Decidedly Athwart


not within my boundaries; feel free to diverge

Urgency Day 249

500 Things Items 248-252: Five Negotiables

  • History: 2006, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2006 respectively
  • Value: Computer game: yes, says Sam; Other stuff: not enough, say I
  • Parting pain: I’m seeing dollar signs…
  • Un-possessing: donate, sell, gift, trash, donate respectively

What did the Cheshire Cat say?

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

And so, I am obsessed with the word “athwart:”

  1. adv., prep. In opposition to the right or expected course;
  2. adj. off-course; awry.

Truly, I am athwart. But does that mean I am off-course, or simply not taking the expected course?

When I tell people I am voluntarily downsizing, choosing to get rid of a lot of stuff and eschewing replacing it with more stuff, I typically receive one of two reactions:

  • “Wow…Cool!
  • “Does that include shoes?”

Very few people express outright skepticism that a rejection of excess is misguided. And no one has yet responded to my mission with a defiant, “No! I embrace over-indulgence!” But most people do pretty quickly press the pause button. They want to establish boundaries, and they want my permission to negotiate them.

  • “Is it okay if I still like jewelry? That doesn’t take up much room.”
  • “My kids re-qui-re the newest games. But after they beat the game, they resell them, so that’s okay, right?”
  • “Oh man, I can’t say no to makeup counter deals. Those gift-with-purchase things? I have drawers full of them! But really they’re consumable– eventually you use them up. So I don’t have to give those up, right?”
  • Books. Back away from my books.”

No permission requested from the book crowd.

Everyone has some non-negotiables, me included; and most of the time not even a lawyer should negotiate your non-negotiables for you. [Insert medical/psychological disclaimer here.] I recognize that I am on an unexpected course, and my path-less-taken certainly follows a different course from yours. What would be comforting is if we each had a sense of where we are going.

And that’s where I am athwart.

I am not sure where I will end up, where my family will end up. Where will Sam go to college? Where will Paul and I land? But of this much, I am utterly and completely certain: Wherever it is, we will surely be a more streamlined version of ourselves.

And our particular Cheshire Cat doesn’t smile and isn’t much for philosophizing, but, remarkably, she does come when you whistle.

That can be very handy when you are feeling lost and a bit athwart.

...or amiss


6 Responses to “Decidedly Athwart”

  1. Suzanne – Congratulations about rounding the half-way point bend! All milestones need to be celebrated. Thanks for your thoughtfulness about book owners. I work at a public library but even though I am surrounded by wonderful books too many books at home pass the “Yes, I will read it again test!” Thanks for reminding those like me you really don’t need to own the books and you’ll be happier with a decluttered life!

  2. sthibeault Says:

    Thank you so much for your comment, Susan! Yes, I should mention reaching the half-way point. I’m planning for the big 200 days/300 Things milestone, and this one slipped my me. (I blame the holidays.) I hope you have seen on my blog that I adore libraries and librarians are my favorite people! Thank you for the work you do.

  3. james yarbrough Says:

    I must admit, the thought of giving up my records, books or CD’s, as meaningful as extra room sounds, is not an option at this point!

  4. sthibeault Says:

    Jim, I hear you. It’s a draconian project I’ve taken on. I envy the generation that will never accumulate in the same weighty way ours did. I’m ready for my iPod and Kindle life!

  5. melanie Says:

    Never got into the shoe thing; the books I have left are non-negotiobly being kept, especially The Little Prince. And anything by Dr. Seuss. In the words of the great Oliver Wendell Douglas (character on television’s Green Acres):”Keep Manhattan just give me Dr. Seuss.”

  6. sthibeault Says:

    Horton is my hero. Please keep the Doctor.

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