Saturday, July 31, 2010

Seven things I like - Part two

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, 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.


Eric said...

Oh, I thought the title was 'Possessive medication', damn. I like original artworks and ancient relics, I'll try putting some of it in a pile on the floor and sorting through it, thanks for the tip.

Your dad's comment about possessiveness reminds me of something disturbing I once saw on a poster that a girl had painted to get over something really truly awful.

mylittlebecky said...

my dad said *exactly* the same thing to me. over and over.

Philip said...

Wow that was powerful stuff. A really tough bit of writing, a bit vulnerable and a lot strong. Also a bit sad and a bit happy. It didn't have many laughs, which is what I most associate you with, but I think it may be one of the best things you've written. I'm so pleased you're doing the seven thing. Looking forward to the next one already.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Forgive for saying this, but your father sounds like the kind of a man who enjoys giving it to a lady up the butt. I don't envy your mom, that's for sure...

Sarah P said...

LOVE this passage: "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."

I love your pieces about finding your strength despite your father's behavior.

Beta Dad said...

Both a good theory and a perfectly reasonable ritual. It sounds like Dad was threatened by you from the get-go.

Ellie said...

I love this whole post.

Dawn said...

I love the office supply store. And the funny little fuzzy feeling in my brain that wraps me in joy when I stand among the pens and post-its and blank pages. Pink erasers and pinker paper clips. Love them all. And I must take them home.

Mr London Street said...

This is one of your finest posts, and it has quite some competition. It's funny how common a trait in dads this is; mine too delighted in telling me that technically I couldn't legally own anything until my eighteenth birthday. A far more petty and intellectual explanation than "everything in this house belongs to me" but trust me, equally maddening.

When you write funny posts you are very, very good. When you write serious posts, you are incredible. When you write your book you will find a way of incorporating both those kinds of writing, and then you will be worldbeating.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

I can't top or even match the comments of your readers. I can tell you how much writing touches me...both appropriately and inappropriately, thank you very much.
More than anything I love how your words always give me pause, moving me to reflect and question.
Huge King Kong kudos to you!

Anonymous said...

I'm completely with Sarah P on this...

the eternal worrier: said...

Great post. I still love new stationary even now! Nothing like a new notebook.

Denise said...

This thing about your father makes me sad. I'm glad you've overcome it and enjoy the things you own. I know what you mean about just enjoying something new. You don't have to exactly use it, but the enjoyment comes from possibilities... endless