The cost of resting on your laurels is more than you may realize
I'll bet you can't say anything like this:
At 10:00 a.m. Nepal time on May 25, 2001, Erik Weihenmayer became the only blind man ever to stand on the summit of Mt. Everest.
That's pretty impressive. However, what's a lot more impressive is what he reports happened on the way down that storied mountain some two decades ago. He writes that his guide told him as they were about to reach the base of the mountain and all the fame which would come Weihenmayer's way:
Don't let your trophy room become your mausoleum.
Erik Weihenmayer has since gone on to break all kinds of barriers for folks with sight disabilities. He's a one-man wrecking ball for those determined to use their lack of sight as their excuse to do nothing. I have extraordinary admiration for him. Here's why:
But this isn't about that. It's about his guide's comment, and what that brought up for me over the last forty-eight hours.
I was just in the Serengeti, in what my guide calls The World, where I am the absolute happiest. I am unbridled, unbound, joyous and in my element. While out there I had access to the internet, and found out that, in effect, my many decades-old company had effectively folded for lack of funds. No matter what I had done to stop the bleeding, I was down nearly thirty thousand in income from last summer, and there was no way I could hold onto the house I had bought in the one state I most wished to live.
It was a big hit, a gut shot, and it nearly ruined my trip. You and I are allowed to grieve when that kind of thing sucks the air out of us. However.
I got home four days ago. Even as I continue to produce articles on deadline for various clients who still pay a pittance, I started to take down all the art, the decorations that made this big, gorgeous house my own. I did it because three nights ago, I had begun to sink back into being so comfortable in my house that I started resisting the idea of moving, even though the financials didn't support the stay. But it's so lovely here, I thought. Yep. It is. AND.
That's a death knell. That is the trigger that it's time to rip everything apart. Here's why this is in alignment with Eric's guide.
My house had become this massive statement to a previous life. Original art, African masks, swords from Borneo, you name it, I've got it. Handmade winter coat from Mongolia with the boots, a Mongolian saddle, blah blah blah. The occasional visitor (usually someone with a tool box) would be duly impressed. The old BF was duly impressed.
I had dressed up my house with proof of my awesomeness. PAST awesomeness, probably as much to convince myself as any aging high school QB who has taken up residence on the corner bar's corner seat to brag about glory days.
In doing so, I had slowly but surely begun to sink into the comfort, real and imagined, of choosing to live an awesome life, but only in the past.
The way I think of it is that as someone with a bad hoarding habit, I was trying hoard history. Time. The one and only thing you absolutely positively cannot hoard, no matter what.
I've got at least ten or more years of hard-core travel in me in one form or another. If I stayed in this house, the current financials, even with minor improvements, would mean that about the only traveling I would do would be what Karen Blixen called "mental traveling."
The costs, upkeep, projects, etc. here are too much for one person, IF my dream is to do what I love. I either give all this up and do what I love or I hang onto the pretty mausoleum of a past life, and enjoy how impressive my previous life was at the cost of living.
The cost of living.
Actress Gloria Stewart played the 100-year-old Rose in Titanic. In a particularly powerful scene at the end when she dies, the camera pans across all the photos of Rose flying, riding, exploring, adventuring. She is the twenty-ish Rose in all of them. She said she had to travel with all her photos. I have no intention of being so attached to my photos of a past life that I forget to live out loud in this one.
Being duly impressed with your history isn't living. It's existing in the past.
And therein lies the problem. When I am convinced of how impressive I am based on a bloody house full of memories, it's time to sell it off and get going.
By now, most of the walls are stripped. I can move fast when highly motivated. I still have surgeries to recover from and one hell of a lot of work to do, but already, the garage and downstairs guest room are full of years of collections and goodies that have to go. My hands are yelling in protest, but once I am on a tear it's best to get out of my way.
I have photos, if I have to enjoy memories. I'm allowed. But I will not allow the immense weight of this big gorgeous house and way too many belongings anchor me here. I have thirty more years to live, and while I am active and healthy and engaged that means get out and do what I love.
To do that, I have to release the House That Became a Gorgeous Mausoleum.
In that lovely way that the Universe says YES to you when you've made the right move, yesterday I dropped by my local consignment shop. They were delighted to know I was selling off; the timing is perfect for a ten-year anniversary sale. That means I have enthusiastic assistance moving Great Big Heavy Things (like a 350-lb stone Buddha and a 150-lb Pho dog from my gazebo). And I will have that help before I have surgery, which is perfect timing and a HUGE relief.
As I slowly release the extras I don't need and go once again through the processes of donating, letting go and selling off, I am selecting a few things to keep here and there. I will have a base-ops somewhere, and I like to decorate (do tell). So, a few things.
But the greater decoration is the bank of memories which I can call forth by scrolling through photos, re-reading articles etc.
A powerful recurring theme in my life is that the moment I feel myself choosing comfort over the push to explore, it's a bright red flag to get going. I have a trip that I thought I'd have to cancel coming up in September. I am going to recommit to it, for by that time this selloff is going to make it possible. And by then I'll have a larger plan in place, get the house is on the market if it isn't already, and maybe even have done some time looking around for temporary housing in a few different countries. I have it already in Tanzania.
I am peripatetic by nature. Not a home body, not really, despite the fact that I really did believe this was my last place, and that I really invested in it. I've got a bad habit of making a decision and then working hard to justify it. I'll bet you've done something like that: put a lot of time and money into something that you realize later just wasn't you. That would of course include marriages.
That's perfectly all right. In my case it is the perpetual search for a home that doesn't exist. It only exists inside me, and I am not feeding it if I am dusting old memories.
This home, this marvelous, beautiful, fine trophy home with all the art and the Buddhas and the lovely bird-feeders-the-bear-rips-down, it's a mausoleum of a past life.
I have one month before hand surgery. It's going to be rip-ass busy. And I am well on my way.
This is what the garage and downstairs look like now after two days:
I had already let go of most of it while in Africa, but here's the kicker. A day after I got back I was looking around with real sadness and thinking about how I could hang onto the place. I could feel the hooks of possessions and the weight of All That Stuff pulling me underwater like the Titanic, where I would be the same in perpetuity. A testament to a different time.
Part of me is shit-scared.
Good. That's precisely the point.
That's how I grow. It's time to go. I had a house in Oregon. I can be richly grateful for the time I had and the time to come. I will continue to explore the coast I have come to love. But I need to explore the rest of the world I have yet to see.
Life is light. Trophies and mausoleums are heavy. Time to let go and let life continue to evolve.
Dedicated to my Saga supporter and friend Nurit Amichai, who just moved again, and who can relate.
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