Sunday, October 26, 2008

Losing the Extra Weight

A couple of days ago, I got to catch an episode of Oprah. After all these years, Studio 23 finally decided to air Oprah at an earlier time. It used to be that Oprah episodes border on midnight; one can’t help but wonder, “who watches Oprah at this time?”

Anyway, in the said episode of Oprah, a family was being featured and “guided” into turning over a new leaf. With this I mean Oprah was hosting a house makeover for her selected family. To modify it from the usual house makeover shows, Oprah and her expert guest probe on how the family’s house affects their lifestyle, health and happiness.

Expert guest started raiding the family’s kitchen, throwing in a basket everything inside the kitchen drawers—cookie cutters, sushi makers, skewers for kebabs or satays. It was not long before the mother, whose domain was the kitchen, began to breakdown and freak out just by witnessing her stuff being thrown away by expert guest. And, I think, what pushed her button more was the spoon expert guest broke.

Expert guest stood firm. He said that these things represent what the mother was fancying herself to be: a baker, a sushi master, a kebab/satay guru. He doubted that the mother uses those things despite the mother saying that she does bake, prepare sushis, and make kebabs/satay anytime in the year. “Time to let go,” expert guest insisted.

The mother walked out of the kitchen, frustrated, and told the rest of her family to get expert guest out of her house for breaking her spoon. She was crying. The material things from which she draws power over had just been deemed rubbish by this guy who knew little about her—about her life as a mother who tries to keep her family together, who puts things in order, who seeks for herself amidst all the things she does.

It is true that it is part of human nature to want to feel in control—if not over the people around them, then at least over the circumstances they have to deal with. But when all else fails, people turn to the most convenient option: material things. I don’t think anyone enjoys feeling powerless. There really is no reward in it. (That’s why telenovela underdogs are only good for fiction.) No matter how superficial it may sound, people will eventually settle with whatever is available to them in their quest for power.

In the mother’s case, those were her kitchen tools—the things that affirm that although her life is being run by responsibilities here and there, she has her kitchen tools to turn to for temporary “me” moments, to remind her that some things are still possible albeit her status quo. Because she can deal with these things at her own terms.

Expert guest, on the other hand, being that he’s just doing his job, remained unfazed despite the mother’s sobs and underlying predicament. He remained clear with his mission which was to get rid of the family’s “trash.” It wasn’t hard to do since he was not emotionally involved with the mother nor with her kitchen tools. Expert guest was the sane party who sees things objectively.

He convinces the mother to continue “cleansing” the house, to throw what remains inside the other drawers. “It’s time lose the extra weight,” he says. “Only then will you be able to move forward.”

The mother hesitates some more but eventually gives in and helps in throwing away the things they barely use in the house. Still there is that dark shadow over her head because although the things she is ridding her house of are not useful for the household, she needs them to validate her power.

Right now I do not have the purchasing abilities to command that tempting things my eyes lay upon be mine which, although could be a spectacular showcase of my power, is trouble, especially if the abilities rely on credit cards. So I’m settling on the other end of the ordeal. I am basking in whatever power available to me by simply eliminating those little things that may be holding our house back. I take control by losing some of our house’ extra weight. (My extra weight, measured in pounds, I shall deal with later.)

I have to admit that there is a liberating force in getting rid of the things you’ve been attached to for years. This may justify my recent surging obsession to cleanse our house, to box whatever stuff we have which don’t serve their purpose, to let go of the non useful things that eat up space and collect dust. To date, I have packed one bag of clothes which haven’t been used for years and one box and three plastic bags of unused stuff. Some of them we’ll give away; some of them we might sell.

As for the expert guest and the mother—the voice which is so clear in saying that it’s time to let go of excess baggage and move ahead, and the other voice who, amidst being silenced by the daily grind, needs to find a venue to be in control and feel power—well perhaps it helps to marry them, to establish a compromise.

Expert guest got his way because the mother eventually allowed him to take out her family’s trash. He did his job and ended with a brilliant house makeover. On the other hand, the mother felt that she can still be in control because expert guest acknowledged her need for it and supported her in finding ways in which she can better use her power other than keeping her cookie cutters, sushi makers, skewers and spoons. She now has a picture perfect home with a sparkly new kitchen devoid of that extra weight that inadvertently dragged her down.

Everybody happy, including Oprah and her audience.

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