Running on Empty

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields…

Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I’m running behind
— Jackson Brown

Here is a link so you too can sing along. https://youtu.be/Vq25ZJwZJzU

On my fourteen-hour drive to college, I would sing along with Jackson Brown. I was 21 on "Highway 101" from Southern California to Humboldt State University.

I was living it.

I don’t know where I’m running now.
I’m just running on.
 Sold! I love my house, but I love my new life more. 

Sold! I love my house, but I love my new life more. 

"Many summer fields" have been good to me, and now that I am retired, I feel that "running behind" part.

A lot has changed since my long drives in the eighties. 

This month I am asking myself "How did I pick up all this stuff along the way?" 

I like my house, my couch, and my bathroom, and my books, and my pool, and my clothes, and my rice cooker, and my flip flops, and my artwork, and my music, and my clocks, and my bath towels, and my houseplants. I love all my stuff. 

But, they can't go with me on The Big Walkabout. Less is more. I want to get rid of more and keep less. I don't want my life limited by my possessions. 

The less I own, the more I can travel.

 My collection of Star Trek action figures was the first to go. 

My collection of Star Trek action figures was the first to go. 

What do you do with the High School Yearbook? Mom's glass figurines? Dad's old belt buckle? The necklace you got from your first love? The gifts your children gave you when they were in kindergarten? The craft project you started two years ago and haven't found time to finish? The old skis. The extra canning jars. Clothes that don't fit. Books you won't re-read. 

 "Cuppie" may be listed on eBay for $50, but no one wanted the one I inherited. It went to Goodwill. 

"Cuppie" may be listed on eBay for $50, but no one wanted the one I inherited. It went to Goodwill. 

Sooner or later, you must face it.

"You can't take it with you." 

Have you had the chance to clean up after the death of a loved one? A mother, a father, a family member passes away and their things need to be evaluated, shifted, and placed in another spot. 

It isn't pretty. It is hard. Emotionally, mentally, physically, time-consuming, life energy sucking hard. 

List it on eBay.  You get no bids. 
Post it on Craigslist.  You get spam. 
Put in on Facebook.  You get reminders to "please mark items as sold," when it hasn't sold. 
Push it onto your children. You get a twisty face look. "Mom… Really?" 
Sell it at a yard sale. You get two bucks. 
Leave it on the curb for "FREE." You get the neighbors worried that you are leaving trash on the street. 
Give it to Goodwill. You get a useless receipt and no tax benefit. 
Pack it in a box. You get to pay for a storage unit, and you still need to deal with it later. 
Or you keep things until you die and someone else must decide what to do with it. 

That is the downside of downsizing. 

 I haven't been able to sell my clarinet. 

I haven't been able to sell my clarinet. 

I cried as I cleaned out my photographs and gave away art supplies and frames. My dream for an art studio will have to wait. 

 Cleaning out my photography stuff was hard. I threw away most of my paper prints. Photographs and frames don't store well. 

Cleaning out my photography stuff was hard. I threw away most of my paper prints. Photographs and frames don't store well. 

 Boxes of empty frames. Such potential! Dumped in a bin at Good Will. 

Boxes of empty frames. Such potential! Dumped in a bin at Good Will. 

But there is an upshot that makes it all worthwile.  

 All four bicycles went to nice people who wanted them very much. 

All four bicycles went to nice people who wanted them very much. 

Sold my grandmother's sewing machine to Ruth who wanted to make rag quilts for grandbabies. 
Sold the chainsaw to someone trying to keep their tree trimming business viable. 
Sold four bicycles, all to wonderful people. 
Sold the guitar to parents who wanted is as a gift to their daughter.
Sold a clarinet to a beaming high school student. 
Sold upholstered chairs to a colorful gay couple. 
Sold my mother's rocking chair to a grandmother. 
Sold cabinet work to an interesting woman who lives in the Fresno's Tower District. 
Sold our house to a family with an infant girl and a pre-school boy. She sells textbooks from her home office, and they wanted desperately to send their children to Buchannan School Complex. 

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive,
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive.

Buying and having nice things was fun. There is nostalgia in all that stuff.  But the object isn't the memory. Life isn't about accumilating artifacts. Life is about living and collecting experiences.  

 I loved stringing beads with my daughter, but we have both moved past our Hello Kitty box of beads. 

I loved stringing beads with my daughter, but we have both moved past our Hello Kitty box of beads. 

Giving away things doesn't diminish the value it had when I needed it. It was valuable, and I am grateful for having owned my things. Selling something doesn't cancel its value. Giving something away doesn't detract from what it did for my life. Donating an object doesn't reverse its effect on my life. My memories are not dependent on objects. 

I want to live a life that looks forward, not back. I'm keeping my memories, my experience, my loves, and my life. But, I'm not holding onto stuff. I'm getting ready for the future. I'm looking forward to travels, new stories, and more good memories. 

I know in my heart that less is more, and I'm still on that road trip. 

Thank you, Jackson Brown. I'm still singing along.

"I'd love to stick around, but I'm running behind." 
 Sold the guitar. For years it sat in our garage. Now it is making music. 

Sold the guitar. For years it sat in our garage. Now it is making music.