Working in Canyon Country as a property manager for a stunt man who was never there was the perfect job for me. Few interruptions and plenty of physical work, caring for the landscape, the chickens, and one ornery steer, left plenty of quiet time to myself. It suited me just fine.
Like most people, after living on my own for several years, I had accumulated many things I felt I could not live without. Now, keep in mind, this was before the days of computers, smart phones, and all our other gadgets, but the story remains the same.
In addition to all my clothes and furniture, I owned a guitar, an antique sewing machine, a collection of letters from family and friends, photo albums, and countless knick-knacks. At the time, all of these things were important to me, whether I used them for anything in particular or not. I cared for them, dusted around them, displayed them, and made room in my life for more of them.
A weekend jaunt to San Francisco changed everything.
The stunt man had met the love of his life and decided to end his lease on the rural desert property. He paid me through our agreed upon contract, so I had cash in my pocket and time on my hands. I packed up all of my precious belongings and wrote my mother’s phone number and address carefully on each cardboard box, just in case.
Overnight bag in tow, I drove from my desert ranch house, east of Los Angeles, to San Francisco for some fun. Favorite haunts and old friends filled my weekend. Then I drove back home.
The light was starting to fade that Sunday evening when I pulled up in the driveway. Something didn’t look right and I felt a jolt of adrenaline. You can’t be too careful, living along in the country, but it was too late.
In spite of locked doors, curtained windows, and all the good intentions in the world, someone had waited for just this opportunity to empty a house filled with movie memorabilia. Everything was gone. Furniture, photos, props, riding gear, and my precious cardboard boxes of stuff. Everything was taken except for the light bulbs. It looked as though I had never existed.
I raged. I cried. I called the police. I spoke with my boss and the land owners. At every attempted solution, I was blocked. The crime had been reported. No one saw anything. Everything I owned, except what was in my overnight bag, was completely, absolutely, and irrevocably gone.
For two years, I stayed mad. I got angry every time I thought about it, picturing my precious letters and photos rotting in a landfill. Those were mine! I could rage in my head all I wanted, but I never got anything back. It was really, truly and completely gone from my life.
Then, one day, something occurred to me.
It’s only stuff. A voice spoke in my head. (It was my voice – I’m not crazy.)
Yea, but it was my stuff! I replied to me.
Thoughts, being what they are, worked through my mind until I reached an epiphany of sorts.
I didn’t feel mad any more. I felt a little surprised at myself, but the anger was spent and I realized that it had done me no good. Being angry and upset about all the stuff I had lost had done nothing but give me stomach aches and probably some acne.
The things I needed to have had been replaced. The stuff I wanted to have enough to get again, like a guitar, I replaced. All the little doo-dads that took up time, space, and attention were gone – and I was better off without them. The stuff that held sentimental value, the letters and photos, were only important because of the memories and the people they represented, but those people and memories are with me still. I don’t need stuff to remind me what or who is important to me.
For two years, I was angry about losing all my stuff. Today, I count the experience as one of the best life lessons I’ve learned: It’s only stuff.
I am more free, less cluttered, and wealthier in more ways than one as a result.
It’s only stuff.