the stripping away part

“How much of this stuff are you going to take with you?”

My dad and I look around my bedroom, stuffed and overflowing with everything I own, all the collected accessories to life in my little drafty apartment last year.

“Not too much.” The house in New York is furnished, down to kitchen and linens and new roommate-friends, and I will only take essentials on the long drive to The North. Lots of clothes. The very most important books and notebooks. Guitar. This is a blessing; I don’t want to try to haul all my pots and pans, canisters, things for the walls, and it’s time to go through the assorted baubles and things again. Tiny Nerf football? It’s possible I no longer need that.

But surveying these things, thinking of how little it really makes sense to take along, I push down a small flame of panic in my chest. I spent weeks getting rid of stuff after high school, and everything I own now has a use or a story. I remember which thrift store I was at with whom when I acquired all the kitchen wares. I am down to my ten very favorite stuffed animals. And my books, oh, the books, they are all parts of me and my family got mad every new dorm room, I brought so many along and didn’t always read them but they are comforting like a mocha latte on a cold day. All this stuff – without it I feel unprotected. How can I pare my material life into a few boxes in a backseat?

It’s not really that I love my things so much, more that I already feel vulnerable and small moving to a new place on my own without friends or activities or a past to orient me. It seems somehow that all my stuff could prop me up a little, cushion the landing by virtue of simple familiarity. But most of it will stay behind in my favorite-colored bedroom.

All the familiar relationships are changing, too, changing radically. Seeing a couple of friends, long soul-nurturing Skype chats, phone calls laughter-filled can’t keep that emptiness at bay. A massive loneliness sets in when you stop living half a mile away from 15 or 20 dearly loved ones and you start spending whole weeks alone. And the rushing-around activities I loved, my art, my service, my fellowship of brainies – also gone. I try to keep creating alone, but the things that grounded me, defined me, and purposed me are now filed under “memories from undergrad”.

I write all this out by way of mourning, yes, but also in trying to figure out what to do with the fact that I am as stripped-down as I’ll ever be. I am discovering what I do when left to my own devices and trying to write down every thought just because the luxury of the time is available. If there has ever been a time to “center myself” or “find myself” without distraction, this is it. Who is Lyndsey, sans boyfriend, sans responsibilities, sans reputation, sans improv? What, at the core of me, will I take to Syracuse, sans everything?

I don’t know, and I was looking forward to this time because I thought the answer would just emerge. But even though I worked hours every day to find a job at the beginning, I have been diligent in plowing through Dostoevsky, I finally have time to maintain some guitar callouses, I resist my Bible until the end of the day. Does it feel too much like schoolwork? Is my id running from something my ego doesn’t know about? I don’t know this either. In my mind, I know God can tell me who I am, what I’m doing, and that this is the best opportunity I’ll have in years to really intentionally deepen my relationship with him. But even as I pray through my day, as I can’t stem the tide of thanks eating a bowl of berries on my floor, I can’t summon the… the something, to practice discipline, delve into that book or try harder to speak and listen.

I want to. I really want to. Maybe it’s the constant train of self-analysis barreling through my brain, or the thought that I can always do it later. All I know is I have not quieted like I thought I would in these empty spaces. But it is beginning to feel like an urgent need. If I am to arrive nearly naked in New York, I will lean into that. I don’t want to show up carrying too much, bringing in boxes of self-evaluations and trash bags of fears and worries. I know if I somehow arrive resting in my Father, there will be just enough.

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1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline in Atlanta

     /  July 10, 2012

    I always thought Thoreau made that whole Walden Pond thing up. Not that he didn’t go, but that he had great spiritual awakenings there, ehh? Maybe he just got mosquito bitten. Getting alone with God and real with yourself is hard and painful.


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