Saturday, May 12, 2012

Put All Your Eggs In One Basket -- and Watch That Basket!

Egg Basket for Chickadoodles' Output                                                                Photo by Keith Skelton

I often heard while growing up, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket."

But, today I learned the hard way. I didn't put my eggs in any basket. After culling them from the nesting box, I put them on a backyard patio chair and went for a walk with my new puppy, Mango. When I returned just 45 minutes later, the eggs were gone. Disappeared. The only clue left was the egg white slime on the cushion and a minuscule shard of shell left on the arm of the chair. 

Where had my eggs gone?

I needed every egg the hens would lay before Mother's Day, when I would be baking some quiches and perhaps a souffle for my daughter's first Mother's Day. And, now I was down a day's "crop."

What had taken my eggs?

Skunks, raccoons, rodents...the usual suspects came to mind. But, it was mid-morning, broad daylight, and the sun was already starting to burn oven hot temperatures into the patio brick. I doubted that these nocturnal animals would venture out in the heat of the day. (Although, research shows that skunks and raccoons will come out during the day to take a much needed break from their little ones.)

Because the eggs were tucked up against the chair's cushions, I decided it must be birds--most likely, blue jays. You know those jays. Yapping, flapping, aggressive jays--the bane of many a gardener.

Varmints, pesky, unforgiving behaviors...

Reminds me of the financial world. That seems to be where the idiom "putting all your eggs in one basket" usually roosts. Who hasn't heard that your "nest egg" should never be invested in one place? Diversify, whether it be real estate, the stock market, gold, silver or ETFs.  Because if it's in one place and the basket "drops", you've lost everything.

But, what if you've lost everything and you didn't put all your eggs in one basket? 

Lately, I've heard even more tragic stories about the tough economy putting people into homelessness or near homelessness. Just last night, I met a woman who told me her woeful tale of her design business plummeting over the last few years. She nearly lost her home, but managed to rent it and cover her costs while she scaled down to a space barely big enough for her to move around in. This "mini-me" home operates as her place of slumber and home office.

"I went from driving a first-class BMW to driving my father's old Toyota," she said. "I moved to a home/office that is only about 1/8 of my previous space," she lamented. "I want to complain, but, the odd thing is that everyone who comes over to my new place seems to like it better."

We conjectured as to why that might be. Intimacy. Simplicity. Good energy.

"I'm not sure exactly why it is," she said. "All I know is that my life has gotten a lot lighter since I've disposed of nearly everything."

Paring down. Downsizing. Over the last several years, I, too, have simplified--out of desire and need.

It began with garage sales and Craig's List postings after a separation.

The first to go was the antique gold-leafed chandelier with crystal fobs that I had dreamt of placing in a country home. I held onto that chandelier for a long time because it represented hope: a big family, lots of children, rambling acreage. But, a large country home for just little ol' me?  I clicked the light off on that dream. I sold the chandelier for well below its wholesale cost and re-discovered it several months later hanging from a ceiling in a local shop . Like an old acquaintance that you run into after many years, I noticed it but had nothing to say.

Next came the coveted hand-painted Mexican table and its coordinating woven rug. That, too, I had believed would embellish a country kitchen one day. Neighbors, friends, perhaps even a famous writer or two, would sit at the table, slide their bare feet along the rug, sip a cup of tea or a glass of Chardonnay, and share tales of their fascinating lives. When I finally came to realize that no bare feet would be sliding across the rug; no elbows would be resting on the table, I sold the table and carpet to a family whose dreams still seemed intact.

Having lived in what could be termed a small estate, I also owned several paintings and prints in gilded frames. Good art encased in an emperors' robes. What was once divine and appropriate, now seemed garish and out-of-synch. So, those, too, were sold. 

I returned the grandfather's clock to the doorstep of my ex's home with a note that said, "You can have this. I know you love it and I don't need it any longer." It's ticking hands brought memories of a different time that no longer included me. 

I even sold the marital bed with all of its silk trimmings.

Three garage sales and three homes later, my load has gotten much lighter. Oh, sure. There are still a few items there that need to be culled. But, no longer is every square inch of my garage stacked with vestiges of my Halcyon Days. 

The interior perimeter of my garage is now lined with Costco metal shelves upon which sit a dozen or so blue plastic bins. The bins contain absolutely nothing of material worth. There are no hidden baubles waiting for the auction block. There are no future dreams silently inscribed upon their lids. 

Memories are all that remain. Like the wood doll cradle that my Grandfather Mac constructed from the tree he chopped down and the baby blanket my Grandma Williams spent hours knitting with arthritic fingers. And, the poster that my daughter created with chalk pictures for Mother's Day, telling me how much she loved me. More than three bins are filled with family photos and another bin with my published writings.

Paring down my life has not only made my life simpler, it has also brought me to me. When I removed the remnants of old, dusty dreams, the vestiges of what used to be, I discovered a golden egg. One that is infinitely more willing, more wanting, and much more patient, to let fate drive my course. I have, I think, finally taken my hands off the steering wheel.

As I prepare for Mother's Day and know that, shamefully, I'll probably need to go to the Farmers' Market to pick up a dozen more eggs, I realize that I have always lived my life by putting all my eggs in one basket...whatever journey I am on at the moment, I am completely and utterly devoted to it. Then, when the eggs break and the journey ends, I begin again.

This time with a new basket.

Put all your eggs in one basket -- and watch that basket!
                             - MARK TWAIN, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

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