God, in this much more existential sense, is about the sacred that lives within, having nothing to do with religion. But about finding ourselves and freedom, differently defined.
In response to a recent article on how letting go of my designer duds acted as a substantial step in unmasking me, I got a wonderful response on the Medium version to share with you from Dr. Linda Robinson:
Denial AND repression writ very large. Throw in some guilt too, for “good measure.” We blame ourselves for the stuff others have heaped on us, before we REALLY understand life and most importantly ourselves. Before we learn how to love ourselves for the unique human specimen each of us is.
Sad, isn’t it?
We teach our children to compare themselves to others at a very early age: kindergarten or maybe even earlier than that. It’s not just our parents, siblings and teachers who instruct us about comparisons to others, where we all come up short along a variety of dimensions: intelligence, beauty, athleticism, kindness, musicality, etc.
When we don’t get those school awards and trophies OR A’s on a report card, a youngster might say to self: I’m just not good enough. It’s the beginning seeds of humility IF the authority figures in our lives are wise. Otherwise the seeds of doubt and self-flagellation OR covering up with the trappings of “success” begins. In other words, defense mechanisms.
Until that epiphany occurs that comparison has a dark side, the habit continues throughout a lifetime. Our sick culture of marketing “stuff” reinforces those habits of childhood laid down before we knew about life, because at 6 years old we haven’t really lived.
After all, we are creatures of habit, neural connections strengthened over time. Yes, those connections can be severed and new healthy, life-affirming habits developed to replace the old. It is work to do just that. Important deep work that you Julia, have written about before. BRAVA.
With thanks to Dr. Robinson, I wanted to further share with you another timely article for one simple reason. The designer duds episode, the end of which is in sight as yet another bag heads to The Real Real today, caused me to embark on a whole house cleanup. Right now I have scads of unused and will not be used equipment and clothing cluttering up a downstairs bedroom. They will be dripped out via resales. It's hard to express how wonderful this feels.
I did this before, in 2014, then promptly went out and bought more stuff to fill the hole inside me that cannot be filled.
To that, please see this:
Our relationship to our things has deep psychological roots
Just as with our human relationships, we all have a backstory to how we relate to material things. I grew up in poverty. I was embarrassed by it. I tried to hide that I was on the free school lunch programme by picking up my lunch ticket when other kids weren’t around. During high school, I desperately wanted to fit in, and I worked three jobs simultaneously to afford the cool clothes and other things people with more money had.
We are of course feeding an insatiable hunger, and Western society is only too happy to accommodate. The problem is that being free to buy more stuff simply pounds more nails into the consumption coffin not only for ourselves but our planet, as she points out.
When we understand, as I do, but don't always function at this level.
What is freedom, truly?
I just this moment hung up from my weekly call with my social media guru. He and I both, as very young people, used to be able to put the sum of our possessions into our cars. He became a nomad early, as did I. He's about to move from RV life into a brownstone in Portland, with 1600 square feet. For a homecoming gift I purchased two fabulous big fat towels, which he badly wanted. He couldn't have those in the RV, and its a much-deserved gift.
Still, he knows a lot more than I ever did about restraint. He's a Millennial, and that has come with the territory.
Freedom is completely emotional, psychological, mental. We are imprisoned by racism, ageism, all the -isms. We are imprisoned by limiting beliefs, our lack of self-esteem, our terrible collections of debilitating fears. And we are imprisoned by our stuff. Stuff can be the shit we carry from past traumas (which led me to make so many purchases) to the stuff those traumas cost us to make said purchases.
To understand how seriously skewed our idea of freedom is, just see the MAGA movement. Tyranny, hate, viciousness, all imprison us. They scream about freedom from within prison cells.
Nelson Mandela found his freedom from inside prison. When we find the sacred within, which many refer to as God, at that point we don't need the trappings to prove it, to shore up a damaged sense of self.
To that, my dear friend Melissa, who does elder concierge, just send me this:
Melissa, by request, has been helping to clean out and move the belongings of those clients of hers who have died. We've been discussing this because she is exceedingly wise, and we are exploring how that process, which is now mine, speaks to transitions into a new way of being and thinking.
I am not doing it in preparation to die (albeit that, too) but in preparation to live vastly more in the moment right now.
After we laughed long and hard about clearing out x numbers of sets of wine glasses (thanks mom ) to my mother's beloved but never-used China and re-homing them, we compared notes. Melissa inhabits a big-for-one-person house in Colorado. I do the same, a bigger home built for entertaining, in Oregon.
She said, "My kitchen cabinets do NOT have to be completely full."
Learning to live with open spaces is a departure from the Depression-Era parents whose terrible fears, born of experience, led them to hoard, and to infect us with the same fears. As though a cupboard full of dishes could pay the mortgage, or hug us back.
Precisely. Freedom shimmers, rises and expands as we forfeit not only material things which act as anchors, but old resentments, angers, self-doubt and fears which cause us to not live in the present.
And finally, one more thing. I dropped off furniture that I had bought last year to house things I never wear to the local consignment shop. In the process of this Vast Cleanup, I realized that I was pulling a George Carlin. The more I bought, the more storage I needed, the bigger the house, the bigger the anchor, the stress, the upkeep. Stuff.
The shop happily placed my lovely things on the floor. They sell fast, and are off holding other folks' stuff now. That's a step to freedom.
However, I walked out with one item. This picture speaks volumes to me about who I am, where I am heading in life, and the immense freedom I am beginning to enjoy as I transform towards seventy. I mounted this over my bed last night:
You get it. This woman's prints are worth exploring. Art speaks volumes. This one really spoke to me.
The road to true freedom has its roots in understanding where the prison bars hold us back. They are everywhere. Being willing to explore these ideas, and further explore the price we pay for remaining imprisoned by being identified with things and people who not longer serve our Becoming, is a lifelong process. That, to me, is one way to find God within.
With heartfelt thanks to the wise readers who are always and forever feeding me such fine content, which I am honored to share with all of you.
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