The Difficulty of Opening One’s Hands

[Word count: 489. Approximate read time: 2-3 minutes]

My mother grew up poor. Because she knew the extremes of sometimes having nothing, she learned how to save, preserve, extend, prolong, conserve. She’s the last to throw something away because “you never know when you might have a need.”

In her cabinet, I found an old Sony CD player whose door would not close. I offered to throw it away for her. “Oh no, honey, don’t throw that away. I wanna give it to the Goodwill. Maybe somebody can fix it and use it.”

I groused. “Ma, this thing is done. It has no more value. It’s a CD player that won’t play CDs. No one wants to work to fix it. You can buy a new one for $50 or less. Why do you hold on to these things? They’re just taking up space and making more clutter for you to look at. This don’t make no sense. Forget it. I’m throwing it away.” All of this I told her—in my head—as I put the CD player back where she told me to.

I used to be quite a packrat. But when I got older and started making enough money to lean back and smile a bit, I didn’t stockpile so religiously. My confidence was such that if I needed something, I could get it whenever I wanted it.

Love is different though. Genuine connections don’t happen for me every day. I can’t just go pick up a brand new shrinkwrapped woman at a convenience store when loneliness starts to chafe at me. So I took what little was in my hands and tried to save it. Preserve, extend, prolong. Nurture. Reclaim. Negotiate. Hope. Try. Persuade. I used everything in my toolbox.

I needed something from her that I never found with anyone else. Even though she came with more prerequisites, rules, and requirements than anyone could satisfy, I had to try. When I thought of the months I spent without her, missing her, and feeling poor… I had to take a flying leap to get her back.

 “I will be king
And you will be queen…
Though nothing
Nothing will keep us together.”
David Bowie, “Heroes”

That leap landed me flat-faced, sliding down the broad side of her capriciousness, ridicule, and refusal. I had hoped this relationship was salvageable, but this relationship was broken. No one was going to fix it. It was never going to be what either of us needed.

Please forgive my poverty. I didn’t have anything else. I was holding on because I had to. There was so much it could have been, and so much I wanted it to be. But none of that was going to happen. This thing was done. It had no more value. It didn’t make sense to continue grasping its handle so desperately.

All of this I told myself—in my head—as I positioned my hand over the trash, and slowly uncurled each finger.


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