I've found that I don't lose myself, usually. I do, however, give it up in small pieces.

Being a ritualist, this is partially physical. Objects are a source of memory for me, of associations built atop and accreted year after year. The sheep skull? Three years studying paganism, magic, the runes, bonfires passing bottles of mead at midnight with coyotes howling, Otter lifting the skull from a pile out in the boneyard.

DANGER: HIGH VOLTAGE reads the sign above the old-fashioned, black iron intercom, a piece of a data center I no longer have access to, a bit of trash doomed for the dumpster before I rescued it. The fig tree bought in the midst of mourning for Matthew. The stack of Tarot cards, free-association tool and reminder of who and what I am. The mirrored elephant from the Embu marketplace: the woven wooden and steel ribbon box, a gift from my estranged mother. Teapots, Chris's hospitality. A string of bells from Minneapolis, and throw pillows from Kennewick, Washington DC, Oakland. Glass floats from Philadelphia.

And, like a ritualist, like an engineer, my tools at hand are a source of confidence, of easy workflow. The charger by the couch arm, the knives readily at hand. Scratched notes and a pen: the dream gaining velocity and refining trajectory. Keys, with Natasha's glinting, a reminder of freedom. The lines and piles of books, an altar to every dream and inspiration, every bit of my mind expanding out beyond my current situation, a reminder of how limitless it all is.

I don't do well as a minimalist. I never have. Ritualists must gather their tools. We are not our tools, but oh, how they can serve as touchstones of who and how we are.

A throw pillow picked out and placed on a sofa. An expanse of shining wooden floor. The sheep skull above the door, and cats snoring softly, sprawled over whatever the hell they want.

I'm a sullen, suspicious person, living with others, I've found. The slightest hint of disapproval, and I'm more apt to pull inwards than to push back. The pillow doesn't return to the sofa after being moved, generally. Offending decorations, or those likely to, find themselves shoved into corners. The sheep skull is put in a bin at a mention of disgust in animal parts. The piles of books find themselves exiled from sight, and it's easier, far easier to duck my head, bite my tongue, than it is to rationalize all these things, the need for a certain clutter, a certain integration, to someone else.

Emotionally, it's easier for me to do the same thing. It's hard, sometimes, rationalizing, talking out what hurts when you get poked and prodded for it every time. Sometimes, it's hard to read acceptance when the method of delivery is criticized, when you speak too quickly sometimes, and not quickly enough other times. Trust issues? Me?

Oh yes. You can gauge the state of my mind and comfort by how spread out I am, physically, and how much my smile is tense and controlled, emotionally. Given a wall, I will put my back against it and hide the things important to me behind me until I find myself, my tools, and no more space.

And yet, here I am. In Oakland, I packed all my things, waiting to unpack them and spread them through my new home. And I did - the least offensive pieces of them, the ones I felt comfortable placing out. But as I found myself withdrawing more and more into myself, becoming inoffensive, becoming unthreatening, lowering my eyes and flinching, the more I tried to explain myself - well.

My bedroom became a crowded prison, a one bedroom apartment's worth of tools and trinkets crammed on shelves, nailed to walls in profusion, a manic, bright attempt to celebrate and find space. Closing the door, I found I couldn't breath, any more than I could breath with all my words shoved between my teeth and the altar of my books hidden away from ready access. The instincts scream: get out, get out, I must get out.

And yet, here I am. On Sunday I moved, thanks to mordel, karma_debt, reinsarn, and another non-noder friend. The sheep skull is above the door. The books are on the table, and the expanse of polished oak, the throw pillows, the tin of tea, the fanged wooden fish, the glass floats, and the mirrored elephant, are spread out, dispersed through my new home. The tightness in my chest, the weight, has passed.

Having unpacked and repacked twice, I find that I'm home - finally home. And I can breathe again.