27 August 2014

A Lesson in Detachment

In less than 12 hours, our family will be careening down highway I-90 toward Chicago, with all the earthly belongings we will be using for the next two weeks or so tucked strategically in suitcases in the trunk of my sister-in-law's trunk.  We are moving to New York City by train, and we've given ourselves this challenge - we are leaving car, furniture, and household belongings behind and embarking on this next stage in our journey with the clothes on our backs, some in a suitcase, a toothbrush and a prayer book.

And our hamster.

We are fortunate that we have been able to choose what we can take with us - unlike so many in this world forced out of homes by war, famine, disease - we recognize our privilege in that we can look at what we have and decide what can stay in storage or be given away or be sent to us at a later time.  But, I must admit, therein lies the difficulty - what DO we take?  What do we pack for a later time, and what do we ask others to send to us later?

Here is my current packing list of items that are coming with us:

1.  Nathan's suitcase - sleeping bags for everyone, two sleeping pads (for us old folks with more gravity), and pillows (for sleeping on the floor of friends in NYC until we find a place)

2.  Liz's suitcase - Nathan's clothes (enough for 5 days), Liz's clothes (enough for 5 days), Baby's clothes (enough for 5 days), toiletries

3.  Girls' suitcases (one per each big girl) - enough clothes for 5 days, pajamas, travel pillow, quillow (a little quilt that can fold into a pillow)

4.  Nathan's carry-on - personal papers & computer, plus cords, etc.. prayer book

5.  Liz's carry-on - important family papers & computer, plus cords, etc., prayer book

6.  Girls' backpacks - stuffed bear, Kindle & headphones, fleece jacket, headlamp, prayer book

7.  Duffel bag (carried by Nathan) - towels for each person, pajamas for train, clean clothes for train, toiletries for train

8.  Stroller & baby bag (carried by Liz) - extra diapers & clothes, baby shoes & toys

9.  Hamster tote (carried by girls) - hamster cage (collapsed), hamster supplies, hamster in travel cage

I share this not only to illustrate our craziness (don't even ask if the hamster needed train tickets), but as an exercise to make sure I haven't forgotten anything in this process...

There is a struggle inside me at present (sitting in bed at 1:25 AM and typing, whilst my children are sleeping strewn all around me), between sorting through the last vestiges of our personal belongings and throwing all caution to the wind and just going back to bed.  I'm a firm believer in responsibility - I think that I shouldn't leave piles and boxes of junk at my in-laws' home.  I don't think I should simply throw or give things away willy-nilly, either, especially as we aren't counting on much more from student loans than will pay our rent.  We are planning on shipping those household items that it would be expensive or difficult to replace (or are worth more than the $35 per box it will cost to ship them) to ourselves, once we find a place.  The question is:  what do we NEED?

I contend that we don't need very much at all.  As evidenced by the fact that, aside from our beds which we are keeping at our family's home, we have sold ALL of our furniture.  However, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty (not to be confused with the earlier willy-nilly), what we use on an every day basis isn't much.  Clothes.  Toothbrush.  Pillow.  And even then, those aren't really NEEDED in the way that one might require love, service, and kindness.

However, there's the prudent side of me who is a little worried.  I don't want to be unprepared - sitting in our apartment two months from now thinking to myself, "d'oh!  I have that one thing that I absolutely NEED in this situation - IN STORAGE IN ILLINOIS!"  I'm sorting through kitchen items, wondering what to pack, and thinking, "what if I need to make cupcakes?  What if there's a cupcake EMERGENCY???"

Another element of the discussion that I'm a little embarrassed to admit is that of money.  We are either middle to upper lower class or very to lower middle class, I'm not sure which.  We are a family of five that currently lives on Food Stamps, gifts from family, and Student Loans.  And there is a real fear about money that enters the equation.   It will cost us moolah, either way, which, on a "modest" student stipend (read: meager), isn't in abundance.  I don't want to be frivolous by sending everything we own, but at the same time, I don't want to be frivolous by having to buy everything again!

And, when it comes down to it, I suppose I'm afraid.  I'm afraid that I won't get what I need.  Which is silly, because I always have.  Maybe not everything I WANT, but that's my own fault.

One of my favorite sayings, forever immortalized by my friend Loisy, is this:

"Trust in God, but tie your camel."

I'm trusting that this awesome journey will bring untold confirmations to our family - we will grow and laugh and learn in a new city, and our lives will be enriched by our time there.  And I'm tying my camel, too, in planning in advance for every reasonable contingency.  (But how many camels do I need to bring?)

And therein is the lesson in detachment.  I am detached from our personal belongings in the sense that - should they not make the trip safely - I trust that I will either be able to replace them or that I won't need them.  I am detached from the idea that I don't really need ANYTHING - I'm not a monk, I'm a mama, and I've got to make sure I feed and clothe and teach the people.  And at the same time I am also (trying very much to be) detached from the anxiety of this entire process.  Good Lord, there are enough things to worry about in the world!  Life is going to happen, and I don't want to be worrying about cupcake tins while it does. 

Or camels. 

But I will probably be worrying about that hamster.

1 comment:

katjandu said...

You're an awesome Mama. Many prayers are sent up to God on your behalf. Know and trust in Him for all your needs.