04 February, 2010

Reflection and Growth

Having spent most of my formative years during the 1980s - a decade best described by greed, rampant consumerism, and decadent excess - it is no wonder that I have spent much of my life aspiring to happiness through the collection of material things. I erroneously believed that if I could only have enough money to buy the things I wanted, I could be happy, and my life would be well-lived. I have, now, finally begin to realize the errors of this way of thinking. For, in placing my abilities for happiness in the attainability of a certain sufficiency of funds, and never seeming to have such sufficiency of funds, I have spent my life in a constant internal struggle between loving money and hating it. This, as one might imagine, has never brought me happiness.
I began to turn my thoughts to this conundrum, feeling that some sincere scrutiny was definitely in order.
I have been working since I was fifteen years old with the goal of making money for the things I want. And while I never managed to have many of the things I wanted, I have managed to accumulate a great deal of material possessions - so great, in fact, that it embarrasses me to really consider it. Some of the things I've amassed are even really nice things. Yet, why haven't these things brought me the happiness I had been sure they would? Why can I not arrange them, organize them, display them in such a way that they bring me the fulfillment they surely should?
I've been pondering these questions for a while now. My first thought was that I'd gotten the wrong stuff. So, I exchanged some of the old stuff for some new and different stuff. Surely, this was going to fix my problem.
It didn't.
My second thought was that, perhaps, I needed to organize and arrange this new stuff in new ways to reflect how I had grown and matured in my purchasing habits.
This didn't work, either.
Finally, and reluctantly, I began to really consider my attachment to these things. What value did all of these material possessions afford me? How were they improving my life? How, specifically, could they make me happy?
In so doing I was lead to seriously consider what it is that I truly value in life, itself; to determine what comprises a happy and fulfilling life for me?
I finally came to the ridiculously obvious conclusion that a well-lived life - for me - is one filled with meaningful experiences and relationships. It has little, if anything, to do with possessing lots of stuff. This was a definite light bulb moment. It was as if I'd just gotten the punchline of a joke I'd heard years before.
Suddenly, all of the items filling my house, my attic, my garage have become an oppressive and weighty albatross about my neck. It now seems as if I've been slowly building an army, piece by piece, that will eventually overtake me and force me to surrender to my own undoing. I can not let this happen. I will not let this happen.
It was in that moment of realization that my new life began. I have laid my old life to rest, not with anger and resentment, but with gratitude for the knowledge it's given me. I make my first steps on this new road with excitement and reverence, and, yes, a dose of fear. But, it's a healthy fear that propels me to action, so I am glad for it. I am slowly prying my emotional grips loose from the objects of my former life, and sending these objects out into the world with the hopes that they will find good purpose for someone else who needs them. With every item that goes, I feel lighter and less fettered. I am ready to remove the albatross, and disassemble the army, and to seek more appropriate companions in new experiences and deeper relationships.
This is my road, now. And it's a wide and welcoming road with a bright horizon.

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