2. Possessive meditation
Shopping is a pastime a lot of people enjoy – whether it’s for the rush of spending, for comfort, or maybe for acceptance...for wanting to be a part of life as our society suggests they should.
I don’t necessarily like shopping. In fact, sometimes I loathe it. I take little joy in spending my car insurance payment on a dress I’ll wear only once, and seeing a display of new merchandise in a store doesn’t give me any thrills. I rarely buy into consumer claptrap or watch commercials and think “I want that, I need that, I must have that”. I hate driving for miles to find a parking space just because I needed to pop in for a small necessity and everyone on the planet decided to participate in a little retail therapy.
But I like owning things. I like the possession aspect of consumerism – holding my, often reluctantly, purchased item in my hands and reveling in its unfamiliar freshness. And you may be thinking, “Everyone likes owning things, silly!” But I often think, maybe a bit psychotically, “This is mine. It only belongs to me.”
There’s obsessiveness in the way I own things. Only certain things, actually. Things I think most people wouldn’t choose to be obsessive about – not cars, jewelry, or anything expensive at all.
As a preteen it was photos and the like. - I took pictures and had them developed several times a week. Pictures of inane things like a stuffed animal I’d gotten for my birthday or our cat shoved in a doll stroller, over and over again. Cloth covered albums with their shiny plastic sleeves and caption cards and cardboard photo boxes with neat labels. Wooden frames, metal frames, magnetic frames, and flimsy foam frames. And always more pictures.
As a teenager it was writing supplies. - Soft bound journals full of empty white pages and a bright ribbon bookmark. Colorful post it notes and boxes full of intricate stationary. Spiral notebooks, college lined paper, unsharpened pencils, and thick pink erasers. Crisp packets of crayons, markers, and pens...with a special box to hold them all.
As an adult it’s expanded a bit – makeup, books, shoes...as well as the aforementioned items. Nothing terribly important, obviously, yet each and every time I acquire one of those things, I have a ritual. It hasn’t changed since I was a kid.
I smooth out the covers on my bed and I set the items down neatly, lining them up just so and then arranging myself in a cross legged position with my back against the headboard. Then I look at them. I smooth my hands over them, pick them up and feel the weight of them, turn them over and over. I smell them, and I...enjoy them, without technically doing anything. Sometimes it takes awhile. Eventually I put them away or use them, but never without having done the ritual first.
I like to think of it as possessive meditation.
I’m completely aware of why I do this. Or rather, I have a theory that I’m relatively sure is correct.
Ever since I was little my father delighted in telling me that I owned nothing, not even my underwear. “But I bought that with my own money”, I’d say. Or, “It was a present from so-in-so.”
“It doesn’t matter”, he’d reply, “you live in my house and everything in it belongs to me!”
That might sound like an oddly mild statement to some, but my father was not a mild mannered man. He always felt the need to punctuate these declarations with convincing, less than pleasant actions, and with little to no provocation.
I didn’t truly understand until I was older, until I learned to understand my father. It wasn’t about the things; it was about power.
My little ritual started, I believe, as a form of rebellion and became a necessary means of establishing my own brand of control. “This is mine. It belongs only to me.” I was convincing myself, telling myself not to succumb to his hype like my mother had. He owned everything about her and I not only despised that, I feared it. Taking control of certain objects, even if only with childish ritualistic actions and fervent thoughts, kept me from losing my mind.
Now it’s no longer necessary, though I continue to do it out of habit and strangely, enjoyment. I’m strong enough and old enough to rebuff anyone that would attempt to control me, including my father. In fact, I delight in telling him, loudly, just how much I possess that he doesn’t. And he hates it. He hates hearing the conviction in my voice and seeing it on my face. He hates the loss of control.
Sometimes I imagine him sitting crossed legged on a bed with all his belongings scattered around him. I walk over and with one sweep of my arm, send it all tumbling into a huge trash bin. Then I turn and walk away. Leaving him with nothing.
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