untethering tangles

Practice giving things away, not just things you don’t care about, but things you do like. Remember, it is not the size of a gift, it is its quality and the amount of mental attachment you overcome that count. So don’t bankrupt yourself on a momentary positive impulse, only to regret it later. Give thought to giving. Give small things, carefully, and observe the mental processes going along with the act of releasing the little thing you liked.
— Huston Smith, Introduction to the Tibetan Book of the Dead

We've been untethering now for months. It has been a dance flexing between the hasty and unemotional "let's get rid of it" to the deeply thoughtful consideration of the tiniest of things spread out on the living room floor, pulling at heartstrings.

We've grown clear on what we value in this process: photos, letters, journals, special items we call "altar items," boxes of ashes from our two cats and our dog, mementoes from my mother and our grandparents—who are all deceased. 

I have about 5,000 hand-written pieces from my dad (could be an exaggeration but it could also be an underestimation), and only three hand-written letters from my mom. Going through those letters, which I've kept in a keepsake box along with all the other special items of my life, was tender. There was no way to read through them without weeping heavily.

One she wrote me when I turned 21 and she included some of her own writings from when she was 21. I cherish those yellowed-page writings of hers as they give me a window into the mystery of who my mother was beyond her role in our family. Another letter she wrote when I was 25, in which she recounted all her happiest memories of my younger years, including the spot on the bridge of my nose she called my "happy place" because when she kissed it, no matter how old I was, I giggled. And the last letter, for my 30th birthday, written with less flow and more jagged edges in her cursive, offering a heavy hint that her life was nearing closer to the end (though there was no disease or diagnosis that the rest of us knew of). She wrote that had she died a year earlier, she wouldn't have been gifted in seeing the positive shift I made in my life towards happiness by starting college, meeting John and flourishing socially. She died a year and a half later. 

John is going through his own version of this as well—eyeball deep in photo negatives, slide film and prints—trying to scan as much as possible to save to two hard drives, just in case. 

Unfortunately for the friends we were been able to connect with between July and early September, we were house-drained grumpy. Or at least I was. The house process has finally smoothed out but 85% of the process has not been simple, easy, quick or inexpensive. And there were times when I didn't want to socialize because almost inevitably some well-meaning person offered unsolicited advice in an effort to support us. I didn't want to talk about the house even though it was all I could think about. 

Now we're in smoother waters and feel as though everything will be great—though we haven't heard back from the buyer's bank appraiser (should be fine) and the sewer work hasn't started (supposed to start this Thursday). But, we're putting out the thoughts we want to come to fruition. So much of the last few months, I've felt raw and reactionary and that has only made things worse. So, I am trying optimism—which is truer to my style anyway. 

When I get zen about it, I recognize the character-building classroom we're in. I see that this is all for our benefit, especially the parts that feel the worst because they are testing our resolve and our ability to roll with it. We will need that skill over the next year. When zenned-up, I can see objectively and it is impossible not to feel waves of gratitude when I look at our life, and the privilege this house affords us with this journey ahead. 

We've given many meaningful items to loved ones and have successfully sold most of our household things. I've been amazed that we've been able to supplement our expenses and stretch out my last paycheck, which I deposited on August 3rd. 

We rented a small storage unit in inner Southeast Portland that is climate controlled (many places said they offered climate control, but a range of 55 to 85 degrees didn't cut it for us). The place we chose primarily stores wine for collectors and retailers, so climate control is critical. I was surprisingly excited about finding our little unit. We will keep our photos, writings, journals, altar items, family heirlooms, and inherited family dresser, table and rocking chair in the unit. As long as the big earthquake doesn't happen while we're gone, our stuff should be just fine. But nearly everything else we've owned or collected over the last four decades will be out of our possession by the end of this month. 

In the next couple days we will sell our car, the last big ticket item other than the house. And if, I mean WHEN, all goes according to the current plan, we will close on September 30th.