In My Mind's I

A week into the new year, and many of those well-intentioned resolutions have already blown away with the cold and snowy winds of winter. The futility of this annual exercise should teach us all that nobody can change an ingrained behavior overnight.
I finally decided not to make that same mistake for 2010, and edited my resolutions accordingly. The main thrust is that this will be a year of giving rather than getting.
I look back on new years past with honesty: There are many more of them there than will be in my future. And I remember that when my mother was as old as I am now — which seemed incredibly old to me ‘way back then — and I asked her what she’d like for a birthday present, she said “At my age, I don’t get. I give! Want to give me a present? Come and take something away!”
So while I’m looking backward, I’m looking around my house, shaking my head and thinking, “It’s not fair to do this to your children!” Someone, sometime, will have to go through everything here, all at once, and the task is just too daunting to consider. I’m not even a “saver,” but I’ve been in the same place for 26 years now, and even a non-saver accumulates a mass of stuff in a quarter-century-plus. It will ease the future for those poor children (and grandchildren) of mine if I make this a year of giving away. That way, I can handle the going-through-everything process slowly, manageably.
I’m starting with clothing. Instead of declaring that I must have some wearable I’m too enamored of to pass up, I’m “shopping” in the back of my closet, which is chock-full of things I bought over many years past for just that same reason. There are fancy dresses purchased for a single occasion and never worn again — and probably destined never to be worn again. There are things that once called out to me loudly, “Take me home!” And I did, but I never wore them at all. There are things that are too large to be taken in satisfactorily, and things too small that defy letting-out. Why do I still have them? Because they have memories attached — memories of that one event, or of that one moment when I decided that this item (a dress, a sweater, a pair of slacks or of shoes) spoke so compellingly that I just had to buy it.
These will go to people who like them and can use them. And if I can’t find such people among the folks I know, a proper charity will do so for me. And then I will move on to the specialty kitchen items for dishes I’ll never cook or bake. A checkerboard cake pan? One for Yorkshire pudding? A super-size slow cooker that could hold enough stew for a small army? Why did I ever think I needed, or would ever need, these things?
Here: a drawer full of soaps, decorative and perfumed. There: a drawer full of candles, also decorative and perfumed. A pile of new tablecloths that never fit any table I’ve ever had. A tall stack of neatly packaged paper towels in designs for every season under the sun. I could give all these items as gifts, but I would have to live for more years than I can possibly anticipate in order to divest myself of every one. So why wait for any gift-giving seasons or occasions? You like it? Take it! It’s yours! Enjoy!
The poet Wordsworth wrote, “The world is too much with us … Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” Also our money. And our time. And our energy, both physical and psychic. Who can possibly be at peace while trying to deal with this overload? The world is what convinced me I wanted or needed all this stuff. And at the end of the day — this day — just plain “stuff” is what it all is. The poet Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gently into that good night….” But I will go gently, my railing and fighting diminished because I have divested myself of “stuff” so I can be at peace when I leave this world behind. Thanks, Mom!
I can easily shed the three or four pounds that came with November’s pumpkin pies and December’s latkes, but I have made one resolution: I’m resisting my favorite eggnog — even though it’s now irresistibly on sale for 99 cents a half-gallon!

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