Written by Mike
As some of you might know, I have a major preoccupation and fascination with Shaolin Monks, specifically the group that practices Kung Fu. I find their feats of unearthly physical and mental mastery, discipline, and their rejection of the material world in many ways applicable to my own life endeavors. Out of all these envious traits, it is the latter that appeals to me the most: rejecting a life based on material possessions. Okay, I know that kind of comes off as holier-than-thou and a bit pretentious, and perhaps I am a poser to some degree, but I have been, in different idioms, a fan of minimalism for quite a long time. My favorite classical musicians are from the minimalist camp; I prefer smaller drum kits; I like living in smaller dwellings; I hate closets bursting at the seams with clothes; and knick-knacks and doilies, don’t even get me started! To be honest, I probably have a slight OCD issue with my possessions. I’ve created all kinds of systems to help compliment my obsession, like creating a rotation system based on a certain amount of allowable clothes in my wardrobe, and if I acquire a new article of clothing, an older piece goes. No exceptions! I constantly want to purge, so you can imagine my absolute glee when it came time for us to massively down-size our belongings to the bare essentials before leaving the U.S.
As usual, when it comes to moving (an activity I absolutely loath!), we started with a plan of being being extremely organized and following a strict schedule of exiting certain items from our apartment—no stress-inducing, last minute foolery like the last time we moved! Let’s get it done with time to spare! But as usual, that plan was a massive fail. Between people flaking out to pick up our FREE furniture, countless trips to Goodwill, and never-ending paper work to be completed, the purging process became a massive dumpster fire. As this beast gained momentum, my worst nightmare came true—our apartment started to resemble a landfill as smaller piles of undecideds started to appear alongside the larger piles of unstarteds. I tired really hard to summon my inner monk and become one with the clutter and chaos, I really did! But in truth, I just wanted to set everything a blaze.
We decided on a set amount of luggage in which to haul all our worldly possessions to Spain: 2 rolling suitcases, and two carry-on bags each. So if it didn’t fit, it didn’t go! (And no buying extra luggage either!) I loved this idea not only because it put parameters on the amount of space available, but because I knew clothing, which in most cases takes up so much room, would not be a problem for me. Next came books, pictures and CD’s. A bit tougher but since the internet makes them easily accessible, I had little problem letting them go. Kitchenware, office supplies, toiletries, closet clutter—boom, gone! Despite my constant irritation at our growing mess, I was really enjoying the purging process until it came time for me to part with my most cherished belongings, my music stuff. Because our lives in the last month of living in America was a chaotic blur, I never stopped to think about the time when I would have to get rid of my drums and other musical items. Besides, I was still gigging and in blissful denial. The first thing to go was my Yamaha P85 digital piano. Because of its MIDI capabilities and weighted keys, this was an enjoyable compositional companion for many years. Parting with it was sad, but since I had already purchased a smaller keyboard for my travels (thank you, Karrie, for letting me stow it in your giant, green suite case!), I got over it quickly. Eventually, my various practice pads and percussion instruments made their exit and finally it came time for the moment of truth: parting with the drums.
Luckily my drums ended up with with a band mate, who is a very good friend of mine, and I was happy that they didn’t go to some snotty, ungrateful teenager. However, this was the first time in 28 years that I was drumless! It only took a few minutes after I had dropped them off before a torrent of tears and regret overwhelmed me. Finally the chinks in my armor were exposed, and the rush of memories of all the great music I had played and the incredible musicians I had performed with, were almost too much to handle. The biggest turn of the dagger, however, was the realization of what the drums had meant to me all those years. Drumming was, and still is my happy place. Early on it was a creative way for me to release my angst and bitterness towards life, and more than likely kept me from being a criminal. It gave me direction, focus, and taught me discipline, work ethic, and team work. It taught me everything I needed to know about being successful. Even to this day, I still get the same giddy feeling as I did the first time I sat behind the kit! I just love playing! My irrational side had me feeling all sorts of ridiculous things, like I had somehow betrayed a part of myself by selling the drums, or that I would never own another kit again. Complete nonsense!
The final two days in America, which we spent at Elle’s dad’s house, had us doing another round of cuts. We initially had thought that our airline carrier had specific weight requirements for checked baggage (a detail we later found out at the airport to have a massive gray area), so we got resourceful and spent an afternoon weighing our luggage on the bathroom scale. We painstakingly got our luggage down to the required 34 kilograms and at that point, at least for me, was so burned out with the whole process that I put little thought into what I was getting rid of.
This purge started with great rapidity and ease and ended with one of the hardest feats of letting go I have ever experienced. To be honest, the majority of things I obsessed about getting rid of, I never think about. Fortunately we found a piso that was furnished, sans some bedding and kitchenware. Right now I love where we live and want to stay as long as possible. But when that day does comes for us to make an exit, hopefully we’ll have very little material possessions to deal with. Besides, I doubt we’ll have a major surplus of belongings since we have very little disposable income to work with, and if there is a little extra, I’m pretty sure we’ll just leave it for the next tenant.