Too much shit and not enough time

I was already working on this blog post, note by note, through the month. Then the protests started.

I haven’t processed everything. (Can I?) Sleep is a lovely abstract concept, my digestive tract is a hot mess, and I was already hypervigilant, but that’s blown past eleven and is somewhere around a hundred or so.

Last month, I talked about time. About Chronos and Kairos and being in the moment. So I’m looking at writing what was already going to be a post about my values through the lens of this particular moment of protest, rage, frustration. This moment of weighing someone’s life, their dignity, their rights, vs things, property, stuff people own. (because ownership means a lot of things in our society, but that’s a different conversation)

In the beginning (over 10 years ago now), my practice was about helping people exist with their things. Finding storage, making accommodation, making it pretty, making it tolerable. But what I noticed and could never quite articulate fully was this underlying notion that people’s stuff was more valuable to them than their lives. They’re spending their lives stewarding objects for a multitude of reasons, to the point that it eats away at their lives, the time they have to savor being alive. Even if they don’t state it outright or are fully aware of it, their behavior dictates that their objects are worth more than their life, than living.

Valuing life is not a one and done action. It’s something that must be chosen, moment by moment, day by day. It’s a practice, and it takes practice.

Sometimes, people hold on to their things with the idea that the thing represents how they see themselves, not as they really are. I will build that table, host that fancy dinner, read that stack of books, wear the fancy clothes that signify the life I want, rebuild that car, the list of “someday” things is endless. Folks hold on to collections of various things hoping that their ideal self will show up. If they hang on to these crates of yarn, they will become a knitter, if they hold on to this fabric, they will make their own things. But the roles and identities people are imagining themselves as call for more time, more space than their lives allow.

I talk sometimes about a client who was dying, and wanted to die with zero possessions. She said bluntly “I have too much shit and not enough time.” Succinct, and laid bare the issue she was facing. Her flat and her life were full of beautiful, wonderful things, but having those things got in the way of living, of enjoying and appreciating the time she had left. At the end, it was simply shit in the way.

Thing is, that’s the case for all of us, not just at the end, but now.

I know everybody’s seen the variant on “everybody’s got the same 24 hours in a day” with the implication that if there are all these high powered folks moving in the world, what’s your excuse. But that adage is an out and out lie. (you know it is) We don’t have the same 24 hours per day from person to person, and we definitely don’t have the same 24 hours as the folks held up as examples of high productivity. So when people come to me wanting to organize the things they have, or become better at time management, or be more productive, without any introspection, we hit potholes. The introspection is needed. When it all comes down to it, we all have too much shit and not enough time.

Which brings me back around to valuing objects over life. I’m in a pretty dark place overall and tending to myself mostly. There are reading lists, donation lists, miles upon miles of GoFundMes and petitions, go find them. What I do have are questions. What kind of life are you living? In what way does your life reflect what you value? If there is a disconnect between the two, how do you bridge them? Are you the kind of person who values living fully? How can you help ensure others can experience that?

In what way does the care and feeding of stuff impede the care and feeding of people, of the activities of life?

How much of your life has been lost to stuff already?