Monday, October 04, 2010

A Little Bit of Insight

Ever have one of those moments when you suddenly comprehend something that seemed, previously, to be "one of those things" that you would never understand?

My Calculus Epiphany comes to mind - the day, sitting in my kitchen in a rental unit in Bloomington, Indiana, talking on the phone to my then-boyfriend, and trying to do my homework. I was thinking out loud - essentially speaking my thoughts into the phone so he could help me figure out where my reasoning was wrong - and I was working through one of those long derivatives of sin sin sin cos sin and the answer is ten times longer than the problem. And as I worked through the problem, I started getting more and more excited and the pieces of the problem suddenly started looking more and more like a puzzle instead of a problem and next thing I knew, I got it right. And it was like a light going on, like the sky opened up and poured understanding on me, the angels were singing a heavenly chorus...I understood calculus!!!!!

And I fell in love with math that day.

I had another last night. But the sky didn't open up or anything drastic like that. It just kind of lightened the personal monkey on my back.

Why do I hang onto things I know I'll never use? Or things that I might need someday? Why do I live and fight a life of clutter, while others far more easily part with belongings as easily as kicking off their shoes after a long day of work?

I have a pretty full house right now, and it's wonderful. Not the clutter part, but the company and family. I have an exchange student living with us for the academic year, and that changed the dynamic of our little household quite a lot. Kiddo has been adjusting well, and I'm reminded every day of why I never wanted to have an only child but wanted a big family...

Anyway, Saturday brought us the semi-annual visit of my cousin Scott, who has played the role of Older Brother for me for the last 25 years or so. We potty-trained together when we were tots, played Dungeons & Dragons together when we were not-quite teenagers (the term "tween" hadn't been invented yet), double-dated as teenagers, visited each other in college, and have generally relied on each other to be a voice of reason through all the idiotic (and saner) decisions we've made through the years. Totally ignoring the fact that we might not be any saner or reasonable than the other on any given topic...

Last night we were sitting around the dining room table, and Scott made a comment about how we were so opposite in our approach to material possessions, as he is definitely on the lighter side of encumbrances.

He travels the world with a single suitcase and a backpack/computer bag.
And can fit everything else (that he really doesn't need but keeps for enjoyment when he's in the States) in a single truck.

I have an overstuffed house with a basement that defies empty space and overflows into the garage (in which I can't park my van because of all the stuff) and constantly struggle with purging clutter and chaos.

And it dawned on me later that night, as the comparison kept worrying at the back of my mind - how did this happen??

I've been coming to the realization that I started holding onto things when we started moving frequently.

My parents were getting divorced, and Mom did everything she could to keep us safe and warm and comfortable, and she did a really great job of that. We were loved, and we knew it. What we didn't have was stability of home and school. We moved a lot, and I ended up changing schools nine times before I graduated from highschool, some by choice, and some by moving. (Though through a strange twist of fate I ended up graduating with the same kids I'd gone to kindergarten with, and hadn't seen for ten years.)

I found it extremely difficult to keep up friendships without the common ground of school, and all of my long-distance friendships fizzled out shortly after I moved away. It was an impermanent lifestyle, and I started to cling to everything that reminded me of my lost friends, plans, and possibilities.

Scott grew up in a small town, with the same kids, the same cousins living in the same houses, the same people working the same jobs, for years on end. He hated it. He always wanted to leave and travel. And he quickly shed the few things he owned almost as soon as he left, and hasn't accumulated a pile of junk since.

Whereas I hoarded memories of lost friendships and opportunities, he was glad to shake the dust from his boots and move on. And I think we're still working under the same thought processes we developed as kids.

I can't possibly be on the far side of 35 - the 12-year-old me is still hoarding dolls!

So what does this mean for me? I'm not sure. I've been living in this house now for just over four years, in this community for just over six. This is the longest I've stayed in one place since....I don't remember. We were in Marine City for about four years, so that comes close. And we moved into this house when Mom got re-married right before my senior year of highschool, so while Mom was here for a long time, I never really lived here for long until after she moved out and we moved in. My bedroom was in the same place, but I was away at school. A few years ago I was getting antsy to move on - I don't know how to be a long-term resident of any place! - but we stayed. And I'm glad. I'm starting to feel settled, like I have a sort of permanence here, and I'm starting to feel more comfortable shedding belongings.

Kind of amazing I never noticed it before, isn't it?

I guess the 12 year old simply needed a place to call home for the long-term before she could let go of the dolls.

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