On the heels of my blog essay on simplifying our lives, it came to me that I might expound on the use of the term “emotional attachment”. I thought I’d write about this because I know from personal experience that it’s sometimes difficult to rid ourselves of extraneous and unneeded belongings. As humans, we have a distinct propensity to become attached or connected to our possessions longer than we need them. For some, certain objects can be a definition of who we are or who we may want to be. For a child, this is very obvious. They might have an attachment to a toy or other possession, most likely a pacifier, stuffed animal or blanket. And, that’s fine ‘cause they’re children. But, I’ve known folks who have kept similar items well into adulthood, (a 2010 survey by the hotel chain Travelodge of 6,000 British adults concluded that 1 in 3 brought and slept with a stuffed animal). Now, I know everything we read on the internet is true (sarcasm), but that figure astounded me. How many of you folks still have stuffed animals on your bed right now as you’re reading this, or maybe even in your car? (Big smile here!). I’m certainly not saying this is wrong, but it may point to other things in our lives that need to be jettisoned.
I’ll use some personal examples as you may be able to relate to experiences in your own lives. The pick-up truck I’ve owned since 2006, (with 108,000 miles on it) recently died. I use the term “died” here as when a motor blows, the life of a vehicle is, in essence over. I wasn’t going to put a new motor in a vehicle with a transmission that had that many miles on it, so I sold it to the owner of the repair shop where it sat. The day I went to clean it out and sign over the title was a little emotional for both me and my wife. This was a vehicle in which we spent many, many hours (even, days) and which took us to many wonderful places. Randi didn’t even want to go into the lot where the truck was parked and to be honest, neither did I. As I was cleaning it out, a flood of memories came back to me (see my essay on Road Trips) and I actually got a little choked up. Here was an object made of metal, steel, rubber and other inorganic materials and I felt as if I was selling my first born child. I gathered my stuff and bolted away from there as quickly as I could, not once looking back at the truck that gave me such great pleasure. I felt as if it was calling after me…”Hey!!, Yo!!, where ya’ going, why are you leaving me here?” Even as I write this, I can still feel a bit of emotion.
I also recently threw away a backpack I’d owned since 1982. You may be shaking your head, not only at the fact that I’d owned it that long, but that I actually remember the year in which I bought it. This backpack had been all over the world with me and “we” had great adventures together. I think I kept the Duct Tape Company afloat just by owning this thing. As I stood at my front door and watched the trash men throw the plastic bag containing the torn and tattered backpack into the back of their truck, I felt as if a part of my life went with it.
For you it may be a vehicle, a backpack or something else. It could be an old TV, a piece of clothing or even a house. I remember sitting at settlement when I purchased my first home and the elderly woman I bought it from was sobbing as she signed the papers. She explained that this house was where she and her husband lived their entire lives, worked and raised a family, retired and where he eventually passed away. Her whole life was tied to that house…and, I understood. She was grieving a loss. The physical bonds we have with the things we cherish can be sentimental, emotional or they can even be financial. But, I believe it’s the sentimental part that holds the most power over us. When we touch, caress or even look at an object we own, it can bring back very pleasant memories, (and, it can also elicit unpleasant ones too). We feel “connected” in some way, there is a definite nostalgia involved and we can re-live those times in our lives when and where we felt the most pleasure, joy or sense of peace.
So, why is this? Why is it that certain inanimate objects can mean so much to us and why do they very often have such palpable control over us? There are explanations for this phenomenon all over the internet and I’ll leave that for you to peruse at your leisure. The point I’m trying to make is when these things control us to the place where “we” lose control, then it can become a issue. Have you seen the show American Pickers? The stuff these guys buy from folks all over the country are often stored in rows and rows of out buildings and barns, sometimes taking up acres of ground. Every time I see the show, I think to myself “why in the world do they keep this stuff, they certainly can’t take it with them”. In my recent blog about simplifying our lives, I talked about the freedom we can feel when we rid ourselves of objects and belongings once they’ve outgrown their usefulness. Once we’ve removed these things from our lives, we no longer have to maintain a place for them. But, when we hold on, it forces us to watch over them, ensuring that their feigned importance is preserved. That alone is work in and of itself and it can be stifling. While ridding my life from my own stuff, I’ve come across things I’d held on to that I didn’t even know I still had…sound familiar?
Folks, everything has a shelf life. Some things last longer than others, but for purposes of our attachments to them, we must realize that the usefulness and longevity of our stuff is for the most part, going to be temporary. Unless a possession has a specific purpose for daily living, it just doesn’t matter.
Look around. See what doesn’t matter in your life, then let it go. Each thing you let go is one less link in the chain that binds you to them.
Once the chains are gone, so is your tether to the unimportant…and in that, there is freedom.
Larry, this piece hit me like a ton of bricks. I recently (one might say finally) threw away the shoes I was wearing the last time I was with my father before he died…… 25 years ago! I bought the shoes the day I went to visit him in the hospital, and when he died suddenly, I felt like I needed something tangible to connect me to him. For some reason I felt this connection with the shoes. There were many times and during several moves where I thought I would or should get rid of them, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Finally, after a huge life changing event, I thought I should break from this habit and get rid of them. It was hard, but I finally convinced myself that despite losing the shoes, those good memories of my dad would remain. And, lo and behold, they have!
How wonderful our memories are, especially of parents who loved us deeply!
I also want you to know how incredibly blessed I was for sharing with me the spiritual experience you had with your Mom during your visit with her in the hospital.
As long as I live, I’ll never forget that.
Love you buddy…