Priority Check

I’m sitting in the front yard in my camp chair. The sky is cloudless, the air at least 78 degrees. Dogs are sprawled out next to me, soaking up the sun then moving temporarily to the shade offered by our little tree. Back to the sun, back to the shade, Little Cat meows from inside the screen door. This is my happy place made even happier by the passage I just came upon in my worn out copy of the Tao Te Ching:

For one gains by losing
And loses by gaining

Grin. Sigh. Feel better now.

A few days ago I had my first ever garage sale. I often shed junk to the Goodwill but I’ve never gotten rid of things I really like, things that are worth something to me, things I connect with. My Craigslist ad and homemade posters said it all, “Moving Sale, EVERYTHING MUST GO!”

I’m heading to Hawaii with only the things that matter most to me: my pets, my car and my bird magnets. Obviously some clothes and a few books will make the cut along with my laptop, but that’s about it. I’m paring my life down to three boxes and two suitcases. Whatever doesn’t fit needs to go.

I could tell you it’s because I’m above attachment to possessions. I could tell you it’s because I’m a free spirit who hates to be tied down. While those may be ideals I continually work towards, the truth is a much simpler and more human reality – I can’t afford to do what I’m doing and ‘stuff’ is expensive.

It’s just me supporting me and I make $10 an hour at a grocery store (and sadly even less at the hotel). I have no debt to speak of but I have no savings either. And let’s not forget I don’t have a job there yet.

From 8am-5pm I paced the driveway watching strangers rifle through my most prized possessions. “How much for the knife block, the flowerpot and the table and chairs?” The pups stood guard while friends kept me company. In the end I walked away with a few hundred dollars that will cover the quarantine fees for the pets upon arrival at Honolulu International Airport and most of my stuff was gone. The sale was a success that left me feeling uneasy. That was a really nice Cuisinart mixer… I’ve had those bookcases since Boston… the memories that lived inside that tent… and omigod I’m leaving my friends!

Back inside my studio apartment it looks as if a bomb has gone off but there’s very little debris scattered about. With a few more things to sell on Craigslist and a sizeable donation for the Goodwill truck I’m going to make my goal. I will arrive on an island 3,000 miles out in the Pacific Ocean, where I have exactly 1½ friends, with only the bare essentials in hand. Umm… that’s a little terrifying.

For two days I’ve been questioning myself, my plan, this cockamamie scheme of mine, getting swallowed up by the enormity of it all. But today in this camp chair under this tree I’m breathing again, coming back around. My thanks to Lao Tsu for always pulling me back from the darkness that is doubt and fear.

So far every loss over the past few years has proven itself to be an invaluable gain in ways I never could have imagined. The reality is I live close to almost none of my family or friends yet they are always at the forefront of my heart and soul. In this moment my happy place consists of three pets, a laptop and a camp chair. It would be silly to think I’d need anything more in paradise.

My truth: Losing my ‘stuff’ means gaining an adventure in the pursuit of knowledge with my three furry friends by my side.

OK then. Priorities are definitely in check.


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