Objects Our Self Imposed Purgatory


We recently moved into a new home and before the move my husband was eager to minimize the box count, in hopes of a stress free event.   On packing day I was summoned to the basement to justify the relocation of several boxes (I’m a bit of a hoarder).  The site of the contents immediately caused me anguish.  Box number one was maternity clothes, tags on, quietly awaiting the growth of my belly.  Box number two, the toughest to bare, was full of colorful objects collected on my travels saved for my future child.

When I was in my 20s and 30s I traveled to exotic places, always looking toward my future life.  People do it all the time, buying trinkets for their loved ones to show they were in their thoughts across the miles.  I wanted my child to know I was thinking of him before he even existed.  These objects would allow me to teach him about other cultures and inspire him to see the world.   There’s a hot pink hat made by the hill tribes in Myanmar (Burma) and hand made wool booties from Australia.

The bigger box containing the maternity clothes and books is clearly connected to the loss of my baby.  At first, I could not imagine parting with a single piece, however, time has rendered this collection unnecessary.  Now it is the right moment to find the articles an owner who can put them to good use.  Maybe one of my nieces will eventually get pregnant and I can part with them peacefully.  It isn’t an option to drop them in one of those donation boxes behind a store, they hold too much value and cannot be equated with old clothes that I’ve outgrown or aren’t in style anymore.  So, yes, it is time to let go of this box.   Phew, that was ten years in the making!

Box number 2 is not so easy to part with.  These articles are not connected to a person specifically.  They are a part of me, as if my hopes and future were delicately stitched into each seam.   Every article was selected and transported long distances to be given to the life I was bound to create.   Occasionally, the box would be opened and the objects inspected.  This unfailingly placed a smile on my face.   Since the loss of our child, the box has not been touched.   There is no one to give the objects to.  They were brought into existence for the one person who was always intended to have them.  He isn’t coming and these will certainly be the last objects that are pulled from my crinkly old hands as I gasp my last breath. So be it. I cannot part with this box. If it goes, so goes hope.

My husband is a minimalist.  He is not sentimental. Please don’t misunderstand me, he suffered a loss too, but he did not collect these objects. His inability to process my absurdity is not going to force my hand.  He cannot comprehend the pain.  He would certainly take the box and immediately toss it in the sea if permitted.  He tells me, if you never see it again, it can’t cause you pain.  He’s a smart man.  He’s probably right, but for me there is no other way.

The box remains perched on top of my dresser.

Death without a body

I good friend recently told me that she was experiencing the death of a former life.  She was parting with all of her professional work clothes. It had been years since they were used but she couldn’t seem to part with the outdated garments. There is no logical reason to keep them, and yet, they signify the existence of a past life. It happened and now it is gone.  It is a part of her life that has ended.

Freud believed this connection to objects stems from our ego and narcissism. We begin life with self love and slowly transfer that love to people and objects. When we lose that transferred love, through a loss of some kind,  we need to get it back to make ourselves whole. This may be why we surround ourselves with objects. Most often the object of our love is a person but when we lose that person we transfer the obsession to material objects related to that person.  It’s sad that we all have holes to fill.  Whether it is a person, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job, we all want to feel whole. Perhaps objects help us along our path and bring us back to ourselves or to other people we can love.  The trick is to use objects just long enough, before obsession or fixation take hold.  But how do you know when it has been long enough?



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