Memories vs Joy

There’s nothing like the impending end of the world to get your domestic goddess on. I have an urgent urge to get my life in order so today I have transplanted 4 plants, upgraded my toilet seat, and completed yet another massive de-clutter.  This one was different.  This time I think I’ve broken the code.  My drawers love the Konmari Method and the filing cabinet system makes me wonder how I survived without it?  Well, I know how I survived before discovering it; by shoving everything in like a cave woman and having to pull it all out to get to whatever was suffocating on the bottom unfolded and unloved.  But, just now, I’ve had an epiphany that I hope will prevent all of us from drowning in clutter from now on. 

I appreciate the spark joy method and use it regularly to curate my space.  It’s quick and simple and effective.  However, that sugary hit of satisfaction does not always last.  What may not spark joy for us today might make us giddy with it in a year.  I’ve spoken to people who have used this method and then felt regret at letting go of something that they now wish they had at hand.  Joy is a fluid thing it is not finite or fixed.

This week I have been availing myself of many objects from my 37sqm apartment.  Many found in the garbage and then sold online, some purchased myself, some inherited or gifts.  Obviously, the street finds are very easy to sell or pass on to others and the reason is simple.  There are no memories attached.  Yes, I’ve saved it from landfill but that’s as far as the emotional attachment goes.  It starts and ends with that.  I often think of myself as a junk foster carer.  I pick up the unwanted and find new homes for them.

Just now I sold 8 miniature antique bottles online for $20. They were gorgeous, small, really old and have been sitting in my cabinet for quite a while. The transaction was effortless. The lady was completely delighted with them as I met her in the driveway for the transaction. My hands heavy with little bottles were soon light with a crisp $20 note. We both walked away happy. Why was it so easy? Because for the life of me, I can’t remember when or where I acquired them. There were zero memories attached. None. Zilch. Zip. I remember having the mini 7UP and Pepsi bottles in my steamer chest of collectables as a child and have a vague memory of either the town fair or the Bonaventure Antique Fair in Montreal, but no concrete memories at all – it could be all in my head. I don’t remember how old I was, who was with me, how much they cost…absolutely nothing. They were free and loose objects in the world, not tethered to me in any way, so it was time to liberate them. It felt good. In fact, it felt great. These dirty, old mystery objects and I have been staring at each other for years behind the glass of my cabinet as perfect strangers wondering how we ended up together. Now, someone else can love them and have a memory of how they got them.

I look through the glass of my cabinet now and stories stare back at me…a gift from a high school student 15 years ago, gifts from friends, my first purchase in Shanghai…these objects not only spark joy, they spark memories of friends, adventures and events.  Now, everything in my home is tethered to me in meaningful memories.  They have stories, and we are nothing without our stories.

My Master the Dog

My Master, the Dog

Abby week 1

This is Abby.  She was my second foster Greyhound.  She is a 2-year-old failed racer and she was utterly shut down with fear when she arrived in my driveway.  She wouldn’t make eye contact, she wouldn’t accept chicken, she had to be carried up and down the stairs.  She was not a dog, she was a ghost of a dog.

It was evident that this was not her natural state. She is a country dog and it was the city that was affecting her so badly.  I live on a fairly busy road and the buses and cars were terrifying to her.  For the first few days she would only go into the paved area in the back of my apartment to do her business.  If I tried to lead her down the driveway to the road, she would freeze in that Greyhound way; cemented to the ground, long strong neck resisting any pull with incredible fortitude.  I would of course relent and bow to her needs and retreat to the back of the building with her.

She was slightly braver late at night when there was a minimum of activity on the road. In the stilly quiet of the night, we would slink around the nearby housing commission grounds which were quiet and set far back from the road.  Her tail would slowly vacate the space between her legs and she would snuffle the ground and trace the tracks of neighbourhood rats, cats and dogs and learn about the area.  Any noise would startle her – a discarded bag blowing in the wind, a human voice, an approaching vehicle. At first, these sounds would send her into a bucking bronco frenzy and she would dart for home dragging me behind her.  Slowly over about a week or so, the bucking stopped and she would just turn, retreat and pull.  She was learning to conquer her fears. 

I even managed to get her around the block on a big walk one evening and though she seemed ok at the time, it clearly was too much for her as we never managed it a second time.  She clearly showed her limits and forcing her through them seemed unfair.  It was clear she needed a home in a quiet area, preferably the country as she would just exist in the city, she would never thrive.  She revealed more of her wishes to me by endlessly playing with her reflection in the mirror.  Smiling, barking, play bowing and tail wagging were in full display whenever she caught a glimpse of herself.  She was painting a vivid picture for me – quiet green space and a companion dog were high on her list. 

Watching this terrified dog shed her fears and emerge as a confident, playful, joyous girl was a good lesson for me.  I have been almost paralysed by fear for quite a few years.  Fear of unemployment, homelessness, poverty has kept me frozen in unpleasantness which I should have fled from long ago.  Staying in a demoralising job for fear of not finding another one, staying in a 37sqm apartment in the city instead of moving to a coastal town, amassing a never-ending pile of unpublished writing for fear of submitting and being rejected…my list of fears was longer than Abby’s and unlike her, I hadn’t conquered any of them.

This lovely girl started playing with toys, snuggling with me on the couch, her head on my shoulder blowing contented snores into my neck.  She was moving forward and I was the one who wasn’t.  I could hear Abby loud and clear but I had become deaf to my own needs and had learnt to ignore or silent them.

She found the most amazing couple, Andrew and Karma, who live in Bungendore on a 1000sqm block with a massive fenced backyard.  She has her companion, Buddy Love, another rescue dog who welcomed her so warmly into his home and his heart.  She has truly landed on her feet and within an hour of me leaving her with them in their gorgeous backyard, she and Buddy were racing around the backyard together, tail wagging, play bowing and relishing each other’s company.  I get daily updates in the form of pictures and videos of them snuggling together and running rings around each other.  This story couldn’t have had a better outcome for all of us.  She has taught me more in under a month than I could have ever imagined. 

I regularly say that we humans don’t deserve dogs.  Making friends with the wolf all those many thousands of years ago was the best deal homo sapiens ever made.  They are the reason we as a species have flourished.  With all the extra protein their hunting provided us, we have evolved into these big brained beings.  But we are foolish in thinking we are the masters.  They are and have always been ours.  And I am eternally indebted to them.

Buddy Love and Abby week 3