Sometimes life hands you a metaphor.
In talking about her bestselling book, Wild, at the San Miguel Writers Conference in February, Cheryl Strayed said, “some times life hands you a metaphor.” The idea struck a chord. I made a note.
Three days later, I tripped and fell. I skinned my face, my hands. I scraped the left lens of my glasses. My right eye turned black.
People helped. My friend, Annis, blotted bloody knuckles, scraped chin, swollen eye. A woman gave me arnica tablets—twice—to manage the swelling. Hotel personnel offered to take me to a doctor or to a hospital.
When I got back to my apartment, I put ice on my eye. I cleaned my skinned knuckles. I had band aids but no neosporin or peroxide in my first aid kit.
What’s the metaphor, I thought, as I pondered the event. A few things came to mind. Watch your step. Don’t rush. Be mindful of what you’re doing. Buy travel medical insurance. I hadn’t bought travel medical insurance. Not a wise choice. Maybe the metaphor is “be prepared,” I thought. It could have been much worse.
My garage began nagging me about two months ago. Not that it’s dirty or even suggests out of control hoarding. The problem is the boxes and bins of stuff I stacked in the garage three years ago when I moved into the house. There are filing boxes of materials for projects. There are bins of art supplies. There are storage boxes of photo albums. There is a large box filled with carousels of slides my mother took when my sister, brother, and I were growing up. There is a bigger box of kitchen stuff I don’t use. I simplified my diet four years ago and no longer cook in ways requiring specialized equipment.
It seems whatever I need involves going to the garage, moving boxes and bins, and sorting through their contents to find—or not find—what I’m searching for. The problem even crept into the filing cabinet in my studio. Full of papers in file folders, I have to go through every drawer to find a particular folder. My closet is full of clothes I don’t wear. The china cabinet is full of china I don’t use.
I should get rid of some of these clothes, I thought this morning as I dressed. Someone else could use them. Then it hit me. Sometimes life hands you a metaphor. The nagging garage. Of course. It’s a metaphor for simplifying my life.
I spend far too much time thinking, worrying, planning about my stuff. That I call it “stuff” is a problem. Too much of everything. I don’t need all that I have. I don’t need the burden of keeping it. I need to focus time and energy on the things I love. I love writing. I don’t need much to write. In fact, my stuff detracts from writing.
Simplifying means letting go. Passing on the things I no longer use clears the way for a simpler life. I need to simplify. But how?
First, there is the issue of attachment. Am I attached to my stuff? Is attachment to my stuff holding me back? Holding me down? If I don’t use it and I don’t think about it, is that attachment?
So, is this about letting go? I don’t want to be attached to stuff. I don’t want to struggle with stuff. There are many things I think I want; but, there are very few things I need. And what I need I want accessible.
It’s true. Sometimes life hands you a metaphor. Am I man enough for the metaphor? I wonder.