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de·ca·thect [dee-kuh-thekt]
to withdraw one's feelings of attachment from (a person, idea, or object), as in anticipation of a future loss: He decathected from her in order to cope with her impending death.
A philosophy professor named Koestenbaum taught me the concept. Never has abstract philosophical concept found a more receptive mind. Decathexis in order to achieve a state of presuppositionlessness. Unlearn in order to learn. Rinse and repeat.

That's my family room in the picture. What's left of it. I've emptied the top floor, aside from a few sticks of furniture the movers will take. I've emptied the second floor, aside from beds, a few chests, and the clothing that will go into suitcases.

Habitat for Humanity has taken a bunch of stuff. The movers have made a preliminary bleed-off to the storage locker. We've fed the library so many books they know me by name. Clothing and toys going out now.

What's left is concentrated in the family room. See that pile? 70% my wife's stuff. 20% my son's stuff. 7% my daughter's stuff. And a token amount is mine.

Yes. I rule in the non-acquisition contest. I don't like having stuff. When I was 16 I swore I would never reach the point where I couldn't load my stuff into a backpack and hit the road. I haven't managed to keep that promise. But if you set aside my late, lamented Benz, there are few objects I care about. Throw it out. Throw it all out, load the last few vital things into a backpack, and hit the road, man.

We're within 30 days of leaving for our year (or more) abroad in Italy. The trigger has been pulled. Visas obtained. Money wired. House emptied. Carpet replaced. Paint touched up. For Sale sign goes up in a week.

I'm sure I've mentioned on half a dozen occasions that I've moved a lot. Somewhere between 40 and 60 homes in my 53 years. Just in the town of Crockett, California I had three different homes. Nope, four. In the DC area, I've lived in what, half a dozen homes? Three in France. Three in Minneapolis. Just one in Chicago: man, that was weird.

I've moved a lot, a consequence of being an Army brat and then adopting the lifestyle. I cathect reluctantly and shallowly, decathect quickly and completely. In the old days I'd be gone before anyone knew I was leaving. No good-byes, no big deal, I am outta there. Out uh there.

It's a slower process now, with kids. They cathect, even if I don't. And because they cathect, we are drawn into a web of human contacts we would otherwise avoid. (Yes, I switched to plural. Yes, I know I did it.) There are actually people to whome we need to say "good-bye" here in Chapel Hill. Neighbors, semi-friends, friends of the kids, teachers.

I should come up with a name for this end stage. It's the stage where I start thinking, "This yogurt won't expire until we're gone."

"I don't think I'll need any more paper towel."

"That's the last time I'll see that guy."

I won't pretend there's not a faint whiff of betrayal about it all. And pleasure in the betrayal. I used to like being the kid who left, when I was young. Yeah, you suckers have to stay here in Bellflower, New Orleans, Royan, Rochefort, Niceville (yes, that's a real place,) Newport News, Alexandria, and so on and on and on, but me? I am outta here. So loooong, losers. I pitied the ones who had to stay. I still do.

Roots? No. Not in a place, at least. I carry my roots with me. Movable roots: the wife, the kids, the career. My roots fit in four airline seats.

I'm doing the countdown. How many more times do I have to drive the boy to school? How many more trips to Harris Teeter? Am I done with Southern Season, yet? Is this my last time in Raleigh, Durham, downtown Chapel Hill?

I love it. But it's an unsettling feeling, too. I worry as I cut the cords, one by one. Too much imagination. It's how I make my living but man, when you're living your life it can kind of torture you, just a bit. Worry and decathect, worry and decathect, and worry more if I don't decathect. Because cathexis with one place is death in my mind. Which means, if I'm keeping track, that I'm worrying about taking the steps that I see as rejuvenating and life-affirming. But hell, I'd be worrying if I weren't cutting those ties.

And if you can follow that paragraph, then wow, kudos.

I made a deal with my son to smoke only one cigar a week. So I have made my final Chapel Hill (Durham, if you want to get technical) cigar purchase. Soon I will make my last fill-up at the BP. My last drive up 15/501. My last time hunting for parking at RDU airport, except, oh shit, I won't be parking, will I? I'll be taking the final cab ride.

Notice how my language sounds faintly elegiac? Final this and last that. Like I'm dying? Death before rebirth. That's the fun of decathexis: you empty out, so that you can fill up again. Emptying out creates anxiety. Filling up -- especially on pizza, pasta, gelato and Super Tuscans -- is cool.

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  1. Blogger fabius.maximus.cunctator Says:

    michael reynolds:

    Thx ever so much for pointing out Decathexis and Koestenbaum. I´ll memorize the former and research the latter more closely.

    Personal take which may or may not be of interest. Years ago I accepted a new job offer. My old job description was for a position I had bulit up and developed myself over several years of hard work. Leaving on excellent terms with my boss I wrote the advert for my successor and selected him myself, including the 1st interview. Now that was a strange experience.

    Anyhow I trust you continue your fascinating blog from Italy.

  2. Blogger Randy (Internet Ronin) Says:

    Bellflower? You must have been young then. Where was your dad stationed?

  3. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    Thanks for the cathect-cism. The feeling you describe is familiar to me as Crucifixion/Resurrection.

  4. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:


    Thanks. I do intend to keep blogging. But I'm thinking of adding in extra vowels to sound more Italian.

  5. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:

    It would have been first grade for me. (So, somewhere around the time the last Neanderthal died off). My dad had been in and then out of the service and was just then re-entering, as I recall. So he wasn't stationed in LA.

  6. Blogger Michael Reynolds Says:



    I will let that go with just a brief shudder.

    As for crucifixion, I'm hoping to get through this without getting nailed.

  7. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    Michael: Take heart. If you do get nailed, then all you have to do is survive three days in a cave. But if you see your shadow, it means 6 more weeks in Chapel Hill.

  8. Blogger Ruth Anne Adams Says:

    If you do it successfully 10 times, do you become a decathexalon winner? Will your picture be on the Wheaties box?

    O.K. I'll stop now.

    On this thread.

  9. Blogger amba Says:

    That's what death will feel like if there's reincarnation.

  10. Blogger amba Says:

    Ruth Anne left out "Deep in the Heart of Decathexis."