If we actually connected more to the people in our world, our ‘stuff’ would be less significant, because we would be fulfilled through natural bonding and attachment.
Attachment and bonding are topics that are too often reserved for babies and young children, even though our need for bonding doesn’t stop ever!
If we don’t get it proper attachment as a child or in our current relationships, we bond to ‘things’.
THIS TED talk video explains it well and it is well worth the watch (plus, it gives this perspective piece more context).
Who we are is more important than what we have.
It is a sad state of affairs, when we find our identity based on what we own (or don’t), instead of simply knowing and feeling that who we are is enough.
Are there things in your life that you cling to identity wise?
For me personally, the hardest thing to let go of is books….it is like as though somehow they are a physical representation of my perspective, thoughts, and beliefs – that I feel compelled to carry into the future.
Ownership can also be a form of internalized self-bondage when one prioritizes ‘stuff’ in a way that they are enslaved by having it.
A great example is purchasing something on credit and becoming a slave to paying it back.
It is slavery when you make a payment of $100 a month, only $30 goes to the principal!
Owning a house can be bondage too.
For example, you are not legally allowed to rent it out until you have a certain amount of equity in it, even if all you really want to do is travel the world working from your laptop!
Personally, I keep having visions of downsizing even more (I love clearing clutter!) and moving into a tiny house or VW campervan so that I can do the live, work, travel thing……and my brain keeps asking, but what about all those books!?
Where will they go? What if I need one of them in the future?
Sadly, our industrialized society fosters this kind of unhealthy attachment with all its commercialism and lack of community in close proximity.
Far too often we bond to stuff instead of people.
What’s worse though than having debt, feeling trapped or hard pressed to let go of our stuff is that some people are even willing to give up their relationships or what really matters in life to have it.
Think of all the siblings that fight over an inheritance.
Or couples that fight when they have a different idea of how to manage money.
Oh! The unbelievable lack of willingness to do the work of ‘working it out’ and the extravagant willingness to give up love and connection, just to have more ‘stuff’ or more money in the bank!
How ridiculous it all is, when the truth is that the only joy we get from having stuff is sharing it!!
It is not the ‘stuff’ that brings joy….it is the sharing of it that does.
It is just that some people’s joy in so called sharing it, is ‘sharing’ that they have it – just to get approval – not to actually share it.
There is nothing inherently wrong with having stuff.
What’s wrong is prioritizing it over people, being overly attached to keeping it, giving it too much significance to it or developing an identity based on it.
My ex once told me that it was important to him to own a house because he felt that it gave him an identity.
This subject is a touchy one and personal for me.
Only a few years later, his mom literally gave him a house (notice I did not say ‘us’, I wasn’t included in the original lender financed mortgage contract) and not too soon after – with nothing to lose monetarily – they went behind my back, destroyed the contract and my mother in law put the house in his will.
And then he asked for a divorce.
His reason? He said he wanted a divorce because I spent too much money on our children’s privately funded art based education and organic food.
He openly admitted that he cared more about money than me and more about saving money than investing in our children’s health and well-being.
He refused to go to marriage counseling.
He said the only way he would want to stay together, was if I stopped doing what I do (being a nutritionist and educator), stopped buying organic food and I would have to pull the kids out of private school and put them in public school.
BTW – I had been paying for their schooling from the start with my own money….and equally putting money towards food, bills and the so-called “mortgage”….that had been our agreement, that I would take on extra work to make it happen – and I did.
Basically, he was asking to give up my passion and purpose in life while asking me to compromise my values so that he could have more money – all the while making no additional effort of his own to generate any extra himself.
Somehow it was my responsibility to not only save money but to generate more as well.
All the while he kept sabotaging my every effort to do so.
From claiming bankruptcy and never getting discharged (because he wouldn’t follow through on his responsibilities), to getting fired from his job, to being so horrible to our roommate that the person felt compelled to leave overnight without notice, to not helping with yardwork, to keeping the walkway to our Air B n B space looking like a garbage dump, to spending a year on EI not looking for a job, to deliberately choosing not to go back to his $30 hour profession and taking one that pays $22 hr for the same work.
And all that time, I didn’t nag, I didn’t try to make him feel bad. I gave him space to just do what he wanted and stood by his side through all of it and the many hard times leading up to it.
And in the end, he still decided to blame me for everything that isn’t working in his life, instead of taking responsibility for his own actions.
And now he tells lies about me behind my back.
Which is why I am not hiding the truth to protect him and silently suffering (the way I used to), while he deliberately does things to hurt me.
The story he tells to anyone who will listen, is that his current state of financial lack is because I was a shop – a – holic, even though everyone who knows me knows, that I don’t even go to the mall and that I shop second hand – not because I am cheap, but because I want to avoid supporting the sweat shop industry – and because my decorating style is ‘bohemian’!
It turns out that after all this time (together 20 years), he decided he only wanted to keep me in his life if I would be on board to prioritize funding his identity as someone with more money than he currently has.
Because I am not willing to do that to the detriment of my children’s well-being, he determined that I had no value to him anymore.
And he told me that often, in many ways and in more than unspoken terms.
My choice is to choose love and more life for my family, not more ‘stuff’ or status.
I see my children’s education as an investment in their current and future well-being and buying organic food as an investment in their health and the health of the environment for my children’s children.
I am happy to invest in what I believe to be better quality.
I won’t apologize for my values and my standards.
I take the long view. I am not short sighted. I won’t give up on a better future to make today easier.
I am happy to go the extra mile for my kids.
At the end of my life, I get to feel satisfied knowing that I did everything possible to create a healthy childhood, connection, creativity and community around my kids.
That makes me happy now too, as I believe in doing what is right, not what is easy.
And I was more than willing to go to marriage counseling, in fact I was desperate to and this whole experience has been heartbreaking for me.
Despite all his shortcomings, I was still in love with him – even after 20 years of it.
But you can’t make someone love you, do the work or hold the same values that you do.
If there is one thing I have learned it is this….
If you have the lifestyle and the ‘stuff’, but you are with the wrong person, you’ll never enjoy it or be happy anyway.
But if you are with the right person, you don’t need anything more than their love and presence to be happy right where you are.
I would rather spend my time, energy and money cultivating experiences and making memories with people.
At the end of the day, that’s a healthy attachment and I was with a man who didn’t want to cultivate that kind of attachment.
He didn’t want to come to the dinner table when supper was ready, nevermind spend time with his family and so naturally, he bonded to ‘stuff’ and substances instead.
Sadly, his inability to bond to people because of childhood trauma and emotional neglect also fuelled his addictions (and yeah, I won’t even go there or try to calculate how much money he spent on that).
You can learn more about that here from Dr. Gabor Mate.
With our bonding requirements fulfilled, ‘stuff’ is naturally less important and people more important.
By the way, the photo that I chose for this post is one of myself and Adrienne Percy making cultured foods together.
It doesn’t only signify the sharing of food, but it reminds me of the joy in sharing accomplishments!
So what ‘stuff’ do you have in the way that drives you to bond with objects or status that you are willing to drop or let go of today so that you can have real joy?