On the loss of things.
Some months after Category 5 Hurricane Maria took our house and all its contents, it has been a slow and fitful adjustment to loss. There are moments when I can convince myself it’s cleansing – an abrupt and purifying purge of our dependance on things. Other moments it is an overwhelming sea of sadness. Glimpses of things gone catch in our throats. The lack of place stifles and exhausts us.
We’ve taken the time to stay with family, to squeeze some benefit from this ‘vacances forcées’. Everyone has been generous.
The homes of our parents are a minefield of nostalgia. A collection of treasures accumulated by sentimentality and resistance to attrition. Past visits I have enjoyed being here opening drawers and cupboards to – still have that old thing?
Now, I feel surrounded by vulnerability to loss.
We have all been asked that casual dinner table hypothetical – what would you save if your house was on fire? Recent experience has taught me that when shit happens, it happens with little regard for our best plans.
All I can think is – don’t try to save anything. Don’t make any one object more important than another. Don’t set yourself up to grieve over what you think you could have saved.
My advice – if you have things of value that money can replace, insure them well. If you have things that you consider priceless, either lock them in a vault or enjoy them every day and accept that they are transient.
Nostalgia, sentimentality and memories are important, but they do not live within things. We are not defined by the objects we own.
Stop caring about things. Stop caring about things. Stop. Caring. About. Things.
I sincerely hope none of you ever lose your home and everything in it. But if you do, I would feel badly if I had not warned you.
Kate Leury Nielsen, 2018