Note: if you are talking in public about something I find interesting, I will write about it.
On a calm Wednesday at a coffee shop I was stricken by a conversation happening next to me. One man was showing his friend a web page on his computer. He said something like this:
“You see this? This grill is a symbol to me. I imagine my son and my wife and me cooking out with it. All of us together. I’ll teach my son to build a fire and cook with it. My wife and I will sit by it. We can talk or do something together, I don’t care what it is. But she won’t even sit with me for ten minutes, and my son won’t speak to me. This grill is a symbol of hope for what the future will be for me. The fire is a symbol of community, of us all being back together.”
My heart was in my throat.
I think we all do this, to different degrees. We all have a “golden grill” that connects us to either a real or imagined future. It’s an object (or objects) that symbolizes who and where we want to be.
I have several – a yoga mat, a clarinet, a sewing machine. All things that I imagine myself picking up at some point in the future. But I used to have a lot more.
Letting go of the future
A lot of what I’ve done so far has focused on letting go of the past – elementary school track ribbons, notes from my mythology class (why did I keep those for so long?) and last year’s planner. Minimizing, for me so far, has been about letting go of things I’ve held onto for too long.
But what about letting go of things that contain hope? Do we let go? Do we hold on?
I hold on to my yoga mat because, while I only use it occasionally, I am so enticed by the lifestyle it promises. I want to do a handstand. I want to be like the incredible yogis on Instagram. I hold onto it in hopes that someday I’ll wake up, get to a class, and start a daily routine. Maybe someday I can be an instructor.
But the idea of a thing is not the thing itself. So, when you’re evaluating things that connect you to the future, ask yourself the following:
- Is this an expensive item to replace? (Think of the great 20/20 theory from The Minimalists)
- If it’s easily replaceable, does it take up a lot of space? If yes, ditch it.
- Is the emotion stronger than the item? By that, I mean would you feel the same with or without the item? Is it truly relevant to what is at stake?
- The honest question: Does intention follow the hope? Is it truly something that you can see in your future?
Is a golden grill a good idea?
Yes. I do think that if an item has a positive connection to the future, you should keep it around. However, if it serves more harm than good by taking up physical, mental and emotional space, then it’s time to move it out of your life.
Psychologically, it’s best for us to maintain a proper balance between our stuff and our relationships. While our stuff does connect us to our identity, it shouldn’t be at the sake of interpersonal interaction or of healthy goals. A post called “Self, Society, and Our Stuff” over on Psychology Today had a great line about this balance:
It seems that finding a middle ground in which objects help us learn about and express our selves while also linking us to others and the cosmos is a foundational step in navigating our relationships to objects and things.
I hope that man in the coffee shop realizes that the grill is not the real reunification of his family. The grill is not the goal.
So what’s your “golden grill”? Do you see it serving an important part in your future, or does it drag you down?