I've been deplorable about updating this journal. But here's a random sampler of What's New:
- Just over a year ago, Theo shipped out to Army basic training and I wrote this entry. Now, he is completing his application to go to Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), i.e. the course to qualify for Special Forces training. If you watch this documentary about the two-week version of the course (it's now three), you'll see why I simultaneously A) think this borders on lunacy for a guy who's almost 41 and B) admire the hell out of him for wanting to try.
- My office remodeling project is nearly complete. I've painted, replaced ancient carpet with a faux-red-oak Pergo floor, and mounted the trim, baseboards, and quarter-round. Along the way I've made friends with my table saw, jigsaw, and miter saw, which kindly rewarded my friendship by not amputating any of my fingers. Now all that's left is to fill in the nail holes in the trim and apply a coat of paint.
- The kids are home from college for the summer, Kristen from Occidental in Los Angeles and Teagan from Allegheny in Pennsylvania. It's a joy to have life and liveliness in the house again. They both had a great year. Kristen has declared as a Japanese major and will enter her junior year this fall. Teagan is following the pre-med track, and despite a lot of cussing about her chemistry class, she finished her freshman year with a solid GPA and a great attitude. I'm very proud of them both. I am also excited that Kristen wants to learn to cook this summer! I got home from work last Tuesday to find the two of them making chicken curry and naan--delicious. It'd been many months since I ate a meal in this house that I didn't cook myself.
- I find myself reconsidering my relationship to "stuff," the belongings and physical baggage of my life. I find that many of the possessions that I once worked hard to acquire now feel unnecessary, more clutter than treasure. I've donated and sold a lot of things, even books, which have traditionally been my one truly covetous packrat possession. I find myself asking, "Do I need this? Does it serve a useful purpose? Does it have sentimental value? Would I weep if it were lost in a fire? Is it easily replaceable if it turned out I missed it?" If it is neither useful nor important, and I could find another one if I someday regretted jettisoning it, then out it goes.
Part of this decluttering is mental preparation for moving. With nobody here but me for most of the year, it now feels like more of a burden than a blessing. Paying for it alone is difficult; maintaining it alone is a chore. I'm stuck in it for the immediate future, thanks to the wretched housing market, but I am slowly but surely preparing for the day it can go on the market. I only wish it could happen sooner, and that we had more than a faint forlorn hope of doing better than break-even on it. $30-$40K of equity in this place has just...evaporated. Vanished into the Brave New Economy as though it had never been.
However, it's not all about prepping for an eventual departure from this house. I'm also increasingly drawn to voluntary simplicity, to enough-is-enough living, to questioning the difference between need and want and excess and overindulgence. This is my one wild and precious life, as poet Mary Oliver would say. How much of it do I want to spend serving as an acquirer, caretaker, and storer of stuff? People are more important than things. Doing--living--experiencing--is more important than things. I feel my priorities shifting, toward exactly what I'm not sure, but...shifting.