings me closer to possessing. I buy lots of books because it puts me in greater proximity to those ideas, and that proximity will never be actually reading but it is a closeness.
And it triggers my anxiety, I love the thrill of never quite realized Reading Lists and Failure to Complete. I do. I’m addicted to Almost, I think, because part of me is in love with Shame.
But this year has also asked me, What Do You Need.
It is, I think, more and more Very Little.
It is, I think, an ideology we’re sold very young that we must possess. And I think, if I know anything about life, that I cannot take anything with me. Worse than that, anything can be taken from me at any time. Debtor’s prison or not.
So, more and more, I find a small, very timid desire towards contentment. Towards acceptance, which I think is a cousin of contentment. And I think, in acceptance and contentment, you find curiosity. Because, if I accept what I know and am content with what I have, then I can be open to what I don’t know or do not have. Because I do not need. By accepting a contented state, I foreclose need. This is the first world. I am a white, college educated, heteronormatively attractive woman. My basic needs are met.
And here recently I found myself on the toilet reading a brilliant interview in Believer Magazine with Alphonso Lingis and I realized I don’t need anything. I can’t take it with me. It will not protect me. And most I can do, which is all I want to do, is share what I have and hold space for what I might be given.
This section was nice, in particular,
“LINGIS: Human engineering makes us believe we are full of lacks, deprived, and empty.
Andy Couturier (A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance ) went to visit eleven Japanese men and women who lived with minimal money. They had found places on mountain terrains to live; they grew their own food and grew some food to sell; they made and sold pottery to earn what they needed. All the hours of the day they spent doing what they wanted to do—reading, writing, making music, growing things, making meals, meditating. They did not spend forty hours a week doing what they were ordered to do. Couturier found they reported they were living luxurious lives.
What can writers do? Celebrate abundance. [German philosopher] Karim Benammar writes to show us that we live in an abundance beyond all our needs. The abundance of plant, insect, and bird life in our back garden, supplying beauty and marvels and enigmas. The abundance of energies we have to be astonished, delighted, entranced. The abundance of sensibilities and energies we have to entertain people about us, to support and empower them, to accompany them when their paths become painful.”
Which means I want to talk to you. Which means I want to walk far down the street to see what’s outside. Which means I want to make a lentil soup with sweet potatoes and finish a script.
And repeat that. Until I can’t anymore.
Oh, god, you know, I think at the end of it all this is where we land. Somewhere between the giving and the taking.
I think I will take nothing with me. I think I will need to share. I think I’m really glad I can afford a magazine subscription and enough hours in the day to read it.
Oh, I think I love you. And I miss you. Oh, I so love this one unknowable, un-take-with-you-able (forgive me forgive me) life.