Saturday, February 6, 2010

Guest Blog Post: How to Lose 100 Pounds

A guest blog post by Cynthia Yancey Smith

When I was five, my parents bought new dining room furniture: table, six chairs and a china cabinet complete with dust-catching spindles, crevices, nooks, shelves and intricate moldings. Crafted from solid pecan in a pricey brand the neighbors could envy, every stick was built to outlive us all.

I can’t remember how my parents came to buy this set, but I know it was above their means, because I can recall at least one loud argument amid much regular bickering regarding the financial decisions involved in purchasing it long after we owned it.

Dusting the china cabinet became my job. I was told how important it was to take care of, and respect, fine expensive things, usually while being handed a rag and a can of Pledge.

I grew to hate this thing.

Fast forward to my first year of marriage. My parents came to visit, pulling along a trailer full of things they were certain every young married couple would want, including the damned china cabinet. I swallowed hard when they lugged it in, apologizing to my husband. But he thought it was great that we had scored a large piece of furniture for the mere price of two-day visit from his in-laws.

Over the years, while we moved from X to Y to Z, the cabinet dictated virtually every interior-design decision by its sheer bulk and style. It began to own me. Accommodating its bulk was like living with a constant smell.

Because I was never able to find dining room furniture that I liked, but that would still “go” with the monster, I turned it into a display case in the living room. At least the piece was large enough to fill the gaps in a large room and hold the trophies and souvenirs I was sure would fit nowhere else. And the fact was, we couldn’t afford to replace it.

But I hated it. I hated dusting it, I hated its old-fashioned bulbous style, I hated the restrictions it placed on my decorating ideas, I hated remembering the place it held in my childhood: the symbol of success. For all the ‘things’ our parents bought to prove they were no longer children of the depression, they were still angry and anxious about money. Still, every time I thought about removing the monster from my life, I hit the wall of familial guilt. I had no siblings to give it to, no basement to hide it in, my parents didn’t want it back, and I couldn’t just sell it in a yard sale or give it to the local thrift store! The monster was a fine, expensive thing that I had grown up with. An heirloom representing the very life my parents had aimed for beyond their own hardscrabble upbringing. How dare I not want it?

Finally, 21 years later and well into my 50s, the day came when I could dare not to want the monster in my living room. It was easy: a casual friend was over helping us move the cable connection , which involved moving the monster to another wall.

“I wish I could toss the thing in the trash,” I said.

“Put it on Craig’s List,” he said, in that off-handed way that people use when they don’t know they’ve just opened a vein in your psyche. “Be done with it.”

It wasn’t that I hadn’t ever thought of doing just that (I’m a champion e-Bay user), it was just that no one else had ever spoken the words to me: “Be done with it.” A practical stranger had me permission to get rid of something I really hated, something that had taken up and determined huge amount of space and power in my life.

A few weeks later, the day came when someone actually paid me money (I can’t breathe how much because it would be sacrilege) and took the thing away – joyful in their acquisition. They were buying a nice, pecan china cabinet. I was losing 25 years of guilty weight.

When my living room was finally clear, and the sky did not fall, nor the gods strike me down, that, most important, my mother did not appear at my door to accuse me of being bad daughter, I saw that I was free. I felt 100 pounds lighter.


Anonymous said...


Cary said...

Spooky synchronicity - I read this guest post the day after delivering a closet-full of my three-years gone mom's purses and shoes to two vintage shops and goodwill, having been given the nudge to let go of them by a visiting friend. 'You can't be sentimental about everything,' she said. 'So just pick a few items and say goodbye to the rest.' And yes, some of the items I've been keeping really aren't my taste at all. I just felt guilty divesting myself of things she valued and gave to me with love.
-- Cary

Anonymous said...

Oh my have just written my feelings exactly for a piano that I HATE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is not a family heirloom, but was the first piece of furniture that my husband and I bought 35 years ago. Neither one of us play the piano!!! My 3 children were made to take lessons for 7+ years on it and to this day they HATE the piano! The MONSTER that always had to be the prominent focus in the living room! No matter what I do, that THING JUST SITS THERE and takes up my valuable space! NO AMOUNT OF SAYING HOW MUCH I HATE THE THING will move my husband to get rid of it. Nothing I desire with all my heart will make him agree to sell it. He knows that if he goes before I do that on the day he passes I WILL THROW THE THING OUT!!! Or maybe sell it on Craigs list! Can you tell how much you spoke to me??? LOL :) Thanks for putting it into words.