If you’ve ever moved, you understand the purging process: the more you void from your life now, the less you’ll have to pack, move, unpack and find a place for (…or pile in the garage) later. I suffer from the all-too-American paradox of wanting a pretty home (read: looks like a catalogue full of things I can’t afford without a hint of clutter) and loving to shop (for crap I neither need nor can afford). This leaves me in a near constant state of purging. Mark thinks I’m a little nuts.
My purging hits a whole new level of crazy when the aforementioned moving process involves crossing the Atlantic and worse the unpacking process involves the skilled hands of men and women who could never afford a bed for their kid but find themselves unpacking two flatbeds of junk for mine. I’m feeling preemptively guilty. Add to this avalanche of guilt, the best Craigslist app ever, Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 and an indulgent spouse…I’ve rid our home of just about every spare item I can including, but not limited to: old toys, small clothes (I’m looking at you cheeks 1 & 2. Who told you to grow?), rugs, bookshelves, desks, antique light fixtures, game systems, bedding, serving platters, holiday décor, and a fish.
Let me explain. Yesterday we had a home study interview in our home. It’s a necessary step in the adoption process and it involves a walk-through of the home inspecting fire alarms, escape routes, child safety features, sleeping arrangements, my underwear…okay, not the last one, but it’s pretty thorough and invasive. To prepare, we cleaned, installed baby gates, purchased new fire extinguishers, and added door locks to a few additional cabinets in the kitchen. There was a whirlwind of activity on Friday afternoon.
Five months ago Ryan and I bought a fish and hung it in one of those cute half-globe aquariums on the wall. It was cruel really. I was feeling pretty bad about it. You have to clean the bowl every two weeks because it can’t hold a filter or pump. Cute, sure. PETA approved, not exactly.
The division of labor in our home is simple: do what you can, when you can EXCEPT! Mark waters the plants and I tend to the fish. I had slacked on the job a little (no surprise) and the bowl was a few weeks overdue for a cleaning. I removed the fish from the bowl, set him in a cup, cleaned it out, and put fresh water back in. But…the water may have been a little too warm for the fish and I may not have given the fish the opportunity to acclimate before dumping him back in. Blame it on the rush to clean our home or the need to purge a fish that I WAS NOT going to take to Zambia with us. I dumped the fish in the clean tank and walked away. Fast forward 24 hours and, no surprise, he is dead.
This wouldn’t be a bad thing except Mark is out of town which means there was no one to distract Ryan while I remove the dead fish from the tank hanging on his bedroom wall. I tried not to make a big deal out of it. When a kid trips, if you don’t gasp they don’t cry. I was hoping if I didn’t talk about it, he would let it slide. That didn’t happen. I tried last minute tactics to move his eyes elsewhere, but he lasered in on the red cup and wasn’t budging. He watched the fish go down the toilet and cried for help. “No! No! No!” his head hung low, tears ran heavy and I sulked into my skin knowing that I officially became the worst mother in the universe.
You’re feeling pretty good about yourself right now, aren’t you? Jerk.
Back to the bigger story here: purging and American consumption. Jen’s book kinda screwed me up. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to. I don’t want to replace what I’ve purged. I don’t want to want things. Jen’s argument is pretty simple: to grow with God, we have to grow out of excess. This means caring more about the environment, more about those in need, and less about what you have so that you can help level the playing field. Have you ever given until it hurt? I hadn’t. Not really, at least. We’re fortunate enough to be in a position to give and not suffer. We live in the top 1% of the world’s economy and if you have a roof over your head, can read and know where next month’s meal will come from, you do too. This week, inspired by Jen, we gave to a cause until it really hurt. I had to return things to the store to make it happen and I almost immediately regretted hitting that donate button. Then, after a night or two to sleep on it, it’s really wonderful. I’m suddenly unburdened with the need to own the greatest “thing” – I’m happy making do with what we’ve got. I thought that the gift would make me feel good inside because I had done something for someone else, but actually, it did something for me. It’s incredibly empowering to overcome your immediate desires – perhaps this is why God asks us to fast. So bear with me over the next few months as I discover new ways to repurpose old things, try to create more than I consume, and (with any luck) smile more without the burden of being the best-dressed girl on K street. Don’t worry, I won’t be putting together whole posts about fighting the capitalist machine, but when I find something that works or do something I’m proud of, you can bet I will find a way to brag about it here. I have to do something that reminds the world of my redeeming qualities… I murdered my son’s
spirit fish after all.