On my 10th wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a beautiful yellow and white gold necklace. I had never seen anything like it; the white gold beads were diamond cut, which made the necklace sparkle like so many jewels. Instantly, it was my favorite piece of jewelry and my constant accessory.
“The piece de la resistance,” my sister-in-law-in-law called it when we were on vacation together. (She is my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law.) She warned I should never take it off (or she would steal it).
So I rarely took it off (and never did around Carol, mind you). The necklace went with nearly everything; more important, it was the perfect length to camouflage a scar on my chest. I wore it day and night.
But on my birthday this year, my husband bought me another beautiful necklace. I envisioned myself a female version of Mr. T, collecting gold necklaces around my neck, but these two necklaces did not look good when worn together. In order to fully enjoy the new necklace, I’ve stopped auto-populating my neck and hiding my scar with my “everyday” necklace.
Frankly, it’s changing my life.
Recently, I have begun to notice that when I wear my everyday necklace, my hand absently checks for my necklace through the day — just to make sure the necklace is still there. When I sleep with it, I awaken in the night, reach my hand to where the chain should be on my neck, and usually don’t find it. The necklace rides up my neck while I sleep. After a brief moment of anxiety, I find it higher, closer to my throat, and when I feel the necklace safely there, I pull it into position and fall back to sleep. I don’t know if the necklace riding up my neck binds me and makes me uncomfortable, thus awakening me. But I do know that when I don’t wear the necklace, I am not aware of waking in the night.
It makes me wonder if I own the chain or if the chain owns me.
When I was in college, my older brother purchased a cool sports car. He needed a quality car because he did a lot of traveling, but at some point — maybe when he was washing and waxing it with great frequency — I remember wondering if he owned the car or if the car owned him.
Consider that as we prepared for Hurricane Irma earlier this month, I considered three things:
- Should I wear all my better jewelry — just in case we had to make a mad dash from the house?
- Should I secure my jewelry high in case of a flood?
- Or should I store it low in case of a tornado?
In the end, I did none of those things. I was thankful I did not have to make a mad dash to exit my home due to a flood or tornado.
At that time, I also considered what Irma‘s promised winds and rain might do to my house and my office at work — and to my belongings housed therein. What should I save? What would I take with me? I never decided.
If I’m painfully honest, I also could admit that some parts of me wanted the storm to whisk away the pile of papers on my desk at work that I can’t seem to dissipate. Or the forgotten items stocking my home closets and cabinets and attic space. Let Irma do the job of deciding what I keep and what I throw away.
But she didn’t. Irma didn’t damage my house or my office. The storm, as she did with so many in Florida and in parts of the Carribean, took with her my electricity and my cell phone service. Even when my power returned, my cell phone network didn’t. At first, I was frustrated because I wanted to communicate and couldn’t. But as the hours passed in silence and my phone neither chirped or blinked, I felt relieved because I didn’t have to communicate — because I couldn’t.
Even the beautiful chains — necklaces, sports cars, good jobs, houses, possessions, and technology — can bind. We can so worry about loss or damage or technology that doesn’t work that we don’t fully enjoy possessing the items. Like the foolish servant who hid his talent because he feared losing it, we can waste the tools and treasures we have by fear.
Prior to Irma’s arrival, Florida Governor Rick Scott told us, his fellow statesmen, that “we can rebuild houses, but we can’t rebuild your life.” He wanted no lives lost in the storm and made great efforts with that goal in mind.
We are warned not to treasure things on earth that moths and rust and Florida humidity and hurricanes destroy or thieves break in and steal. Anyone who was waiting to hear that a loved one in Puerto Rico or Mexico City was safe after Maria or the earthquake know that things are not what matters.
I knew that if I had to escape my house in just my pajamas the night that Irma passed, I would have counted myself blessed to have escaped with my life.
Once a week I take an aqua class at the health club. It’s a mix of strength training and aerobics, and my teacher, Kaylen, varies the tools we use. Sometimes we use barbells; the more buoyant the barbell, the “heavier” they are when you’re pushing them through water.
“Keep a light grip on the weights,” Kaylen will remind us.
If I don’t, the pain in my hands quickly confirms Kaylen’s reminder, and for relief, I release my death grip on the barbells.
How I grip those aqua barbells is a good correlation to how I should grip my possessions. If I don’t grip them at all, I get no benefit from that particular water-resistance training exercise. If I grip them too tightly, I hurt.
Likewise, I need to remove my death grip from my possessions. That doesn’t mean I should remove my grip altogether. Those beautiful possessions are of benefit to me. (To be clear, I’m not giving away my necklaces. Would-be thieves and Carol, don’t come calling.) But a light grip on these earthly treasures allows them to be of service to me without owning me or my heart.
Because even beautiful chains can bind.