Posted by: drrozkaplan | June 29, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Things.  Things, things, things.  I have too many.  Some people have a lot more than I do.  Other people have nothing.  Sometimes I feel like I need more.  Or just want more.  Or want some particular thing, or think I need it… Did you know that when we buy things, the biggest enjoyment we get out of them is searching them out, bringing them home and opening the packages?  And that after that, the pleasure of the purchase greatly dissipates until, on average, we are back at the same level of pleasure, or displeasure, that we were at before we even started thinking about the purchase?  When I found that fact out, it decreased my shopping behavior.  Well, actually, I already wasn’t shopping much at that point, but thinking about that made me want to shop even less, because it allowed me to identify what I kind of already knew about buying things.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a few things I own that I really love.  (Oh God, I hear the voice of my daughter when she was eight or nine:  ‘If you love it, why don’t you marry it???”)  –  okay, I guess I don’t LOVE these things, but there are some things I have that bring me pleasure, that make me happy.  One is my car.  It’s a really nice car.  Not super fancy, but really nice.  A silver Prius.  It gets amazing gas mileage.  I feel good about it because it’s an environmentally conscious car.  It’s quiet.  It has a navigation system (essential for a directionally challenged person like me) and blue tooth (important for when I’m on call or just need to contact my husband or a child). Don’t puke, but I actually named my car (when I first got it, having a Prius around here was a hippie, treehugger thing to do- not like now when every other car on the road is a Prius- so I named it Moonbeam).

The other things I own that I really care about:  my Macbook.  Of course.  I write.  I am very connected to my laptop.  All my files, including my book, my stories, my works in progress, are on it.  It is also my home access to the internet and a whole lot more.  NOBODY except me touches my Macbook, unless I grant access, or beg for help from my husband when I need a computer geek…

My blackberry- I planned to hate it.  But I don’t.  It’s my connection to everything and everyone all day long, and I’ve come to depend on it.  And my Ipod, which I can’t bear to be without in the car or in the gym, and recently I think my road bike, which I am becoming more attached to with each ride.

But like any attachments, my affection for these objects comes at a price.  Things break.  They malfunction.  They can be lost or stolen.  They can disappoint at any moment.  And we must constantly work to maintain them.

I take very good care of my car, stay on top of maintenance, keep the inside clean, and actually get upset if it gets scratched or dented.  Some people would say this is unhealthy.  In ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’, Kristine and Richard Carlson say, “expect the glass to break”- in other words, if you don’t want to get upset, expect your things to be marred, damaged, broken… so when it happens, it doesn’t freak you out.  But when it comes to my car, I want it pristine and clean.  It is my refuge, my little space with no chaos.  It belongs to me, not my family, not my kids, not even my husband, unless I invite them in.  (Of course, I never tell my husband he can’t drive my car- he just knows not to leave empty soda cans in it).

I try with my other important things:  I update my computer, I charge my phone and my Ipod, I take my bike in for maintenance and keep the proper tools with me in case of a tire blowout or other problems on the road.

Still, things happen.  This morning when I got up my blackberry was dead.  It was working last night, and I had plugged it in to charge.  My first reaction was to panic a little.  Shit, no phone?  No texting?  No email if I’m not in front of my computer?  It took me a minute to remember that life CAN go on without those things.  Then I realized I’d have to go to the dreaded Verizon store to get it fixed.  Now, that is actually kind of a tragedy.  But even that can be survived.  I rallied and went to work.  The visit to the Verizon store after work only took an hour.  I watched another customer come completely unraveled because her phone wasn’t ringing loudly enough and scream at several employees  before she was finally appeased and the offending phone replaced.  My blackberry is working and all is right in my world again. For a few minutes, anyway.

What about all the stuff we have that we don’t really get pleasure out of but we have come to depend upon?  So much to maintain!  So much to take care of!  Last week the 12 year old Volvo wagon with 100,000+ miles on it, the car our kids were driving, stopped backing up.  Shot transmission.  Unfortunately the car is barely worth what a new transmission will cost.  Finding something else for the kids to drive was a much smaller problem than finding a way to get rid of the dying wagon.  But we do have to get rid of it. You can’t just leave it lying on the side of the road.  And we’re not the Clampetts, so it’s not going to sit in our front yard… We’re hoping to donate it, but it’s not clear that anyone wants it, even as a donation!

Yesterday my husband spent his whole afternoon trimming the hedges next to our driveway and pulling down ivy from the side of the house.  He didn’t complain about it at all.  In fact, he seemed kind of proud of how good it all looked when he was done.  It really did look great.  And the driveway is so much easier to back out of now, since it’s about twice as wide as it was yesterday morning, and I can see what’s behind me.  And I did several loads of laundry yesterday.  There’s ALWAYS laundry.  Good thing we have a washer and dryer, but then, those could always break, too…  If we owned less clothes, we’d have less laundry… and if we had less hedges, there’d be less hedge trimming…

Sometimes I wonder if it would just be better to get rid of some of the stuff so we would have time to relax.  But then I hear that’s for old, retired people- divesting of stuff, having a condo so you don’t have so much property to take care of, and relaxing.  I hear we’re not supposed to be relaxing at this point in life.  Apparently, this is the time when we’re supposed to have lots of stuff so we can be really busy taking care of stuff.  And we’re still supposed to be working hard to make money to have more stuff.

Maybe I’m a very confused person, but this is not making much sense to me.  I wonder if I can keep my attachments to the things I really like, and start slowly getting rid of some of the other stuff.  Just a thing or two at a time.  Nothing drastic.  An item of clothing here, a small piece of furniture there… How long would it take to wean it down?  A long time.  Because, really, I have way too many things.

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