I walked away from my first two marriages with not much more than my clothes, my car, and a small batch of personal belongings. I didn’t care to fight for my half of the condo outside of L.A., furniture, audio/video, or other items of value. I was the one walking away, so I figured the least I could do was give my soon-to-be ex the benefit of keeping their stuff.
There was a lot more accumulation in the third marriage, but we split all of it up very amicably. I can recall sitting on the hardwood floor in the living room, pulling out CDs and videos one by one, and making decisions about which of us would get what. Again, I didn’t care to fight too terribly hard for anything, because it was just stuff. Stuff can be replaced.
More than that, though, we both had a sense of fairness about it all: I didn’t argue about the keyboard, bass, and recording equipment because it wasn’t mine. I didn’t use it. He purchased it, he used it, and it was his, just as the BDSM furniture, implements, and costuming of my then-trade were mine. He made much more money than I back then, but realized I depended on my computer and website for cash flow, so he went out and bought his own rather than take the one we had together. He co-signed on a new car for me because I could make the payment, but my credit alone wasn’t going to cut it. I had paid for the last two semesters of his degree, so he agreed to pay for two of mine when I went back. (That last bit didn’t happen, but I fully own up to my part in that particular fiasco. I might even write more completely about it someday.)
What was important to me, then and now, was moving on. I couldn’t get on with my life with hang ups based on greed or spite. Maybe it’s because each time we got orders when I was a kid (Air Force brat, doncha know), my Mom would help me sift through my personal detritus to take only that which was most important to me. Maybe it’s because when we arrived in Hawaii when I was 9, the moving company had lost our entire household – no furniture, no clothes, nothing – and we had to start over from square one. Maybe it’s because I left another entire household behind in L.A. when I moved to Albuquerque in 1989. Maybe it’s because I moved 11 times in 15 years in New Mexico and three more times since then, and hauling too much stuff around is exhausting.
Maybe it’s because I find it so rewarding to rebuild my life, from scratch if necessary, into exactly what I want it to be.
Whatever the reasons, I regularly whittle down my clothes, shoes, and other belongings to only the most important items. I do so because what is important in life is so much more than stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, I have objects and ephemera that were and are important to me. Passed notes from my angsty teenage friends in junior high. School yearbooks. My christening gown. Love letters. Family pictures. My 6th grade autograph book. Art. Wedding memories. Collectibles. Awards from my BDSM/leather life. Milestone accomplishments, aka “pieces of paper with my name on them for something I did.” Books and magazines in which I’ve been published or pictured.
What I don’t have is stuff that belonged to my exes. I’ve kept nothing that wasn’t mine in the first place, nor have I returned to ask for anything that was theirs, so I find it odd – and a bit immature, to be honest – when someone divorces or breaks up and then fights over stuff. I can see wanting to get a fair share of equity in a house or other major investment or compensation for having worked a business together, but stuff?
Putting your life on hold, making major decisions, and expending energy over … stuff? Or worse, fighting over stuff you never would have wanted or used if you were still living together?
I don’t get it. Stuff doesn’t fill the void.
Integrity might, though.