I’m going through another crisis in my life.
When I was in my thirties I had one. Tradition has it that during those years in a man’s life he starts to roam and it is far from unusual for him to find himself having an affair with a younger woman or perhaps buying himself a sporty red convertible. I guess there’s nothing like a crisis to make a man act like a damn fool.
I was not much different except that since I am so very happily married and could not really afford some sporty new car, I got interested in baseball. I loved playing the game as a kid as well as followed the major league team of my choice and of course, collected baseball cards. As an adult I pursued my rediscovered interest with the vengeance of the truly obsessive person that I can be. I read almost nothing except baseball books for two years. I studied the history of the game and memorized an enormous amount of useless, meaningless statistics and I started attending the games of the minor league team that played in the city where I lived.
I was very fortunate to have a wife that has always been very tolerant of my obsessive interests. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I didn’t try to take up with a new younger woman. It also might have has something to do with that fact that when people look at me I seem to just scream “married”.
I was also very lucky to have two great kids including a son who was at that perfect age to get interested in baseball with his father.
During those years most of the Chicago Cubs games were available on one of the cable stations and so were the games of the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves. You could watch Major League Baseball on television almost any night you turned on the set. When I look back on those years I’d like to think that baseball helped me get through any stupid mid-life crisis I might have had as well as allowing me to bond with my son. Those are things I am grateful for.
My new crisis involves material things. My wife and I have done a lot of traveling in the last four years and it looks as though we are getting ready to do some more. Every time we move I look at the things that I have accumulated and wonder just how important they really are to me. At what point do the things you own start to own you? We all know what the really important stuff is. My wife and my kids are number one with me. What’s more important than family?
Now putting those obviously super important folks aside, we all know I love to eat and cook but my real passions in life are reading, listening to music and watching movies.
When we lived back east I sold used books on the internet and since we lived in a rather large house, I managed to stuff it full of books. Dealing in old books is the perfect career for the pack rat and that is what I have always been. Since I was married to another pack rat, the problem was even worse. And since she had different material obsessions than mine, the house was soon overflowing with tons of stuff that we thought was important. Therefore, when we decided to relocate across the country we had a problem to deal with. By myself I had managed to accumulate about 10,000 books. There was no way that they were going to fit into the much smaller home we were going to live in.
I was able to find a home for most of them, but I did hold onto about fifty boxes that I dragged to the west coast and am still dragging around with me. I have also held onto about five or six hundred compact discs and probably three or four hundred DVDs. I have copies of all of my favorite books, all of the music I love the most and of course, the movies that I consider to be the best. I guess it would probably be more accurate to describe the whole collection as the stuff that I think is the best and just for the record, some people (maybe even my wife and kids) would consider me to be a bottom feeder. Oh well, there is no accounting for taste.
There are three things that are happening at this time in history that make up the essence of my new crisis.
Number one; I am sick and tired of moving stuff around. It takes up space. It costs too much sweat and money to transport it with you when you move and we seem to be moving around a lot. Even though I love these movies, books and CDs, they feel like an albatross around my neck.
Number two; we are entering into a new era. There has been a lot of talk about the digital age, but a few things have happened recently to make me realize that we are moving forward into this promised time at a much quicker pace than I ever realized would happen. Most of the literature and music that I love is available on demand through the internet and the content in a physical form is no longer something that I have to be sure to have on hand in my home. All of these obsessions are easy to digitize and therefore owning physical copies of them is cumbersome.
Number three; and this is the crux of the matter, I am more addicted to material things than I ever realized. I am really struggling trying to get rid of my things for money or just for the sake of getting rid of things. It is freezing me up right when I need to get off my ass and hustle this shit out of here.
Of course there are things that they have not been able to put in digital format. At least for the present you can’t have a digital charcoal grill or cast iron skillet but all of these things take up far less room than the other “stuff” I have been lugging around for the last few years.
I feel as though I have spent a large portion of my life collecting things. I have found joy and comfort in owning things that I really like. I have been thrilled with the hunt of finding old music and books I enjoy and I have placed way too much meaning on these material things. Many times I believe owning something has been more important to me than actually reading or listening or watching the “stuff” in question. It has made me feel good about myself and even somehow “successful” in a weird way. After all, they are just things and as they say, “you can’t take it with you”.
This traveling medicine show that my wife and I call a marriage is just about ready to hit the road again so some heavy duty decision making is about to take place. What will be, will be and on the other side of this shift in position will be a new life. I await the future with optimism.
When you find that thing that feels so good and that space that you just do not want to leave you will cling to it like a rat on a piece of driftwood in a flood. You do not ever want to lose that joy.
Never want to leave.
You will fight to keep it. You will walk all over anyone or thing that gets in your way.
When it starts to slide away you will scream and howl at the moon and at your neighbors.
You just don’t want it to ever change…, but it will. Of course. It will.
Take heart friends.
Someday we will sketch new portraits of ourselves and love them.
We will laugh in new ways at new things and we will smile across the aisle at new friends.
Everything’s gonna be alright.
I friend of mine recently died. He wasn’t my best friend in the world. We were not close by any measure of the word. But I knew him and we had smiled together on several occasions. We shared emails only once in the last three years but I really liked this guy and thought he was an extraordinary young person. Twenty-nine years old and sharp as a tack. He sold books like I used to do but he went about it in an enthusiastic manner and I always like seeing young people attack something they are interested in.
He was way too young and way too nice and way too sharp and way too hard-working. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.
Look around yourself at the people you encounter everyday and appreciate them and know that no one is safe from passing on and away from us. May you rest in peace friend.