The below entry was published last Sunday in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. My hyper linking is not doing what it should do, so the link for it is simply splayed out here: http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2016/05/14/madsen-when-you-take-only-what-delights-can-freeing/84341626/
Of all of the columns I’ve written for the paper, this article received the most shares and follow-up emails filling up my inbox.
Something about it seemed to resonate with the readers, to catch people’s attention, more than any other entry I’ve written for the Argus.
Though I’m not quite sure what that’s all about, for this reason, I am re-posting it here, in hopes that, in the same way, it might by the grace of God edify those who receive the blog, but do not follow OMG on Facebook or on Twitter, where the links were sent out initially.
Peace to you all!
When, back in 2004, my late husband was packing us up after five years in beautiful Regensburg, Germany, for our move to Sioux Falls (I was still working, and totally won that division of duties deal), he decided that not only was packing un-fun, but that unpacking would probably rank right up there as another really poor alternative to hiking in the Alps.
One day, I returned home (did I mention that Bill was a stay-at-home Dad, tending to an 8 month-old girl and an active 3-year old boy at the time?) and there, standing between two distinct piles–not counting the mountains of toys and blankets and stuffed animals and the occasional chunk of Bavarian pretzel on the floor, I saw a grinning Bill. “Babe?” he said. “As Director of Madsen-Coning Moving Enterprises, I have made an Executive Decision. We are only going to pack what will delight us to unpack.” He pointed to the “Delightful” pile, and then the “Not Delightful” pile, and then stepped over the pretzel and the kids to get back to work.
A perfect Philosophy of Moving.
From the moment that he chose to throw only emotionally worthy stuff in those boxes of ours, and to leave behind the stuff that was really only ballast, Bill became lighter–his spirits, his humor, the hours of his days–not to mention our suitcases!
His decision became all the more poignant when, months later, we did unpack those boxes he filled. It’s just that the ‘we’ who unpacked them didn’t include Bill, as he had died a month before the move. My unpacking of these very boxes he’d carefully assembled occurred in the midst of grief and exhaustion and depletion and fear and loneliness. I wasn’t in a delightful–or delight-able–mood, I must confess, all of his good efforts to the contrary.
But the care that he’d taken in packing what he did–and, conversely, in not packing what he didn’t–wasn’t lost on me, nor was his Moving Motto, as I took fond memory after warm thought after poignant object out of those wooden shipping crates.
Only pack what will delight you to unpack.
Seems to me a fairly good Life Lesson that Bill offered me back then, one that is helpful not just for packing boxes or luggage, but for thinking about all the other kind baggage that one might carry around.
Not that I have any baggage, mind you.
I’m sure you don’t, of course.
But speaking theoretically, if one were to be schlepping around tough past memories, say, or bad habits, or dysfunctional patterns, or anger, or prejudices, or toxic self-perceptions, his phrase might be a way of considering what, in fact, at the end of the day, doesn’t actually delight a person at all and yet, crazily enough, here one stands, still giving it space day after day after day.
The word ‘faith’ means, actually, trusting in something: the root word for our English word comes from Latin, and references ‘reliance,’ ‘belief,’ ‘dependence,’ ‘giving credence to.’
It’s a stunning exercise when one takes enough time to stop and observe how many things in our lives we trust, we rely on, we depend on, to which we give credence and yet which don’t really deserve it; how we define ourselves by inconsequentials; how we adapt to burdens; how we accommodate junk–the physical and the emotional.
That was Bill’s freeing realization: we’d been accumulating so much over just our five years in Regensburg, and had simply gotten used to the accruing stuff, and to finally attend to it was so emotionally draining, because he had to physically do something with each item…and twice! Once to pack, and once to unpack!
And he realized that life is too short to haul around heaps of un-delight-inspiring clutter–tangible or intangible, physical or emotional. Instead, from that moment on, he was going to put his faith in the things that matter, in the things that give gladness, in the things that don’t burden but make for light luggage and light living.
His words have been on my mind as of late, because my two kidlets and I have decided to move to Two Harbors, Minnesota. Honestly, we didn’t mean to find the perfect spot for us up there, but accidentally we did: 20 acres of woods, a view of Lake Superior, a mostly-already-accessible farm house, a barn for my father’s beloved big tools, a garage with an apartment above for either a caregiver for my son, or retreaters with me for the work I do through OMG: Center for Theological Conversation.
It’s an act of faith, really: moving just feels right, despite all of the credence one could give to the weighty reasons to say that this is a really, really, really crazy idea.
We were gearing up to move to a different spot for months, actually, and so since last August our mantra had been “Pack Only What Will Delight Us To Unpack.” To that end, every day we spent at least an hour–way more on weekends, poor kids–for sorting and sifting and pitching and donating based only on Delight.
I’m both embarrassed and proud to tell you how much we shed.
We are now pared down. We are traveling light.
We are delighted to know that our mound of extra art supplies, and toys, and clothes, and school supplies, and furniture, will all be used by those who need them instead of gathering dust in our closets and hidden corners.
We have fed our local junk yard so well that it might not have any appetite for some time to come.
And we are delighted to know that when we bust open boxes in our new home, there will be more grins than groans.
I learned all those years ago, and yet had somewhat forgotten, and now because of this move been recently reminded, that life is too short to keep putting faith, and credence, and belief, and trust in things that are more ballast than blessing.
To Two Harbors, then, we are bringing objects that will delight us, memories that will delight us, and continued relationships that will delight us when we open and cherish and sustain them all the way up in the North Woods.
I am pleased to say that although this may well be my last column for the Argus Leader written from Sioux Falls, word has it that it won’t be my last column. My wonderful editor Brenda Wade-Schmidt has allowed me to continue to pen a piece a month (more or less). I’m grateful for that news, because writing it gives me delight–as I hope it does you too. The next one, then, perhaps I’ll pen while watching a bear eat our berries, or seeing my daughter pick an apple from our trees, or jumping up from my chair to chase my son sailing down the long driveway in his power chair.
(All of the above being said, let’s be honest: each of those options are way more delightful than unpacking even the most delightful boxes!).