I'm temporarily homeless. I'm living out of a backpack. Just some clothes, toiletries, laptop, mobile phone, sketchbook, and a spring in my step.
If feels good to be so unencumbered. I've been staying with my in-laws and friends. Camping and traveling a bit. Of course, this time of carefree abandon won't last.
The only reason I'm homeless is because my wife and I sold our house. We bought a new house in another state. To be closer to my son as he attends university there. Also, we're ready for change and some new experiences.
My wife and I don't like clutter, and I consider myself somewhat of a minimalist. But we still ended up selling, donating and trashing a lot of stuff. The purge felt good.
I had two plastic bins full of old family photos that my mother left me. It took me almost an entire day to sift through the photos. I tossed a ton of them.
I mean, how many photos of Aunt Cynthia do I need? I plan to send the remaining photos to one of those companies that scan them and put everything on a flash drive.
Other photos I liberated from their frames, to reduce weight. I donated the frames and will have those photos scanned, too. Increasingly, less is becoming more for me.
What's inside your backpack?
Have you seen George Clooney's movie Up in the Air? There's a scene in the movie where Clooney's character gives a motivational speech.
He places a backpack on a table. He describes all the stuff we put in our backpacks. All our possessions. He asks the audience to imagine the straps of the backpack weighing them down.
Then Clooney's character suggests we empty the backpack. Replace all that stuff with people. Our loved ones. Friends. Maybe even experiences. "Life is moving," he tells us.
The columnist George Will once wrote a line that stayed with me:
"Memories are roses in our winter."
It's seldom our possessions that we cling to late in life. Rather, it's our memories. The moments in our lives when we felt most alive. Our past exploits, travels and good times with family and friends.
Think about past memorials you've attended for people who passed on. Whenever videos of their lives are shared, the most common scenes are of vacations. Happy events, laughing, holidays and fun.
In other words, the positive experiences in their lives. The wonderful memories. Not their work promotions, new cars and home improvements.
It's not stuff that sustains our souls, it's the people we love and memorable experiences we share. The more we unburden ourselves of needless stuff, the more we're able to invest in family, friends and experiences.
Total eclipse of the heart
Today is the solar eclipse. My dog and I stood in the backyard of my in-laws's house at the height of the eclipse.
It was overcast so we couldn't see the sun, but the yard did get darker. As I stood there, my dog turned and kissed my ear. Even when the light in your life seems darkest, there is always room for love. For hope and peace.
In Bonnie Tyler's iconic song Total Eclipse of the Heart, we hear the following lyrics:
"Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by"
Do yourself a favor. Take a look inside your backpack. What's weighing you down? Figure out how to unburden yourself of the stuff you don't need. The dead weight. You'll be amazed how much freer and lighter you'll feel.
Heavy weight and darkness alights on everyone's shoulders, sooner or later. No one gets to escape hardship and struggle at some point in their lives. But just like an eclipse, the darkness eventually ends. The sun will come out again.
Embrace your passions
Lightening your backpack by investing in people/experiences over things will improve your life. So will a positive outlook. Remember that whatever eclipse has darkened your heart, sunshine will eventually brighten it again.
The last piece of wisdom is this: Embrace your passions. Apart from loved ones, family and experiences, your passions are important. Making the time for your passions will bring you joy.
I'm happiest in a coffee shop with my sketchbook, drawing cartoons of people and scribbling thoughts. As a creative, I need downtime like this for my art. It restores my emotional equilibrium, and I emerge refreshed and happier. It's one way I lighten my backpack.
Start lightening your backpack. Know that the darkness of any emotional eclipse will eventually yield to the light. And embrace your passions.
Doing so will enrich your life and the lives of others.
(Originally published in Artplusmarketing.com)
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