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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Woman In An Empty Room

Painting By Albert Reuss

We are made anonymous by too many possessions. Rather than being defined by them, we are overwhelmed by them. Lost among them; uncertain of who we are without them and so, dependent on them for identity and security.

We are socially engineered into believing we are nothing without our possessions. That the clothing we wear or the music we listen to or books we read or even the colors we paint the walls in our homes define us. In all of this sweeping mad consumerism, we ignore that we were made for so much more than to own things. This other side, the more important side...our spiritual, philosophical, searching side is underdeveloped, left un-nurtured in the pursuit of "things".

But our hearts are not made light by owning. We are wearied and worn down and joyless. Burdened by all of our things that we buy to enable us to ignore the deeper, pressing questions of who are we really. Why are we here. Enable us to ignore that we all are born with nothing and we all die with nothing eventually.

My grandmother Leona died with nothing. I don't mean she was a poor woman though; neither was she a materially wealthy woman but she was rich in love and generosity. Her spirit was beautiful and rich. Ridiculously rich in all she gave to others. She lived on very little and all her concern was for other people. All her heart went into loving others. She didn't give from her "extra" store, she gave what she often couldn't manage to give. When she died, there wasn't anything to divide up. It had mostly been given away. Nothing to leave but the memory of the richness of her gentle spirit...what a beautiful legacy.

So, what if we let it all go? What if we allowed ourselves to live as free beings unbound by possessions, money, cultural and societal expectations? Would we know who we are if we found ourselves living in an "empty room"? Would we know how to describe and define ourselves?

I know for myself I don't want to be remembered as "Wow, she sure had a lot of clothing!" or "Colleen sure had a huge collection of books, remember?". I don't want people to smile ruefully and sum me up in these tidy little sentences. I want so much more and so much less. I want to be able to stand in an empty room and know who I am. Quietly, confidently, gently, richly know.

I guess I want to live my life as the woman in the empty room. But also as a woman whose heart and mind and spirit are unbearably, unfathomably, disgustingly rich. :)

How about you?

Much love, C.


Dangerous Linda said...

I love the way you tied the painting and your musings together on this post, Colleen!

Currently, I am going through the "empty nesting" process of cleaning out my house and creating a sort of fresh start for myself. When I die I don't want my kids to have to clean up and sort through all this "stuff".

I don't know how I want to be remembered -- but I know I don't want to be remembered as that woman who left all this crap to clean up ...

Brian Miller said...

i hear you on is easy to accumulate things we really dont need that end up cluttering our lives...i would say we are on the low end of the economic totem pole...we live below the established poverty line for a family our size, but by and far i would not say we are poor at just limits our ability to accumulate things we dont really need...which in the end is not a bad thing at all..

Deborah said...

Don't worry Colleen you won't be remembered for your clothes or stacks of books. You will be remembered for your beautiful words, your honesty, your hopes and dreams. All of us who read your words find pieces of ourselves there and we become connected to you and each other through them. You are a piece of God's great puzzle, so without you the picture is incomplete. (And doesn't everyone hate to do a puzzle with a missing piece?)

Zuzana said...

Beautiful thoughts dear Colleen.;) I truly agree that our most treasured possessions are those we carry inside and within. And they become even more valued when we give those away.
I guess as we grow older we realize that one day we will leave and we have the need to leave an imprint of who we were. And that is best done in the hearts, mind and souls of others.
Love the imagery of a woman in the empty room.
Thank you dear friend for your visit today and wonderful words,

Judi said...

You ARE a phenominal woman...I think someone remembering anyone for their collections or clothes or the like says more about them then the person who passed. I have to believe I want to believe that the good will always outshine everything else...because really nothing else SHOULD matter,in the end...alas what I just said usually doesn't apply...what you wrote was amazingly beautiful and I'm going to share it.

Life with Kaishon said...

Wow. What a powerful post. As is often the case, I click away moved. Changed. Thank you for making me think today. And than you for reminding me that we don't need stuff to have happiness.


Karen Kyle Ericson said...

Colleen I think this is one of my favorite pieces you've written. You have so much wonderful experience to draw from. It has so much meaning and power. I thought about what I would do in an empty room- I'd paint the walls : ) But what you wrote helped me remember the peace of God, and the smile of a stranger who's in need, is really most important. Things just don't satisfy the soul. Thanks for this!

Serene said...

Colleen....this is more than just's inspired. Especially in America, we overfill our lives with THINGS. THINGS. THINGS AND MORE THINGS! I keep thinking on this same theme: wealth is not great money. Wealth is great contentment. Often more money just breeds want of more money. I want to keep myself in a place where I'm happy with what I have and who I am. I don't want my hobby to be shopping. There's just something about that that bothers me. Anyway, my Norway sister. Much love from me to you! Oh, I'll be over Saturday to go through your closet with you. I'll bring the pastries and you make the coffee! K?! ;) ~Serene

House For Sale said...

Collee, it's Jaime - wanted to share with you what comes to my mind when I think of you! I think of laughter, and joy, I think of spontaneity ( that looks wrong!), I think of speaking out about what is right, and what a person believes in. I must also mention that I think of an extreme hatred of math.... Just wanted to say love you muchly Colleen, even though we are not in contact too often!

Peggy said...

I love this post. Such a great reminder that the most important thing is love. If we have love, we are rich indeed. You grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman and I aspire to be rich like her.

Colleen said...

Linda, thank you. The painting really tied in to my thoughts and feelings these days! How do you feel about cleaning out things and making a fresh start? I imagine it's both liberating and difficult at times? From what I know of you, you will be remembered as a caring, intelligent, and wise woman...but it IS so good to let the "stuff" go.:)

Brian, yes, it is altogether too easy to mindlessly accumulate! I'd guess your family is very rich in the things that matter.

Deborah, thank you so much for what you wrote. So beautiful

Zuzana, I really like your thoughts on leaving an imprint on someone's heart or soul...that means volumes more than possessions ever could. Thank you for giving me something to consider! I am very happy to see you back.

Judi, thank you so much. I agree with you, I always hope too that the good would outshine everything else...we can hope! And you are quite amazing yourself by the way.:)

Becky that really means a lot to me. Thank you.

Colleen said...

Karen, so interesting that this is one of your favorites! I love knowing that.:) I'd join you in painting those walls by the way! And yes, couldn't agree more that things can never satisfy the soul. Thank you for your comment!

Serene, I am so glad you appreciate this post! You are wise when you say that true wealth is contentment. Amen! And I've definitely experienced too that getting just breeds more desire to get more. It's never enough and that is not a life style I want! Anyway see you Saturday and much love to you too.;)

Jaime, what a wonderful surprise! Thank you for what you wrote...I appreciate it so much! And that hatred of math...that will just follow me all my life, won't it? I'll never be free.:) Love to you too and I really hope we can be in touch more, I'd like to be. Take care my friend.

Peggy, thank you! I also hope to be rich like she was; she really had a loving and thoughtful soul in every circumstance.

Shell said...

That's such a good way to look at it- we aren't going to be remembered for having a lot of something like that.

Just Be Real said...

Encouraging post for me to read Colleen. Thank you.

Rachna said...

This was really very deep. Of course, the concept makes perfect sense to me. Material things make life comfortable -- something like basic needs in Maslow's hierarachy, but they don't and can't define us. Personally, though I take great pride in my home; I can leave it and relocate without too much angst if something exciting comes up. What perhaps if of much more importance to me is my family -- husband, sons, dog, sis, brother, dad and friends. I can't imagine life without them. Of late, I am also consciously working towards my own happiness -- my pleasures, my dreams, my work, my hobbies. An empty room with a book or some music would be great! And left alone, I like to think happy memories and sad and introspect. Like you, I would like to be remembered with a fondness and missed by all those close to me.

Mrs. Pancakes said...

You always have something powerful to say! Awesome sentiments in this post because stuff doesn't get us anywhere in the grand scheme of things!

Grandma K said...

It is so, so easy to get caught in the 'things/possessions' trap. It is so easy to look around and want what someone else has/looks like/does. In other words it is so easy to be controlled by other people! And one would think that by the time one is in the 6th decade that wouldn't be a problem.

I would say it is less of a problem but it is so easy to slide back there, to look for my identity in things.

I have so much respect for those who deliberately choose to walk a different path. I watch our kids and see it there and I respect them for their choices.

Hold fast to your convictions!

Susan Deborah said...

Dear Collen: Loved this post. the painting and the words fit well. Your thoughts here are so very true. Sometimes one tends to get lost in materialistic things. Even though, I wanted my house to be empty, my relatives filled it all up after I entered a new home after my wedding. Now, I've gotten used to those things. Literally and metaphorically, accumulation is something which clutters one's mind and space.

Sometimes we don't even realise how things accumulate. It just happens. It is a conscious process to know and stop. And, I definitely don't want to be remembered as a person who possesses innumerable material possessions. I would liked to be remembered as a giver of smiles and joys.

Lovely one, dear Colleen. Glad to have started my day reading this thoughtful and insightful post.

Joy always,

Colleen said...

Shell thank you and good point!

JBR, I'm glad you were encouraged by this post.

Rachna, thank you for sharing your insight! I completely agree with you in cherishing our families and friends and even our pets as well before material things and like you I also think an empty room with a book would be ideal.:) Empty but with so much room to strive toward those things we dream of and hope for! The space to grow, discover and think creatively! Thanks again, it's such a pleasure to meet you!

Mrs. P, so very true and thanks for your kind words!

Grandma K, how encouraging and good that you see your own children leading lives like this...I do believe that they learned it from somewhere. You must have been a very good example whether you realize it or not. Thank you for your comment, I always like hearing from you.

Dear Susan Deborah, I believe you will be remembered as a person who brings joy to others. I truly do. You have a very generous spirit and deep, thoughtful soul. I understand what you mean though about just accumulating without even knowing it at times! It just sneaks up on us doesn't it? I am so pleased that this post brought some light into your day!

Jamie said...

This is beautiful and so insightful... Love how your mind articulates through words...

OtienoHongo said...

We have become a society of "I am what I buy" and it looks as if our main reason for living is to buy and have things. As usual, a very reflective post from you...

wafaa said...

I simply love this, the idea and how it's put into words... so beautiful, so rich...

Joyful said...

Such a beautiful post, Colleen!

I am unfamiliar with the painting but it is so appropriate for your grandmother who had a heart of gold. I aspire to be more like that.

Blessings and love. P

Crown of Beauty said...

This is a very beautiful post - so deep. I want to be like the woman you wrote about.

You are right, we are not defined by what we own.

I really do not want to be rich in material things - but I want to be rich in mercy, grace, kindness, compassion, and love!

Thank you for sharing. The painting is lovely.

Much love

Rebecca said...

I want to be remembered as you remember your aunt... I'd better get to "work"!

(I'm really glad to have your company at PowerLoveandSelfControl. It makes the journey more interesting to share it with someone.)

Deborah said...

This is spot-on, Colleen. Have you read The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander? She speaks of purposeful, expectant emptiness. I think you might find her a kindred spirit.