I’m deeply into major clean-up mode. It’s long past time. Procrastination is the root of all dross and accumulation. We buy bigger dwellings because, as George Carlin pointed out, we need someplace to put our Stuff.
I am of mixed feelings about this, though. I’ve been emptying the two big closets in the basement. A great deal of this has been little more than taking things out of one box, which was only half or less full, and putting them in another box with similar things that also was not full. Almost as much, there’s been a lot of throwing out. (I found a shitload of catalogues from Meisha Merlin that have summarily gone into recycle. Past is past.)
It’s sweaty and sometimes poignant work. Yesterday I found a box of Donna’s Stuff from before she met me. We need to go through it together, but I looked through a couple of things, and promptly sent her an email telling her how grateful I am that she gave all this to me—her life, that is.
People are packages of memories and experiences. Uncharitably (although often correctly) a lot of this is called “Baggage.” Try as we might to close some doors, all that Stuff is still there, and contributes to the whole. We wouldn’t be who we are now without it.
I know, that Freshman level Psych 101. But that doesn’t make it less true. Acknowledging that truth is important, because we need to remember—at least as a concept if not in detail—that the people we love had lives before we met them and that even if things became wonderful after said meeting, that doesn’t reduce what went before to anything somehow less.
I didn’t need to know the details of Donna’s life before me. She told me anyway. That was a gift. I reciprocated. We’re complicated people. It took years for understanding to develop into meaningful mutual appreciation and support. It’s a work in progress. At several points along the way, things threatened to go terribly wrong, and we almost parted company. Lessons in how we should never take someone for granted, even though that is occasionally a kind of goal, the emblem of a smooth fit, the ideal of a seamless relationship. We live with the legacy of bad fiction—love is never having to say you’re sorry. That is not true. We stumble over sensitivities and make mistakes all the time. We hurt each other. Do we mean it? Of course not, but we’re human. Some days are better than others. More negligence than anything malicious, but nevertheless people who love each other need to apologize just as much (or more) than those who don’t. But you shouldn’t have to apologize for what went before, for who you are or who you were. Past is prologue. Maybe.
Not just the pleasure of re-recognition, cleaning house is fraught with the possibilities of embarrassment. You find things you’ve forgotten about and, now revealed, you try to imagine what you may have been thinking when you did that! Old ambitions emerge from the murky depths of the back of the closet and in the light of a new day stare back at you and declare “Yeah, you were this crummy.”
I found several boxes of old photographs, images I thought, at the time, were just fine. Just absolutely brilliant and should I ever get around to going public with them, they would blow the zeitgeist.
Well. We have all gotten better over time. Oh, some of them were pretty good, but I was not the whiz I thought I was. Makes me wonder what else I thought I was pretty good at.
Too much yet to do. A lot of old paper. That’s what we seem to collect the most of, paper. Notes, old stories, magazines, cards, letters, scrawled missives that meant something at one time. Memory doesn’t retain all, which was one reason we wrote some of this Stuff down. But the key is missing and interpretation is difficult at best.
What was I thinking?
But I also found a lot of photographs of us, smiling, laughing, doing…something….who knows? But the warmth returned immediately.
I complain a lot, I know. Things aren’t the way I want them to be. But the truth is, I’ve had a Pretty Good Life. I have great friends and a skull-full of great memories.
And all this Stuff to remind me.
We’ve been in this house since 1993. We still haven’t actually finished decorating. A great deal is still on stand-by. I’m making a start at finishing some things. Procrastination is the root of….
But the past requires sometimes that we sit down and look at it. Smile, laugh, maybe cry a little, and wonder occasionally Who Are These People? In keeping with a major nostalgia kick, I pulled out a record and put it on the turntable—a record I have not listened to since before I met Donna. The Babys, Head First. The tone arm just lifted off the vinyl.
Not at all sure I’ll listen to it again any time soon. As with much that is past, it stirs mixed feelings. (Yes, I remember why I bought it—one of the few records I bought for reasons other than that I liked the songs. But I’m glad I kept it.)
It’s been a pretty good ride so far. Can’t wait for the next turn.
Back to cleaning now.