I have a collection of t-shirts that are tangible reminders of all the places I’ve ever been. From St Martin Island (my honeymoon) all the way to China and Japan thirty years later.
For most of my life, travel and vacations also meant a trinket or two to bring home. Fortunately, I stopped buying gifts for everyone in the universe several years ago. Finding the perfect gifts to bring home nearly ruined a few trips.
But something changed this week. Several days ago I was walking down the streets of Bar Harbor, Maine peeking into the myriads of small shops displaying their treasures. I wandered into one of the local t-shirt shops to feel the cotton and found that I had no urge to buy a shirt with “Life is good,” “Life is better” or “I would rather be in…” (Fill in the blank for any city, state, beach town, restaurant, etc.). I suddenly realized that I didn’t want anything. The thought of adding yet another t-shirt to my already overgrown collection was totally unappealing. And I felt sad. And I felt old…and perhaps scared.
My mother has been at me for the last few years to start cleaning out the house and has hurtfully made reference to my “collections” as clutter. I love my stuff. I love the collection of teapots above my kitchen cabinets, the perfume bottles around my bathtub, the old books, decanters and Depression glass I’ve been collecting for more than thirty years. I cherish every find and have displayed them all lovingly.
In the last few years I’ve heard my mother articulate what I now see as the beginning of a new stage in my life. “At my age I don’t want anymore stuff,” she tells me. “You’ll thank me when you have to clean out the house because I won’t have anything to throw out.”
Somehow not wanting a t-shirt has become far more meaningful than hot flashes and reading glasses — not wanting stuff is a statement of where I am in my life. I’m trying to be present to the moment without requiring a thing. I no longer need a “Life is Good” t-shirt because more than likely if I’m on vacation, my family is safe and we are all healthy, and I already know this. I also know that all of this is quite liberating and a true testimony of all the work I have done thus far. Just “being” has now surpassed having. And life is good.