It’s Not About the Stuff

21 days to 50

I’m in Portland for the World Domination Summit. I’m with a dear friend. His parents were kind enough to let us stay with them for the weekend. I’ve been on several trips with his parents, both went on our first trip to Ethiopia then his father went on the trip to Peru with us last year. I’ve spent enough time with them to love them like family. I had a hotel booked downtown for WDS and my friend said, “No, no, please stay with my parents, they would love to spend some time with you.”

His parents recently moved from a really large house on an acre of land to a much smaller house on a manageable property. Since they moved they’ve been trying to downsize, trying to fit all their stuff into a much smaller house. They are overwhelmed and anxious about all the stuff they still have strewn about this house. Consciously they know it will take time to sort through everything but they seem frustrated by the process.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I felt uneasy when we walked into the house. I love both of them and I know it doesn’t matter what their house looks like but I still cringed a little bit. Here’s the thing- this has nothing to do with them. This is completely all about me. I struggle with the concept of stuff. From too many pairs of jeans to closets so overloaded that bags fall off shelves onto the floor all the time, I am embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated by all my stuff. The concept of stuff is a constant source of anxiety for me. So anytime I see too much stuff anywhere in any situation my chest tightens up and I feel fear.

This is a huge problem for me in my office. Our entire creative department looks like a fire hazard. This includes my desk. The managers bring tours of visitors around and they usually gasp and somebody has to make a joke about how messy creative people are. Everybody in that room is uncomfortable by it but nobody has time to stop rushing around catching up on last week’s projects to fix anything. We’re trying to change that, and I hope for all of us we find a way to clean up our area.

This morning I was up early talking to my friend’s mother. I adore her. She has such a good heart and an easy spirit. Everyone who meets her feels right at home. We were talking about the times she met the Dali Lama, and the spiritual path she is on at this point in her life. I was reminded not just of how much I have in common right now with her, but how much we all as humans have in common with each other. I realized how shallow it was of me to look at the state of their house and feel anything but compassion for them. They are truly struggling. Just as I am struggling, and ultimately how we all are struggling. Not just with the physical stuff, but the emotional issues underneath that stuff. Inadequacy, fear, responsibility, and shame. There is hope for them just as there is hope for me.

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