A Fridge in the Backyard

I don’t watch the reality show about hoarding because I have more than one person in my life who hoard, and I have more than one friend who have more than one person in their lives who hoard.  There is nothing entertaining about hoarding.

My father was more than frugal.  It made sense when we didn’t have much.  He saved things and stuff for a time of scarce.   He fixed things with the stuff he collected and saved.  He didn’t allow us to throw away things.  I didn’t understand the logic behind keeping broken fridges and TVs in our backyard, though.  “It’s good for a tool shed,” he said.  The rusty old fridge is still there.  It doesn’t look like a fridge anymore.  I don’t know if there are tools inside.

We were really lucky because he didn’t save newspaper and magazines.

I used to travel back and forth between the U.S. and my old country schlepping a large suitcase.  After years of airline check in baggage treatment, it cracked.  I got a new one and asked my mom to get rid of the beaten up one.  When I visited them a year later, I found the broken suitcase in my parent’s bedroom.

“What the hell is it doing in your bedroom?” I asked.  “Your dad didn’t let me throw it away,” my mother said.  My father doesn’t like to travel.  He doesn’t even like to go out of the county.  Where did he think he was going with the broken suitcase?  It was not about being frugal anymore.  They had to have storage sheds built in the backyard for the stuff… three of them.

Inside the house, my mom managed to contain his madness in one room.  It was filled with empty boxes, toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap.   “Why did you buy so many bars of soap?” I asked my mother.  “They were on sale,” she said. “Your father drove all the way to the shopping center to buy them.”   I stared at piles of soap bars probably enough to supply for three life time, and said to myself, “How long is he planning to live?”

When I stand and stare at the room full of toilet paper rolls, tissue paper boxes, and bars of cheap soap among other stuff, I see my father’s fear.  I feel trapped.  I lose the will to change.  The fear steeps out and penetrates into who I am.

I know it is not my fear, but I need to be aware of its presence.

Universe provides what one needs.  My father lived in the same house for the most of his life, creating fortress with stuff, a fortress for him, a prison to me.   I moved many times, one time across the Pacific with a single suitcase, several times out of broken relationships.  I was forced to shed stuff like a stray dog.  As soon as I settled in a new place, usually smaller than the one before, I started accumulating stuff.  Every time I moved, I had to choose what should be part of my life and what should not.  It served as a priceless mindfulness training.  I still accumulate stuff, while I know my fear.  Universe doesn’t have to force me to move anymore just to remind me to choose.  Once in a while I do it voluntarily, especially when I witness somebody else’s fear in their space full of stuff.

Letting Go

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Zen people say “Let go”.  Let go of what?  So I googled the phrase “let go of” and these are the suggestions I got.

  • Let go of anger.
  • Let go of control.
  • Let go of the past.
  • Let go of your ego.

I guess in a nutshell Zen people mean letting go of attachment to anything…everything.  My ideal zen life was to be able to move at a moment notice with one suitcase.  In reality, I probably need 5 guys with a truck and a warning months in advance.

When I had a dog, my worst nightmare was suddenly dying and leaving him behind without anybody taking care of him.   My dog passed at the ripe age of 14.  When he left, I let his body go.  The body was not him.  I felt pretty zen.  I used to have two cats.  When they died at 13 and 17 respectively, I had them individually cremated and held onto the ashes for years.  I didn’t know what to do with the ashes.  So they stayed on a shelf for a long time. I’ve learned a lesson.  Ashes were not my cats.

So what will I do with my body?

In my culture, cremation is the norm.  So it’s no brainer.  Unless I specify something else in my will, my body will be cremated.  I couldn’t care less.  I will be dead by then, won’t I?

I did think of donating my body for the advancement of science every time I learned about a cool research program, such as the forensic anthropology program at UT (University of Tennessee, I guess) aka the Body Farm.   I read a book by Mary Roach, Stiff, and learned that donated cadavers could be utilized for unimaginable variety of scientific and educational purposes.   I didn’t feel comfortable with many of them.

My gross anatomy teacher said that he often received inquiries from his dissection workshop participants for donating their body for his program.   He explained that logistically it was nearly impossible.  He advises them to donate through the local university’s program instead.

“But you can’t spefify how it is used, can you?”  a student asked.

“No, you can’t.  What do you care.  You are dead.  Let it go,” my teacher said.

It was the “Aha” moment.  Let go of control, let go of your ego, let go of the past, and let go of your body…

 

I admit I am not zen enough to let go of the idea of the ownership of my body after death.   Are you?

Another issue to contemplate.