There are those that search for a great, big home Filled with bookcases, shelves, and cabinets Where they can catalogue every tome, Memento, and knickknack they went to get. They will huddle down in a tattered chair Gazing out upon their great collection, Bragging about how no cupboard is bare, And about the choice of each selection. As night creeps on, they will look at their things, And wonder what stories they have to tell. Is there importance in toys, clothes, and rings? Why be entranced by the powerless spell? To obtain a life that will really please The best things to collect are memories.
I am already thinking about winter. It was one of the chores that I knew I had to do while I was in the United States because I knew that the clothes I had shipped to Jordan from Thailand would only be appropriate during the first couple of months out there, and then I would need some long sleeves, pants, and hats. I had some of that stuff in Thailand because my thought was we would travel to cooler places to get away from the tropical heat, but then, Covid. So I do have a weeks worth of clothes that will allow me survive in those conditions, and they are not for the really cold temperature that Amman can sometimes get to.
So this is why I have been thinking about winter.
Growing up in Colorado, and visiting Oregon often means that I do have these clothes, but I pushed them in some boxes and bags and left them in storage some place in one of these two states, and even then, I am not sure where I left them in those states. It has been a little game of hide and seek so far this summer, rummaging through this box and that one trying to find what I know is out there, and yesterday, I went to my storage unit in Colorado.
Lo and behold, I found the missing clothes among piles of things that I am not sure what they are anymore. This little game made me realize what has become of my life, and my things as they are strewn across the world. Of course right now I am living out of bags and have to rummage through them every morning to find the things that I need to be a part of society. I have some rare discs and records tucked away in a closet at my parents’ house, and a couple boxes of random stuff at my in-laws’ house. And somewhere, en route, there is a shipping container full of more stuff and things finding its way to my new place in Jordan. I have truly become a man of the world, and like a teenager does in their room, I have left myself wherever I just happen to drop it.
While looking at my stuff, and all of the places where it is, I am constantly thinking about a story I taught a couple of times early in my teaching career by D.H. Lawrence called “Things”. It told the story of a couple who started taking teaching jobs overseas. Of course, they did not want to bring all of their stuff with them, so they put some stuff in storage here, and other things in storage over there. They bought art and mementos along the way, but they did not have a place in their house to display them, so they stored those in other countries. They ended up having places all over the world to hold their stuff for them. I now thing of that story and realize that I am now living it. (I will put a link to the story at the end of the post if you are interested to read for yourself.)
There are a couple of themes that could be looked at while reading this story, but the one that stuck with me and the one that I always return to is how we no longer own our possessions, but instead they start to own us. Part of the lives of these characters was to tend to their things, and I am participating in the same ritual. Some of these things are easy to attend to; whereas, others are going to be a surprise when I return to them years later. I will have forgotten that I have some of these things, and it will be like a return to Christmas when I find them again. But it makes me start to wonder how much of it I really need, and how much of it I can give away.
My wife and I always talk about going to the storage unit every summer and reorganizing it to move to a smaller storage unit, but something always comes up that makes us put that off for another year. Basically, it is easier to maintain my things than to deal with them, but someday I will have to deal with them. Until then, I will just lock the door to the storage unit, push that box in the corner of the room where I found it, and track my shipment over the internet until it arrives, and I will continue to play this game with my things.
I used to teach a story by D.H. Lawrence called “Things”. It was a story of a couple who started to teach overseas, and because of that they collected storage units all over the world where they could keep their things. I will include a copy of the link to the story at the bottom of this post so if you want to read it you can. But the main idea behind the story was freedom. Are we truly free if we are tied to our things. I would really make the point with my students when I would ask them at the end of the lesson, “Do we own our possession, or do our possessions own us?” Many of them would believe that they were the ones that were in control in these situations because there was no way an inanimate object could control a person, but we started talking about houses and the amount of work that went into maintaining them, cars and the amount of money that it costs to keep them running, and they would really get angry with me when we started to explore our relationships with our phones.
I talked to them for a position of superiority, thinking I was above all of that nonsense of letting my possessions become the more important part of our relationship, but this was until I moved overseas. I knew that there would be certain things that I would like to keep, and I got a storage unit so that I could keep those things. I even have a monthly bill automatically paid so that I don’t lose my possessions on the rare chance that I forgot to pay a bill. It wasn’t a big unit, but I still packed it with various things. And despite this, I still got rid of a lot of stuff. I had simplified my life or so I thought.
But now every time I come back to Denver, I spend a day going over to my storage unit to visit my stuff. I can’t do anything really exciting with it because it is all thrown in a the small space, and some of the stuff that I really would like to visit again was placed far in the back when I started, thinking that I would keep the place well organized. Half of the time I find something and wonder why I kept it at all. It is a part of my life that I have not let go yet, and I wonder if I will ever be able to do so. It is the connection that keeps me coming back to this small little shed in the middle of the city.
I do know that if I ever come back to live in the United States that I will love to have these things, and it will make the transition easier, but I wonder if I will ever need a large home to collect all of my things in. I would have to say that one of the things I really do appreciate about the adventure that I embarked on three years ago is that I no longer need a huge space and a whole bunch of things in order to be happy. I can live a simpler life. I just have one thing hanging over my head that would make it complete, my storage unit. I don’t know if I am ready to get rid of it yet, but I now have a new appreciation of what D.H. Lawrence was getting at with his story. Can I be the master of my possessions or will they always be the master of me?
You can read the story talked about in this post by clicking on the link below: