It’s funny, every time Summer rolls around, I dream of taking very long vacations while snowmobiling in the Arctic and every time Winter rolls around, I dream of disappearing to some tropical island while laying on the beach all day. Unfortunately, I’m a forgetful person. I forget about about the humidity that Summer brings and I forget about how Winter chills my bones. What I’m left with is a long, drawn out life of wishing I was somewhere else.
There have been a few days though, that find themselves somewhere in between Summer and Winter that are perfect. I’ve written about them on a number of occasions and they usually revolve around me relaxing on my hammock up North. They only come around every so often, but when they do, they’re of glorious perfection – and often termed, “the nicest days of the year.”
A few days ago, I decided to start going through all the things I brought with me to Florida. I wanted to see if I really needed them or not. I did such a good job of getting rid of almost everything I owned while in Connecticut, but while up there, I eventually became tired and started tossing things I didn’t want or need on an already over-packed trailer. I knew I’d have to sift through my belongings once more when I arrived in Florida, but what to do with what I found was anyone’s guess. Giving things away to people up North is a much simpler task than it is down South. Here, people just don’t have the room for what I’d like to part with. I’d even venture to say that folks aren’t as active with the same interests in this part of the world.
I managed to find three items that I wanted out of my existence. My Stihl backpack blower, my Slik Tripod and my Sure-Trac trailer. I’ve written about all three of these things during various points of my life. While they are all of the best quality and still practically brand new, I just don’t see any point in having them sit around taking up my breathing room. I decided to list them on the Daytona, Jacksonville and Orlando sections of Craigslist.
I listed the backpack blower first and asked $100 for it. While it cost around $300 five years ago and is in excellent condition, I felt that at the price I was asking, I’d get great response and I’d meet the goal I set out for myself – to get rid of stuff. Within fifteen minutes of listing the blower, I received approximately ten responses. I couldn’t believe it. People from all over were asking me if I still had it available. I eventually, and come to find out – too early, responded to someone who I promised the blower to. I say, “too early” because I had offers of $200, which I had to reject because of my earlier promise. I sold the blower yesterday.
The funny thing is, as the days went by, I continuously received inquiries for the item I was selling. I’d say that overall, I got about 150 replies. Not bad for one listing. There were three or four replies for the tripod and the same for the trailer. I have to meet someone today at 4:15 to unload the tripod and a fellow is stopping by tonight for the trailer. Who knew that actually offering up one’s items for sale online would garner such a response? (Update: I have sold all my items. The trailer just left a few minutes ago.)
I think my goal is to get even leaner than I was when I left Connecticut. Thinking of what I purchased in a previous life makes me sad. I see so many people who are still trapped in the cycle, out there on the roads alongside me, pulling in and out of shopping centers – spending money they don’t have. The horrible habit of “purchasing” has increased exponentially from when I was a kid – it’s truly become a greater and greater distraction for the country at large. Rarely does a day go by when I don’t talk to a friend who tells me about their latest and greatest acquisition. Every time I listen to them speak, I nod my head in shame and think along the lines of how bad what they’re saying makes me feel. It’s almost as if the word, “materialistic” has disappeared from our language. It seems like goods and products have taken over our lives, just at the time when most of us need less than we ever have before.
It’s weird and I’ll be honest when I say that it isn’t the easiest thing to figure out.
I’m sure people think I’m crazy. We still don’t have a couch. Laura sits on the floor and works on the computer. It’s not that we can’t get one, it’s just that I think I’m making a point in this, what I view as a, pathetic excuse for what is. Laura watches me as I mutter things like, “This can’t be it. I surely couldn’t have been put on this green earth simply to buy things and to shuffle through the things others have bought.”
Where’s the standard? Where are the lessons I learned when I was a kid? Don’t let that money burn a hole in your pocket and materialism is a sin! Even in the books I read, there are lessons woven into each page. It’s as if the author is speaking directly to me when he says that “things” aren’t my identity. “I” am my identity. Who I am. What I do. Not the fact that I shop at Super Target and that I happened to get a nice kitchen pan on sale at a great price.
About six months ago, I woke up one morning and told her that I didn’t want any of it. I looked around the house we lived in – looked in the living room that held the couches and the tables, the office that held multiple filing cabinets and my chair and desk, the bedrooms that held dressers and beds – and I said that we should get rid of it all. I told her that all the stuff we accumulated through the years made me feel cheap and that I had somehow lost my way. I warned her that if I had somehow developed an overwhelming urge to keep the things I knew I should get rid of, that I was certainly overtaken by something, because I knew I shouldn’t have such a connection to material things.
Within two months, I had unloaded most of what I owned on a few friends of mine. They didn’t ask questions and neither did I. For all they knew, I had lost my marbles – and for all I knew, they were doing me a huge favor in getting my life back to where I thought it should be – out of the grips of a big, nasty monster called consumption.
I don’t ask people to come over to the house down here. It’s empty. I don’t want to hear the comments or the questions.
“Why don’t you get something to sit on?”
“Because I feel better on the floor.”
“Where’s your bed?”
“Right there. You can’t see it?”
It’s different. It’s like going through withdrawal. A withdrawal I think we all need to go through at one point in time or another.
I spoke with my friend, Craig, yesterday. I told him about selling my stuff and how I had planned to sell more. He made his usual comments on what I was doing.
“You just don’t want anything, do you?”
“I truly don’t.”
“My grandmother did the same thing before she died. She gave away every last thing she owned. You’re not dying, are you?”
“Not that I know of. But if I were, at least I’d be ready.”
It’s almost comical the way people react to how I’ve chosen to deal with today’s society. I generally only get half way through a sentence before they start defending what they own. Makes me sometimes wonder why they’re so defensive. We’ll see what happens. I’m just sure that there are some things I need to get through before I can move on with my life. Moving away from “buying” and towards “doing” is a big one.
On my way to Jiu-Jitsu practice yesterday, I passed by a house that sits about a quarter mile away from ours. It’s in the same neighborhood as we live and I have to drive by every time I leave. It’s a nice house. It looks just like all the others.
More often than not, I see an older couple sitting inside their garage, behind one of those garage door screens you can buy to make your garage more of a screen room. In this garage, there are three plastic chairs lined up in a row – side by side. The chairs have been lined up like that since the day we moved in and as I just mentioned above, the older folks sit in them. They just sit. They sit there and look out through that screen waiting for time to pass on by.
When we first rolled into town and after I saw the couple sitting in their garage, I thought it was nice. I remember mentioning to Laura how content they looked. How they had found a nice place to live and how they had truly figured things out. But each and every time I drive or walk by their house and see them sitting in those chairs, not saying a word to each other, I feel less and less enthusiastic about what they’re doing. And yesterday, I launched into a tirade at my good friend Seth, who had unfortunately answered the phone right after I had seen the couple one last time.
“These people haven’t done a damn thing since we showed up! What are they waiting for?”
“I don’t know man. A lot of people do that. They just chill out.”
“Then why are they here? What are they doing? What’s their purpose?”
Things like this really get to me. It’s true that I wave when I drive by and they wave back, but what I really want to do is to stop my car, get out and walk over to them to ask exactly what their plan is. I want to know if they’re simply waging a battle with the clock, because whether they know it or not, the clock is going to win. They can’t simply sit there for the rest of their lives and do nothing.
Or maybe they can. Maybe they can and maybe that’s their plan. I suppose it wouldn’t be the first time.
After I got out of Jiu-Jitsu, I gave my brother Jeff a call. I hadn’t talked to him in a while and I thought it was high time for us to catch up. I dialed, he answered and we got into it.
He asked me how Florida was. I gave my usual generic response.
“You know – it is what it is. It’s serving its purpose.”
“What do you mean? You don’t like it?”
“No, it’s just that we’re doing what we’re doing. Just as if we were sitting in a house up in Connecticut, we’re sitting in a house in Florida. It’s here and we’re here.”
People don’t like when I talk like that. Nebulous. Jeff was fine with it though and I actually think he was amused by what I was saying. But in general, if I don’t make something up that leads someone to believe that I’m having the time of my life, they become uncomfortable. I suppose they want me to be enjoying things and they want me to be settled. I get that, but what I also get is that sometimes life is just there. I get that I don’t always need to be hunting for happiness.
After I joked around for a while regarding my living situation, we talked about the Appalachian Trail, my dream of hiking it ever since I graduated college and how I miss the mountains. I know it’s only been a few months, but what I can’t have is having an impact. But like he mentioned, the hills of North Georgia are only a few hours away. And like I mentioned directly after what he mentioned, I’d like to have the right to simply miss the mountains. Without a suggestion as to how to quench the feeling. He got what I was saying and we moved on.
He told me about how if he ever got the chance, he’d hike the trail. He became enthusiastic in talking about it and started talking about the Shenandoah Valley – where he lives. He told me how he’s really enjoying learning about the history of the area and about how he fills a few gallon jugs with local spring water about once a month. The spring comes out of the side of the mountain nearby and it’s been a hot spot for locals ever since it was discovered. He told me about how he doesn’t like water in general, but the water from the spring actually tastes good. I confess that I became a bit nostalgic with what he was saying and most likely ruined the mood when I mentioned that I had about nine filters hooked up to our tap water.
“It tastes like chlorine if we don’t have the filters.”
Again, he got what I was saying and we moved on. Sometimes it’s good to have a big brother to talk to when I want to vent in a non-judged kind of way. I can be honest with him and that feels pretty good. Over the years, he’s gotten past the urge to put me on a shelf somewhere, in a place he can get used to in an effort to know where he can visit. He seems to have gotten used to the idea that I’m searching for something and when I find it, I’ll let the world know. And he seems to have gotten the fact that the two of us are much more similar than we’ve led on.