Collecting, discarding makes for a balanced life

“People assume happiness stems from collecting things outside yourself, whereas true happiness stems from removing things from inside yourself” — Dalai Lama

Over the years I’ve collected a lot of things, some useful, others ornamental.

Knowing how much I love Christmas, the children never had a problem wondering what to give mom. They simply found something “Christmassy,” as they put it. Ornaments, Santas, angels, anything to do with the holiday became a perfect gift.

Then there was the summer I began collecting frogs to display on the patio and use as garden art. This collection started with a small ceramic frog found at a yard sale, the kind whose job it is to hold the kitchen sponge in its mouth.

Now there are frogs, big and small, all over the place; in the gardens, by the small pond, in potted plants. One huge, beautiful frog with bulging black eyes sits on the patio table. He is made of tiny, shining, green metal plates and has a forbidding countenance. When we eat supper on the patio Rob turns this frog around so that, as he says, “It isn’t staring at me.”

Sometimes I think of Thoreau, living in a small hut on Walden Pond. He was a naturalist who studied the living world around him. To say Thoreau lived simply would be a colossal understatement. There is the story about how he found a rock one day while walking the Cape Cod beach. Something about this rock attracted him and he took it back to his hut.

Perhaps it was a beautiful piece of quartz or a smooth, colored sea stone. Thoreau did not keep it long, but threw it away because it was not useful and required care. I’m not sure how one cares for a rock but maybe he didn’t want to spend time dusting it.

True, collections take time, space and care. The various frogs must be taken in before winter frost can do them damage. The huge Christmas collection gets packed away each January.

There are other things we collect over a lifetime and these, too, take up space and time in our lives. Perhaps over a span of years we have collected worries, jealousies, grudges or ideas that no longer fit the life we’ve evolved.

I have a great collection of worries; about our children, our grandchildren, about the endangered animals, about the homeless, hungry dogs and cats that wander from place to place. These are night thoughts, worries that come without invitation.

Have we ever collected grudges? They are especially bothersome, one reason being grudges must be constantly fueled to stay strong. They take energy and care and give no satisfaction in return. Jealousies are like blinders that stop us from seeing and appreciating the life we have. They are quick killers of friendships.

Worry, grudges, jealousies, those ideas we hold onto that no longer make sense; they are like knots in a rope, each knot tied so tightly it is difficult to loosen and untie. Eventually the knotted rope becomes a noose that chokes off our joy, ambition and our love of living.

Perhaps, as we grow older, we might think about a different kind of collection. It’s probably good now to let go of some of our material collections.

It’s definitely time to let go of that collection of grudges, worries, jealousies and wrong thinking.

Perhaps it’s time now to collect experiences and memories. They can enrich our lives with growth and new ideas. They require no space or care or energy and we can bring them out, dust them off and enjoy them always.

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