Nothing stays the same

There are many times in my life when I just feel like screaming, and today is one of them. Everything sets me on edge. Everything makes me feel more agitated.

The fortune I received in a cookie at the start of 2021 read, “Nothing stays the same.” This was a phrase I needed, as trying to let go of holding onto a static sense of control seems to be one of my greatest challenges in life.

I have written often about my desire to learn to let go and the many methods I have cultivated for this, particularly in the arena of material attachment. In my adult life, I have been moving to a new place every two months to two years, and so I have many opportunities to purge my snail shell of at least a smattering of my worldly possessions.

I have mantras I use to assist me in this Sisyphean (for me) endeavor. I can let go of something if it can be replaced, if it does not spark joy, if it is not fulfilling its “thing” life purpose. The list goes on.

There are some things that, no matter how hard I try, I just will not (cannot?) let go of. Try as I might, I am still the squirrel I have always been, caching things and holding on tight to my winter stock of acorns.

The photos below represent an effort to be meticulous (which I am not) and patient (which I am doubly not) in using the Japanese art form of Kintsugi to repair a beloved lamp during piece of pottery that was one of the earliest of my “à donner” (give away) finds in our old neighborhood in Brussels, Belgium. People would put things out they no longer wanted with a for free sign, and I would go on daily scavenger hunts to see what the neighborhood had bestowed upon me. There were many free stuffed toys, which my big, white husky Atticus benefited from as well.

My all-time favorite find was the pottery lamp with a blue and white pattern of flowers and a deer. On a recent visit to Europe, I happened to return the day after the US opened its borders to non-US citizens. The result was a chaotic mess, as staff and travelers tried to negotiate not only the enormous influx of people flying but also the sudden shift from printed documents for tickets, vaccination records, and negative PCR tests to digital apps.

One unfortunate consequence for me was that the staff person checking me in at British Air informed me that I had to check my rolling carry-no within which I had packed several cherished and very breakable items. Had I not been completely overwhelmed and in a clear frame of mind, I simply would have taken everything breakable out and carried it, two carry-on policy be damned. It was early in the morning, however, and the overwhelm was evident and real for me and just about everyone around me at the airport.

Upon returning home many myriad hours later, I opened my rolling suitcase to my great dismay to the sound of broken shards of pottery and glass.

I tried my best to shift my state of mind from extreme melancholy to gratitude that my lamp was in relatively good shape, all things considered. The practice of Kintsugi is to find more beauty in imperfection. I glued my lamp back together, one piece at a time, with all of the care I could muster, knowing that even though my husband would have done a better job with his ability to pay attention to detail (and his ocean of patience). It was I who had the relationship with this inanimate object. So it made sense that it should be me piecing it back together.

It’s quite possible that I should have spent more time practicing before taking on this project, but again…patience not being my strong suit, I was impatient to make it whole again.

I don’t yet know if I love it as much as I once did. I still wish I had saved it from its fate by taking it out of my carry-on bag. I still cringe when I look at the side of the lamp that was damaged the worst and try to be grateful that the side with the blue deer was took the lesser hit on its transatlantic voyage.

I know that my attachment to this lamp comes from a deeper well of emotion surrounding the transience of life.

I know that this is all practice.

I know that, as much as I sometimes wish I could hit the pause button on the ever forward movement of time, I too am only here for a short while.

I know that nothing stays the same.

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