Who Does it Belong To?

April 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

It was Dante who said that “possession is one with loss.” When I first heard this line, I was taken aback, nothing could be more true.  Interesting to think that in the context of addiction, the eurphoria of the high is at one with the precipice of withdrawl.  A drunken night and a hung-over morning are one and the same.  To possess is to lose.  This story doesn’t have to be told in such a tragic tone, though as a species we can’t seem to get this lesson and are always surprised again and again when we lose something that we love — how could this happen to me? we want to know, as if the things that happen to all human beings shouldn’t have to happen to us.

This has been a poignant reality in my life, and one I have worked hard at overcoming as I have lost many things that mattered to me.  Well, this isn’t a sob story (maybe just a little), but a chance to teach what I have learned from many years inner work to overcome loss that at times has felt unbearable and unfair.

Last month while subletting a bedroom in Vancouver at an old friend’s house, I noticed this record player in her room — the room that I had rented.  This used to be my record player as a child.   When I was about 15 years old, I sold it at a garage sale, then instantly felt regret.  I hadn’t wanted to sell it at all!   The girl who bought it was my best friend at the time and didn’t want to give it back to me after I’d sold it.  Fair enough. I was the one who had put it on the market, and she coveted it greatly (as did I, I later found out).  I was so mixed up already as to what I wanted to hold onto, and as to the things that really meant something to me, that I hadn’t be aware of how much this record player actually meant to me.

Today it doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to her 2-year-old son, who plays Teddy Bear’s Picnic over and over again just as I used to do.

I find it so interesting how the things we think belong to us often don’t belong to us at all!  What we think belongs to us, usually also belong to someone else. You know that tree you want to cut down, the one on your property?  Legally perhaps it belongs to you, but maybe it belongs to me too, maybe it’s the tree I used to climb with my brother, or where I had my first kiss, or where wrote my first poem.  Our brains want to compartmentalize everything, including nature, when in truth, our lives, our memories, and our connections with things are much more fluid, much more whole, wholesome.

My friend’s two-year-old and I share a common memory, a memory that stretches 31 years apart;  in some ways we now share a childhood — that tactile feeling of the melmac record player on our little chubby fingers.  “I want it back!” is a rediculous statement:  it’s already gone, it belongs to the two of us and at the same time, to nobody now…. possession is one with loss.

Two months ago I went to visit my step-father, who I hadn’t visited in many years. I was shocked when inside his house (a house that was once my house too — a house that I helped build with my own little nine-year-old hands and lived in for the next 9 years) there were so many things that I thought of as “mine,”  including an old oak mirror that used to belong (ready for this?) to my father’s grandmother.  Now there’s a mind-bender.  Do you see the fluidity of belongings?  the nebulous nature of “belong- ing”?    We think that perhaps our belongings will allow us to belong to something, to someone, to a time, to a place, to a fond experience or to our memories and our pasts, and sometimes they do the trick, if we are lucky and manage to hold on to them — if we’re not lucky we’re in for a wild ride.

As I eyed up “my” mirror (“my” bedroom, “my” kitchen, “my” front yard) my heart was pining sorrowfully,  “I want it back,” while another part of me was whispering “just let it go.” Who can ever measure who has lost more?  We aren’t really the one’s to judge the natural compensation of the universe, we aren’t the ones to judge the delineation between what’s mine and what’s yours. Our minds want to create ownership and separateness because that is what the self-centred mind wants and in many ways needs to do to survive.  This is the origin of suffering, the origin of greed, the thing that, unfortunately, makes us human.  Obviously, the real sting happens when the people in our lives deny that these things ever mattered to us at all.

The mirror belongs to the two of us, and to many more.   Through it we trace a community of relationships that link the past with the present with the future still unknown — with life itself.

I work on trusting that I will always have everything I am supposed to have and everything that I need.


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