I collect stories, not stuff

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My life changed suddenly

One normal afternoon my partner came home and left me. There was no build up, no fighting, just slow, invisible adjustments made over years that accumulated until we’d changed shape.

Do you know when you see behind the scenes of a movie set? When the magic is explained to you and though not exactly lost, you see the tricks in new logical ways? Back stage, there in reality touching the props you see their dimensions, colours and textures are not magic at all, they are similar. Are… normalised. You see the truth about what you thought you saw… how you were fooled. Little by little it makes sense, how these tricks come together to give a beautiful illusion to one perspective.

The rug had been pulled from under my delicately balanced life. Alone and silent I saw myself from that one true perspective….it was down and dirty like the floor I was lying on. My character and set were revealed to me in that one moment. Going behind the scenes of the relationship, I met myself and I didn’t like her.

Numbly I analysed her, she was skinny, weak, pale, a victim, easily offended, apathetic, treated her self badly and her confidence was at 1%. Not the person who was in this at the start. Twisted, how I’d thought I was really happy.

Yet there was always this one sign, I was always tired. I blamed it on working hard (at my desk job?), on my diet (which was pretty good) and being unfit (I cycled 10 miles a day). The doctor tried me on anti-anxiety medication and gave me a therapist. I chatted to the guy and took the pills, it didn’t fix anything because I’m an open book anyway and am spoiled for people to pour my heart out to. Nothing took away the tiredness and I started to feel guilty because I thought I was lazy.

Truth here is, all my energy was going on my act

I was acting that whole time, not theatre acting or even actively pretending to be someone else… No, acting as in; acting the martyr, acting the victim, acting the mother hen, acting as if I wasn’t bothered by being hurt, acting as if I was happy.

This performance is forced and if you’re using force to affect something it costs you energy. Accurately becoming someone you are not takes it out of you and I didn’t rest to recover, ever, there was always something to propel or resist.

On top of the break up I broke up with myself too, loosing the two parts of my life that formed a shell around the me I felt I used to be. Like uncasing a coconut it was messy, needed strength and looked painful. Coconut milk is worth the effort.

The hardest reveal

As my home transformed to a house, I packed up and uncovered one more chunk of myself. This, I didn’t like the stuff I owned or how much I owned either. I was so embarrassed as I cleared the place out because I had so much… stuff. I filled a van – twice. I had receipts and paperwork from 3 companies, I had childhood things, I had kitchen-ware, pots I’d made, so many trash bags of clothes, various collections, instruments, draws and draws of junk… too many gloves and scarfs, a billion handbags and backpacks… stuff that if you had robbed me I wouldn’t have noticed.

Assessing again, I realised that I’d built a nest around me to protect myself from reality, to make the relationship feel real. It had slowly, bag by bag, gathered around me… a bargain here, a creation there, a memory there a new identity confirmation there.

Seeing my stuff displaced on the lounge floor like a thrift store’s throw-up… I didn’t know how I’d managed to touch each thing, buy each thing, store each thing. I suddenly saw the stuff as a burden, mine to move to the next place, mine to care for, sell, love or throw away. How was I putting so much time, energy, love and money in to collecting things that had no purpose other than to disguise my loneliness by filling the gaps my partner was leaving? I felt i’d been living very far away hidden in a forest of duvet covers, blankets, and stuffed drawers.

Detached and disgusted by what was mine, I got it down to three boxes of mostly books, a chair and some keepsakes. I sold what I could and gave the rest away. I vowed never to hide myself away like that ever again and to be mindful that whatever comes in to my life must either be necessary, mine forever, beautiful or useful.

From when I hit the floor to the day I left for Kathmandu, was only three months and £3,000k

I decided that I would travel and never buy ‘stuff’ but collect only stories in a note book. It was the most real way to live by my new ethos of living lighter and also ensured I wouldn’t bury myself again as I had to carry what was mine on my back.

It made sense to focus on creating something worth keeping over the next few years rather than looking back and trying to pick up bits of me someone didn’t want.

Now that I was possession less, emptied out emotionally and had no ties to my home town, I jumped the wall of the movie set and was welcomed back to planet Earth.

It’s the stories that make you, not what you so easily own.


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