Jan 18, 2010

the safety of objects*

(*title stolen from a book by A. M. Homes)

As soon as it was gone I missed it.
He gave this silly little trinket away, something seemingly inconsequential. Passed it on for someone else, the real person he had thought of when he made it, the person he thought would love it the most, and I felt this indescribable wave of sadness roll over me. Loss.

This is a hard thing for me to explain. I don't take to things very often. Stuff.
I know collectors. People who see furniture or cars or plates or cameras or ...stuff...and have to have it, and once in possession, learn to love it. They fondle and caress and wax and fix and shine. In some cases it is specific to the thing, particular to the kind of stuff: a photographer with their cameras, a cyclist with that particular bike. Some people just like trinkets. Some people just amass items they cherish, physical representations of their investment in the world around them, tactile symbols of little bright burning spots in their brains.

Not me, not so much. I like items for their utility. It's not that I don't appreciate beauty, it's not that I don't understand loving a cello for the cello it is, and not just the music it makes. But something in me...resists getting attached to too many things for their personal resonance.

For example: I have a car. It's a decent car. It's not ugly, but it's boring, by my standards. I see cars all the time I like much much more. Cars I actually think are beautiful. I don't actually have a thing against cars or owning them or loving them. But on a base level I prefer the car I didn't pay for, which is dented and boring and personalityless and dependable. I think about this and compare it to how my boyfriend feels about his truck. Which is adorable and sexy in a strange old mechanical way and which takes constant maintenance and leaks and used to smoke. And how he loves that truck. I bet he loves it more for the work he puts into it. I know this only strengthens the relationship he has with this object.

I like my car because it requires the least amount of emotional investment I can give an object I have so come to depend on. I like it because I know I have to have SOME relationship with a car I drive, but this is as little relationship as I can reasonably have, without verging too terribly on neglect.

I think about other things I own, the other decorative or unnecessary items. And there is a similar theme. Sometimes I want a particular thing. A beautiful piece of furniture, a nice set of glassware. All of it is tantamount to building a home, of wanting an atmosphere of beauty and love I can depend on. Of wanting a place to bring my friends to congregate and relax. That is their utility. But some part of me always resents to the obligation these items represent, my further bond to the physical world, with greater chance for loss through the simple damage of a material item.

No thank you.

Now see, I think it's good to cherish things. Freedom is, indeed, just another word for nothing left to loose. I think she had that right. Which is to say, if you don't have anything you are scared of loosing, you don't have anything you really care about.
For the last few nights I have had horrible dreams about losing my boyfriend. And I wake up relieved for the reality of having him.
That is fine, I can handle that. Wanting him here, always, and recognizing the profound loss his absence would bring..is something I can handle. it is an obligation I could not begin to resent. We all need ties to life worth protecting.

But a thing? Fuck that.

But here it stands. I still missed that toy. Terribly. The loss. I was sad. SAD. And I hated the thing on some level, resented it. But still I wanted it back. And 10 more. 20 of them. A bank of toys as insurance against a future wave of loss.

How could I get so attached to a trinket? I knew he wouldn't have given it away if he knew. But here is also the thing. I mean sure, I tried to tell him. But he passed it on anyway with a certain knowledge that I loved that toy but maybe thought someone else would love it more. More to the point that toy never belonged to me in anyone's head but my own. It was not meant for me. It was meant to make someone else happy and it WOULD make someone else happy. Verry happy. I knew this. And I felt so so selfish for resenting that. For wanting to deprive another of this symbol of love. And I felt ashamed, for having believed it was meant to make me happy instead.

And then I realized something. I know other people feel these connections to things that I often do not. And this realization makes me treasure the things people give me, the gifts people chose to bestow upon me, as a measure of how I treasure them. How I treasure my relationship with the giver. It makes me feel loved and that is an attachment I can stand to foster, I can bear to carry.
And if that thing, that dumbass twisted metal thing, had been accidentally destroyed by a fire or broken by a child I would have been fine. But to have it passed on, well, I felt this little loss of love.

I lost the safety of an object, and I felt a tie break just a little. Symbolic, stupid true. There was something I thought someone had given me as a unique gesture, the way a child walks up to you and gives you half their eaten popsicle as a symbol of love, a popsicle you don't even really want, but it means everything to them. And suddenly it has unqiue value to you as well.
And you know they love you. Until they take that popsicle out of your hand and give it to someone else. They actually wanted you to hold it while they tied their shoe, but here comes their mom, and they actually want her to have that popsicle.

This can be a lonely world, and there are few objects that hold value worth their tether. But the love. That is safety. And the symbols. Those are the safety of objects that serve as reminders of the ties that bind.

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