For me, bad things usually happen in November. Regardless of the year, November is when things fall apart, dismantle, tumble down, or even full out “landslide.”
I never actually think about it. I never see it coming and I certainly don’t look forward to it. I don’t dread it, and I don’t prepare for it. I always seem to forget that November is when everything goes downhill for me. And then along comes November, and everything goes as it’s destined to go: downhill. Being in a pandemic, we had an entire year of daily “downhills” in 2020. But still, I certainly was not prepared for the doozy of a downhill in November 2020.
In previous years in November, multiple people died. I’d been cheated upon. I’d been stolen from, I had flights canceled, exams failed unexpectedly, and participants dropped out from research projects I was involved in.
But the events that happened in November 2020 were so unexpected, so profoundly disturbing, so disruptive and so disparaging, that I’m not even sure they actually happened!
I began to pack up my apartment in preparation for a move to a new place to live.
It started with my curiosity imploring me to open the cupboard doors in the kitchen and see what might be behind there. Looking under the sink, opening the pantry closet, even checking behind the fridge and in between the stove and the counter, I saw that there was not a single nook or cranny that was bare. There were continuous and endless piles of items in every space I looked. A never-ending supply of objects. No empty space. Eternal and ongoing, there were items upon items, some items blocking out other items, items filling each cupboard from wall-to-wall, and from front all the way to the deep back.
It did not get any better when I looked into the pantry. I saw edibles in containers that were practically glued together, forming a long strand of jars filled with dried beans, and plastic containers holding various powders of different colors.
Boxes of bottles, and cartons of glasses, crates holding empty jars, and plastic bins filled to the brim with every kitchen utensil available and some that I did not even know how to use.
As I peered around the door into the furnace room, I saw a huge collection of empty planters and all of my winter sporting equipment. There were ladders, crutches, even a table that was holding an old printer. As I scanned the furnace room I noticed the portable space heaters, a portable air conditioner, the dehumidifier, the humidifier, the large vacuum cleaner, the small vacuum cleaner, an air purifier, and a few fans.
Hoping for some better results, I slid open the patio doors off the kitchen, and stepped outside onto the back step. Looking around at the yard I walked over to the shed, unlocked the padlock, pulled the latch, and let the metal door swing open. Stuff was practically falling out! Lawnmower, all sizes of shovels, rakes, and other gardening tools.
The thoughts which began going through my head revolved around “how on earth was I supposed to pack all of this stuff up and take it with me, and where would I put it once I got there?” And, at this point, I didn’t even know where “there” would be.
I have been searching for months and still did not come up with anything. It was an unusually low rental market in the city in which I resided. Fearing that I would have to move in with my mother, or worse, a woman’s shelter, I began to think of places where I could just store my things and myself “along with,” giving new meaning to the term “self storage.”
Nonetheless, the search results finally turned around in my favor, and I finally did some find something. So it came to be that I was now faced with the large, daunting task of packing and moving.
Thus began the bleary-eyed, late-into-the-night, incessant process of packing, boxing, marking, taping, and listing.
This brought up a lot of emotions for me. As I culled through the never-ending supply of possessions I owned, I began associating each item with the memories which surrounded its existence, its origins, and its history.
I decided that I would let go of things that I had not taken out of their respective bins or boxes for over a year. That ended up being quite a lot of items. Those were things that I had obtained and procured from trips that I took around the world, since days of childhood, or consisted of gifts given to me by elder relatives. All of them had sentimental significance.
Moving things into the pile of “give-away,” I felt like a murderer. I felt like I was separating family members from one another, and it felt dangerously strange and hostile. It was vicious, it was almost violent. It was like cutting off my own fingers. I felt a huge lump in my throat and my heart began to beat at a much faster pace. The strength of each heartbeat almost shook me. My eyes welled up into tears; my sniffling nose dripped. My face flushed, my skin was feeling warmer and somewhat prickly.
But I marched on, attempting to get this unusual and uncomfortable task accomplished. I also had a deadline and therefore I could not waste precious time emoting over concrete items that could never go with me into my grave, anyway. So why was this happening to me? I had to ignore it and soldier on.
For four days straight and for hours on end, I slashed and divided, moving things into boxes and quickly taping them up, marking the top with a big black X, intending them for the pile of things to be given to the Salvation Army.
I culled my possessions, removed the baggage, and minimized my life, one tea cup at a time.
I culled and minimized and separated and removed . . . supposedly simplifying my life, and definitely easing the quantity of boxes for my move.
After four days, I looked around me at all of the boxes with big black Xs on them and realized I could not do it. I would have to call a friend. I would have to use a lifeline! I called a good friend, Lena, who usually gets shit done and never makes a fuss. She never gets emotional. She came to my rescue along with her large pickup truck, and we began to load the truck with the boxes that were destined for the Salvation Army.
Apart from those boxes, I had just about everything else ready to go and my move within two weeks’ time. Lena got into the driver seat of her truck and put the vehicle into reverse. That is when the mess started happening. You might’ve thought it was me breaking down after all of my possessions were carted away. You might’ve thought that it was some sort of great disappointment, after moving into a new location having half of my stuff separated from me. But no. That is not what took place at all.
That big black Ford 150 backed into me.
I awoke four days later to four nurses standing around me, attempting to put a glass of water to my lips. I heard them faintly saying “Drink, Anna, drink!” I opened my mouth, the water flowed in, and I began to choke. I was a little bit more awake now, and my sight became clearer. I tried again to take a sip of water, and succeeded. I was trying to make sense of my surroundings. My head was sore, my arm felt very sore as well, but other than that I didn’t think there was anything of interest to note. Then I turned my head.
Several machines with tubes coming out of them and somehow appearing to be connected to my body came into my field of vision. Some of them had different colored liquids going through the tubes, and a few of them had motors which made strange noises.
One of the nurses drew her face closer to mine and whispered, “Are you all right?”
I said, “I think so.”
“You were hit by a large vehicle, and you lost consciousness. Then you went into a coma. You have actually sustained a massive hemorrhage to your brain and some broken vertebrae in your back. If you think you are okay, then you are really, really lucky!”
“I don’t feel anything. Should I not feel some pain if all of that happened? Should I not be dizzy?”
“Well, you’re on some pretty heavy drugs. And you may have lost some sensation, and therefore you don’t feel parts of your body. We are going to do some tests on you to see if you can feel different parts of your body that we touch.”
Now that scared me!
And so it was that I spent six months in the hospital recuperating from this tragic accident. However, over the course of those six months, I did regain sensation, the sense of feelings in every part of my body, my brain hemorrhage eradicated itself, and the incomplete breaks in my spine were healing on their own. It was truly a miracle! I know this is not the case for everybody who has an accident like this one. But over six months, I submitted to hours and hours of therapy, having many people do many things for me that I used to be able to do independently, and piece back the history and memories of my life.
Now you may be wondering what happened with the packing and the items that I had sent away to the Salvation Army, plus the items that were to have been moved into the new location. You may be asking what ever had become of the place I was destined to move to, having never arrived. You may be wondering how Lena felt after running me over with her truck. And you may be curious about the timeline within which it took me to recover from this disastrous accident . . . what else took place during that time, and so on.
As I said in the beginning, this was the largest downhill of my life. Nothing had come quite as close to utter disaster as this had. But it was a huge miracle that I managed to recuperate from this. It was a miracle that I didn’t die.
Lena did the smartest thing. She kept all of my things together, including the boxes destined to be removed from my life forever. After accompanying me to the hospital and spending almost a full day there waiting for results after my initial examinations, she went back to my house and loaded everything into the pickup truck. She made several trips to the self storage and checked in my things. There they remained for six months while I was busy recovering in the hospital.
On that beautiful sunny day when I was scheduled to be released, with a live-in nurse to spend the next six months with me at home, I realized I did not have a home to live in. We had essentially vacated my previous apartment, and I wondered what happened to the new place I was supposed to move to. My friends and family had notified them that I was in an accident and would not be moving in, so they had the lease canceled. They did not yet make arrangements for a place for me to live during the time I was in the hospital, so on this beautiful day when I was allowed to be released, I had nowhere to go.
Or so I thought.
Another wonderful surprise that awaited me, this time a very positive surprise, was that my mother had purchased a small condo for me to live in, and she and Lena had moved all of my things from the storage building into this new condo. Not only did they move the boxes in, but they also unpacked them, and decorated the condo with all of my things. Yes, all of those thousands of things that I was complaining about in the beginning. All of those things that had taken up every inch of space in my life, prior to my accident. There was a lot less space in this condo than in the previous apartment, and it did not have an outside shed or garage, so the overflow of items ended up in a second condo, which curiously enough, my mother had thoughtfully purchased for herself.
To this day I do not know how they thought of this idea or where this terrific plan came from, but it stemmed from them knowing I would need a place to live with an aide, and to be reunited with all of my memories, my souvenirs, my history, and all of the small things that make up the contents of my life.
What used to be considered “clutter” was now highly regarded as precious material that helped preserve the life I had lived up until the accident. The accident which might have killed me, might have wiped out my entire life forever.
The importance of the objects that I accumulated in my life suddenly made itself shining and clear to me. Those items were evidence, they were witness, they were small specs of dust in the days and stars in the nights. They were the minutes and the hours, of all of the months and the seasons I had lived through. They were indicators of my many adventures. They had stories and they were part of someone’s daily existence.
There is no need to cull. There is no need to minimize. There is no need to remove entities or memories or factoids from one’s life, just to be able to fit into a specific-sized living space.
I made a parallel between the feelings that welled up in me as I had tried removing things from my life and my own near-removal from life itself. They were like siblings, like twins. They were one and the same. Getting my life back followed by getting my things back . . . a strange but telling lesson.
Now whenever I look at my possessions, instead of seeing a hunk of material goods, I am reminded of my life being returned to me, and I am grateful every day for the return of my objects, and the return of my life. I now have a completely different perspective about this and regard my material possessions in an entirely different way.
I am no longer annoyed, nor do I feel crowded or cluttered. I don’t feel like I have to do anything. I don’t feel like I have to fix anything. I don’t want to get rid of anything, and I don’t need to get rid of anything. Whatever is there, is there, and whatever will be added to the pile will simply be added to the pile. And when it really is the time for me to pass on from this life, I will happily take everything, all of my concrete worldly possessions, along with me, into my grave!
© 2021 Anna Weltman, All Rights Reserved
Anna Weltman has lived in Israel, Canada, and the USA and is a lover of all things multicultural, emigrational, and transformational! Her affectionate humour arises in all facets of her work, be it developing college courses, training athletes, teaching yoga and meditation, or writing fiction. Though many of the details in this story are true, Anna getting run over by a truck is a fictional event.