Driving My Train

I got the airport massage and it was the best $XXX dollars I’ve spent in a long time. Before and after my ninety-minute massage I sat in a vibrating massage chair in the spa and also took walks and had snacks, so the potentially agonizing four-hour layover was pretty dang blissful.

Eleven days later I’m back to pack up the rest of my house, but it feels like I’ve been gone forever and that no-man’s-land of neither here nor there seems to be my permanent address. But it’s not. There’s a defined goal in sight and it’s coming very fast. It’s holding a sign that says: ready or not here I come….

I’ve never been any good driving a manual transmission, and I feel like I’m in that suspended moment in time when a clutch is about to engage but has yet to do so. I panic about the timing but think I might successfully transfer gears, though in order for there to be a transfer of power there also has to be a brief interruption of power. It is in that suspended moment that the dreaded outcome occurs: I stall.

At the heart of clutch operation is something called a throw-out bearing. There are many important, moving parts in a clutch, but it is the throw-out bearing that allows that brief pause, and then the continued motion.

I’ve written lately about the things we stash and the things we display, and the way these things limit our growth and potential because we don’t allocate accurate weight to the power of inanimate objects.

In several blog posts I’ve chronicled my process of sorting and discarding that began before I even knew I’d be going on an adventure, though perhaps my subconscious had an inkling. And now it’s official: I’ve pared down my life into what will fit into my Subaru and my thirty-five square foot storage closet, but as the remaining items get distributed, stored, or packed into the car one thing is clear to me: there is no time for stalling. I must keep my throw-out bearing in top shape.

When I started this process a few months ago–subconsciously anticipating a move without knowing where or when or why–I had umpteen pairs of blue jeans and a serious over abundance of running shoes.

I had to look in the mirror and make a few big-girl decisions. Do I need jeans sized and styled for juniors? {no.} Do I (really) need a dozen pairs of running shoes so I have the right shoes for every type of terrain and weather and every combination of the two? {C’mon…NO.}

Do I need to keep my first pair of $200 jeans that I bought eleven years ago? I remember when I bought then, who I was with and where we were. Hmmm….maybe? It’s a good question, and my final answer is a vigorous “Yes!” They still look good *and* fit (though at times I thought they never would), and I’ve had a lot of good times in those jeans.

As far as the running shoes go, when you have these, you don’t need much else. No joke.

A very generous friend came over and spent an entire afternoon with me while I tried on almost everything that was left in my closet. With her good eye and terrific fashion sense I was able to get rid of an additional twenty or thirty items that, though lovable, were just not right for this next chapter of my life.

She spotted a pair of boots that were headed for the storage unit, and she immediately upgraded them to the “adventure pile” because, she said, “Those boots are amazing. You’d be crazy not to travel with them.” They’re vintage from the seventies, a perfect fit, the perfect color, and i got them at a thrift store for $3. Perhaps the boots need a blog of their own…?

Another friend came over to help me reduce two big drawers of socks, bras, and underwear into one manageable bag. I thought maybe I’d kept too much, but she showed me the two big bags of giveaways. Sometimes we need friends to remind us we’re on the right track.

{I am not kidding when I say that it really does take a village to minimize your life.}

Yet another friend came over to help with the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen had slightly more than the usual accumulation of spices and teas, and a pretty pared down cupboard of “emergency” soups and cereals, yet she still hauled multiple boxes and bags to her car. The bathroom has minimal storage space, but I still managed to acquire quite the collection of bottles and tubes. Honestly, I don’t even want to talk about it.

My linen closet contained enough “extra” to fill two big, black garbage bags with sheets and towels that were donated to the Humane Society of Western Montana to help keep the animals cozy this winter. A friend who works there said I could drop the bags off on her porch and she’d bring them to work with her, which saved me a fifteen-minute drive to the other side of town in a direction I never need to go. And at times like these every fifteen-minute block of time counts.

Most of my clothes will now fit in a single duffel bag, and I have to admit: I’m a little smug about it. To say that I’m pleased with (and proud of) myself for how I’ve defied human nature (and my genetics in particular) and gotten rid of things without worry or guilt is an understatement.

Throughout the process I’ve continued to contemplate the things we keep, and in the wake of my bold and daring paring down of physical things, I’ve become concerned with something else: what we hold onto that doesn’t take up any space, but which also holds us back.

You know what I’m talking about, right? The saved voicemail that reminds you of someone you can’t speak to, or of a calm before a storm, or of a small disappointment that turned into a serious life lesson.

Perhaps you have photos on your phone, or computer, or an ancient hard drive—so old it’s built like a brick and not a deck of cards, the way they are now—and in each image is a dozen memories. It’s not just you and the other people in the picture; a single image contains the story of how you got there, why you stayed, when you left, how you felt. A photo may conjure up emotions such as fear, anxiety, insecurity, and despair.

These are not the photos we need to keep. Hopefully there are plenty of photos that convey the opposite emotions—joy, relief, love, pleasure—and that are filled with the faces of people we love, so why the hell do we need to keep the others?

Supposedly it’s “okay” to keep jeans from slimmer days with the hope that we’ll fit into them again, but to keep physical reminders of heavier times…..the word on the street is: pitch them. Why give yourself permission or the opportunity to return to a place you wanted to leave? I mean seriously: why?

If you believe in the power of positive thinking or the Law of Attraction or any variation on that theme, then you believe that we become our thoughts. If we repeat to ourselves that we are failures or unattractive or poverty stricken then we’ll continue to repeat the behaviors that contribute to those patterns. It’s scary to believe we’re actually driving our train, but scarier to deny it.

But our future is actually in our control. A friend posted this quote on Facebook the other day:


Oh Man—I love this.

Maybe it’s a song you keep in your iTunes although a permanent deletion is only a couple of keystrokes away. That song shows up like a party crasher who knocks over your snack table and spills an entire solo cup’s worth of sticky, sweet cocktail on your speakers. “That song” can ruin a perfectly good moment, but for some reason you keep it in the shuffle rotation.

That song shoes up when you’re folding laundry, jogging into the sunset, or crossing state lines in your car. It shows up when you’re on your way to work and getting ready for bed.

It has the potential to make your heart sink, your belly churn, and your blood boil. {Note: I wrote this before I saw Silver Linings Playbook, but the power of music to evoke emotion is real, powerful, and destructive. Go see this movie; it’s fantastic.)

There’s the song that reminds you of the partner who loved to dance or the one who wouldn’t. There’s the song that haunted you in the car, in the bar, in The Gap, in the grocery store for an entire summer and every time you heard it you thought you might poop in your pants and though that sounds dramatic you know it is a reality because one time you actually did. {true story.}

These songs are taking up space in your life, perhaps as much space as the blown out jeans or the sweater that itches, and dare I say: maybe more.

So. Here’s the thing to ponder: maybe the real estate in our hearts, minds, and souls is actually more valuable than the space in our closets and cupboards and cars?

Maybe. Right?


  1. Frank Daykin says:

    Beautifully expressed! Xo!”

    1. jaimestathis says:

      Thanks, LOVE!

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