Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Running on empty?

I threw out the bulk of my clothes yesterday. We have to fit a lot into our luggage allowance and there’s no sense in dragging back a lot of worn-out stuff that I haven’t even worn in the last few months anyway.

(I was stunned to discover how badly some of my jackets fit once I started standing up straight and walking with more swagger and less apology. I think there’s something interesting in there about the difference in shoulder fit in men’s versus women’s clothing—my new shirts look best with the maximum level of bodily confidence, shoulders back, ready to take on the world. But my old little blazers require a certain protective slouch or they stretch weirdly out of shape. Of course it could just be my body, and no great gender insight at all.)

So after dumping a bunch of stuff down the garbage chute, I’m left with: 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of pants (trousers for UK readers), 3 shirts, some assorted t-shirts & tank tops, one jacket, and one coat. Oh yeah and underwear and socks of course. A large wardrobe in historical and global context but a rather tiny one for a middle-class citizen of a modern industrial society. Part of me wants to buy lots of clothes, because it’s so much more fun now that I’m not so rigid about these things. But another part of me values the simplicity of what I’ve got now. I’d like a sweater/sweatshirt or two, and some of the jeans/pants need replacing soon, but otherwise, do I really more?

I think about the boxes of stuff we have stored at my mom’s place and I wonder how much of that I’ll want to throw out or give away, too. A lot, probably.

Always there are two warring impulses: to save and cherish and conserve, and to stay light and free and able to run. I’ve held on to the most inane things. I kept an old car key of my dad’s for years, inside a plastic Cap’n Crunch treasure chest that was taped shut. I would take it out and listen to it rattle inside and feel that I was the guardian of some sacred, protected thing.

Then, of course, I’ve held on to things that are worth holding on to. Most notably I’ve been with T. over 14 years. But I hold on to friends, too, like rare and precious jewels. It takes me a long, long time to connect with someone, but once I do I tend to love them for life.

But right there, there’s the flip side. I don’t connect with people quickly. I don’t usually let myself get close unless I can assure myself that it can be for life. I hold most of the world at a very safe distance. And I’ve lived my life in a way that looks practically designed to prevent my becoming an integral part of any community. In the ten years since I left my mother’s house, I have lived in four US states and a foreign country, from California to Manchester, England. I’ve moved house six times, counting conservatively. And I've used that mobility as an excuse not to get too close or put down too many roots anywhere.

Even planning this move back to Boston, I’ve caught myself thinking of the exit strategy, the jobs I can apply for after graduate school that will make this, too, no more than a one or two year stint. When I see people who have a rich network of local connections and friends, I feel with admiration and a certain longing. Then I imagine myself in that role and I’m terrified. But I’m starting to wonder if I’m running on empty.

1 comment:

ladybrettashley said...

"Always there are two warring impulses: to save and cherish and conserve, and to stay light and free and able to run." so well said.