Possession Identity

“Between what a man calls me and what he simply calls mine the line is difficult to draw. We feel and act about certain things that are ours very much as we feel and act about ourselves.”

 William James

This is today’s Moment of Happiness from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

I remember times in my life when my sense of identity was very much tied up with objects.

My first car was a 1983 Volvo 240DL wagon. My parents had bought it new when I was 6 years old and I remembered how huge the backseat had seemed and how smooth the vinyl upholstery was under my legs. I learned to drive on that car (and I taught my husband how to drive stick on it) and it just kind of became mine during my sophomore year of college. That car was blue, and she was boxy. She handled like crap in the snow (rear-wheel drive), and I could fit an entire full-size mattress in the trunk if I put the back seat down. Two friends and I slept in the back when we went to Halloween at Ohio University one year because we were afraid we’d be puked on if we slept in the house where we were staying.  When I sold that car, I cried.

In college, there was a professor who was trying to quit smoking by only buying cigarettes one at a time for a quarter each from the smokers clustered outside the academic buildings before and after classes. One day, I was smoking with a couple of other people before Brit Lit when this professor came out of the building, surveying the scene.

“Ah!” he said when he saw me. “A Camel smoker!”

I traded him a smoke for a quarter and thought to myself, “A Camel smoker…yes, that’s what I am.”

I’ve not smoked in 15 years and it’s been nearly 10 years since I said farewell to that Volvo. I think I’ve loosened my attachment to things in the intervening years, but when I give up clothes or when I consider buying a different car (I’m still driving the car that replaced the Volvo, by the way), I still think, “Who am I if I don’t wear this item, if I don’t drive this car?”

In a slight shift from that, as a mother, I realize I’ve begun to base my identity on my relationship with my children. While one could argue that defining oneself by one’s relationships to living people is perhaps a little healthier than defining oneself by the brand of cigarettes one smokes (for more reasons than one), it still doesn’t take into account who I am on my own (or, for that matter, who my children are separate from me).

Who are we on our own, unattached to people or things? Is this why we cling so tenaciously to possessions and people and social media? Are we afraid of who we’ll meet when we’re all alone in the quiet? Is that what I’m afraid of?

Fun Month Review: Fun in Unexpected Places

Fun month hasn’t been a laugh riot or anything, but it has helped me to be ready for fun whenever it might happen.

Sometimes it’s taking a moment to listen to my daughter talking with my husband about college. My daughter (who’s 5 1/2 years old and has been reading a lot of wildlife books) asked the other day, “What do you do at college?”

My husband explained that you study subjects in depth and learn a lot of things in college.

“I like learning new things! Is college where you go to find a mate?” she asked.

“Yes, well, some people find mates in college. That’s where Mommy and I met. But that’s not the primary reason for going to college.”

Then somehow the conversation moved to sororities. My daughter loved the idea of a house where only women live and study together and have parties and do community service.

“Can I join a sorority when I go to college?” she asked.

“When you get to college,” I said, joining the conversation, “you’ll be old enough to decide on your own whether or not you want to join a sorority.” My husband and I explained that the reason I didn’t join a sorority and he didn’t join a fraternity is because it took up a lot of time and cost a lot of money. My daughter’s eyes got very big.

“I’ve got lots of money!” she said. “And I can save up even more! And since I homeschool, I’ll be very well prepared for college!”

Yes, my dear. There’s no denying that you will be very well prepared for college.

So, there was that fun. Then there was the fun my husband and I had today at Fat’s Grill and Pool.

The billiards was fun. We played four games, of which I won three. The only reason I lost the fourth game was that I was laughing so hard because we just saw this commercial:

Looking around the internet for this commercial, I realized that we’re very late to the Shake Weight party. But I know a lot of the people who read my blog are like us and don’t have cable. I decided I had to post the link to the commercial as a public service to them.

See? Fun in unexpected places.

Happy New Year! Tune in tomorrow for Explore Month Kickoff!