Monday, June 13, 2011

If you're wondering how well the cleaning is going...

Hello friends!

I have been working on the downsizing, to some success.  I filled an entire roll-away recycling bin with old papers.  I am not done.  I will eventually make it through my clothes, but that is a faulty business because of all those seasons and weather and stuff.  So, I'm trying to make due with the paper, notebooks, and even some real books.

Those of you who knew me before Le Moyne know that I have an addiction to books, almost any book.  I read voraciously in high school - a new book every few days - and I was sad to find myself lacking for free time in my college years.  That is changing now, and I find that I have an astounding book collection.  More than I could ever hope to read.  And, while books are perhaps my most prized possession, it is also important to me that the things that I have serve me, and if they can't, they should serve someone else.

What does that mean as far as the fate of my books?  Well, I sold some of my textbooks back today!  My solutions manual to McMurry, 7e, will be well used by some other soul relegated to Organic Chemistry.  I promise that the bad rap that follows Organic is an overstatement, but by how much depends on a whole host of factors.  No matter, I am not about to relive my days of adding nucleophiles to carbons of carbonyls, even if they are polar, planar, and prone to attack.

I sold a few others as well, from some non-science classes.  I couldn't bring myself to part with the textbooks that had followed me through thick and thicker.  I want to go back to them one day, but I can't say for certain when that one day will be.  Science and I need a break, at least for now.  I am putting the books in a metaphorical "box" (they will in fact sit on my shelf to prevent me from accumulating even more things), and I will open that box only when I am ready.  Not before.

So, use it or lose it is not the easiest motto to put into practice, but it's a little cathartic.  I think the real catharsis will come when I have a finished product - my clean room - and I can take all of my extra things to the Salvation Army or some other place where I know someone will use them.

The other burning question that some people have is: have you found out where your volunteer placement is yet?

I am sorry, for everyone else's sake, that the answer is still "no", but I am not that concerned for myself.  Here's why:

The first reason is rather superficial - as soon as they tell me, it will be real, and I will have to internalize that I will not be headed back to 1419 Salt Springs Road again in the fall.  That is both a blessing and a curse, being done with college.  Right now, I am in this willing suspension of disbelief, to use an acting term.  I am in the mind of someone who will be returning to the place she has learned to call home.  I have faith that I will find a new home in this placement, wherever it is, but I also have strong ties to the home I leave behind.

The second reason is hard to explain when people talk to me, because when I say it I feel like an idiot.  I have been off before on service trips where I haven't had much information, and I always felt bad because I couldn't really tell people what I was doing.  I didn't know.  Now, on the other hand, I know what all three possibilities are, and more or less what each entail (again, at least superficially), but I hate going through the whole list because it's not like I am going to be at all three places.  I will be at one of them, and I don't know which one, and I am wholly content with any of the possibilities.  Do I have certain opinions?  Of course.  Do I know everything about all of the other FVMs and what they will contribute to each placement?  No way.  I hope to, eventually, but I haven't met most of them yet!  Do I trust that Katie and the friars will make a decision that is in everyone's best interest?  Absolutely.  I find joy in the path, knowing that wherever they send me is where I am meant to go.

For those of us who like a more definitive answer to the question of when: I was told that they would likely be doing the placement meeting at the end of June.  Which, while late compared to most of my friends who signed onto locations with their volunteer contracts, is relatively early for FVM.  I will find out where I am headed come August 21st both too soon, and not soon enough...

I am usually a plan plan plan person.  It is slightly unnerving that I am not more concerned about the lack of plan right now.  Maybe I am too informed, and therefore I have no need for concern?  Maybe I am in a veiled state of denial?  I don't think that's it, but I am not ruling it out.

To be continued...

Peace and all good,

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Spring Cleaning: A lesson in simple living

I am both amazed and distressed by how much stuff I have accumulated over the span of my life, and in particular, over these past four years.  As if my room at home was not full of stuff, I spent most of college filling extra space, and now, trying to fit it all into my bedroom at 6 Hall Street, I just can't do it.

What's more is that I don't use most of what I have.  I possess enough t-shirts from various events that I could go a month without having to wash them, if I wanted.  And that is just t-shirts.

I am sleeping in my bed for the first time this summer, because I have finally been able to clear it off to get to it, but there is just another pile of my displaced things somewhere else.  As I remade my bed, I pulled off the top blanket.  "I'm giving you away," I said to myself.  Thus began the bag of blankets and pillows and toys that I am doing away with.

Cleaning my room is necessarily a long and lonely process for me, because I hate having people going through my stuff.  It's easier to control if I do it myself, but it is also considerably slower.  I am forced to spend a great deal of time in my own mind, which, as Anne Lamott writes, "is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone."

I began to reflect on the idea of simple living, of only taking what you need or will use.  I have piles and piles of things that I have not touched in years; that is not simple.  I have three months of tops to wear; that is not simple. I have stacks of papers that I will never look at again; that is not simple.  

I get a lot of flack for being a pack rat, and though those tendencies do run very deep on my mother's side, I am working to adopt a new philosophy of stuff: use it or lose it.  I'm not buying books anymore, unless I have read them and am compelled to buy them (we'll see how long this lasts).  I am recycling as much of the backed up paperwork as I can.  I am getting rid of clothes and blankets and pillows, in the hope that someone, somewhere, will actually use them.  I don't want someone else to be cold because I had to have my fleece blanket sitting in my room.  

There's this concept of "detachment" that I am trying to have with all things: don't be so invested in things that you forget about what's really important.  What matters are the people around you, all those whom you love, even if you have not met them and will never meet them.  All we can do is make sure that we only take our fair share.  How would I define "fair share"?  Only what you can use.

I'm not an FVM quite yet.  I am priming myself by embracing as much of a simple lifestyle as I can right now, but simplicity is something I hope to continue cultivating long after I finish my term as a volunteer.  I wrote in my application that simple living was only a beginning, and I truly mean that.  Simple living allows one to live an uncluttered life, both literally and figuratively.  Without clutter, it's easier to recognize what things around you.  I live simply that I may more easily recognize God in all things.  And that, as I see it, is only the beginning.

Peace and all good,