Marriage—or rather the end of marriage—has been an object lesson in the futility of materialism. I leave marriages with much less than when I entered.

The first time was due to my wife’s hostility. Her intent was that I should leave with nothing. The second is due to my need to downsize in light of my life’s diminution of circumstances—my wife this time is only the catalyst, not the cause. One might look at these situations and question the futility of marriage in the first place, at least for me.

In the cosmic scheme of things I suppose this is a good thing. I surely don’t need all the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. My wife has told me on more than one occasion that if I hadn’t collected so many books, or dishes, for example, I wouldn’t need to sell or give so many away. So far I’ve sold fifteen boxes of books to Green Apple Bookstore, donated eight boxes to Friends of the San Francisco Library, and have on deck six tote bags of books to sell to Russian Hill Books on Polk Street. This leaves me with over twenty boxes of books to pack and move across the country.


Dishes have gone to CraigsList, eBay, friends, children.

Of course this pales in comparison to the nearly 5000 books my son David and I hauled in multiple pick-up truck trips to the Pleasantville Library in Westchester County when I finally gave up a storage unit left over from the first marriage.

While the end result of downsizing is lightness and greater flexibility, the emotional toll isn’t so energizing. I’ve never acquired anything that didn’t have some meaning attached to it—meaning that I have ascribed to a time and place and circumstance that gives the object acquired a significance beyond its physical state. So when it goes, a piece of memory goes with it, a piece of me.

I know that’s a hollow sentiment, superficial and shallow. Meaning should come from me, not from what I possess. I’m working on detachment. Abandoning the books is especially hard—my own private library. I don’t buy junk, and what I buy has fit into different compartments of my mind and life experience. Art books have been the easiest to give up. All that I have kept are visual reference to my watercolor painting ambitions: books of works by Sargent, Homer, Wyeth, Marin, Birchfield. I’m thinking big time.

Looking ahead, my plan is to live small. I don’t need a large place, much less a house. My ideal remains a rose covered cottage out of the English countryside by that isn’t going to happen. Nor does it need to. Maybe that’s the hardest to accept: ideals that must be sacrificed to circumstances.

But then that leads to the sacrifice of what I have always wanted in a marriage, but never have had. I have wanted to be with someone who loved me as much as I loved them, forever and always. Maybe I wanted too much, tried too hard or not enough. I don’t know anymore.

My first marriage was complicated from the get-go, and three wonderful sons more than compensation for whatever unhappiness was endured. The second, dissolving now?  It seemed so perfect, and even as it evolved into disappointing companionship, its end came as an unexpected and unwanted shock.

It still does.


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  1. Your candor, compassion, wisdom and growth-oriented approach to this unexpected and sometimes anguishing time is truly inspiring


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