It's funny, how you can live in one place one day, and in another the next. It occurred to me the other day, as I was getting out of the shower (if it weren't for the shower, what genius thoughts would pass me by), that all the places I'd lived were still there, and life continued there as it had when I was breathing its air - I just wasn't there anymore. The comings and goings only affect the people coming and going, and anyone left behind who may particularly care about them, and how few of those types there are, when it comes down to it. The place itself basically remains unaltered. There were still people walking up and down the sidewalk in my Centerville neighborhood, going to class in the building where I worked at UD, driving by the Riggs Road house.
I'm not sure why this strikes me as particularly profound today, considering that when I had the original thought, I looked at myself in the steamy mirror and thought, "Pretentious, existential git. Go find a problem worth solving. Suck it." because I annoy myself when I start thinking like this. But maybe I'm just suddenly struck by the concept of our ephemeral impact on the world, because my physical space has been shifting so rapidly. It alternately makes me feel free and desperate to grasp onto some railing or an arm or someONE, for God's sake, who cares. I don't know. It's what drives us to take photographs, I imagine, or to save ticket stubs or shells or magazines or concert programs or restaurant napkins - to make things and experiences more permanent. But what good is a shell without the ocean?
Having moved both my home and work life this month (the longest month in my existence, I swear), I've touched literally every physical belonging that I have, and realized that none of it really means much, and some of it I just couldn't abide and had to discard. I was able to take carloads of stuff to the Salvation Army, dump it off, and almost skip back to the car with happiness, lighter, somehow. When your life comes down to the manipulatives, the towels and bedsheets, the Christmas cards and colanders, it does remind you of what scant few of these things really matter all that much. I've found:
*Many, many cards I should have sent, including one today in the back of my drawer here at work that's no longer appropriate but so awesome. Kicked myself for that one.
*Pictures of myself in an apartment, with a person I barely remember, much less can believe having lived with. In other photos of myself with Ohio friends as I was getting ready to leave town, I look like a different woman entirely. I purely loved those people. Now, all have scattered to the winds as well, across the country, into the fray (and occasional rubble) of relationships and jobs and homes from which we fashion a modern life. Some I don't talk to any more. A few are part of my occasional electronic universe. Only one is physically present in my life on a regular basis. But they were so important at the time. It bewildered me, as I put them in the new photo boxes I bought for this occasion, to think of them that way. I wasn't sure where to file it in my mind or in my heart. There aren't files for people. "Sometimes we cut a wide swath," one of those friends, Cindy, said to me when I was moving, and bemoaning leaving my state, quitting my job and my boyfriend at the time. Then she took a drag of her cigarette (people in Ohio actually have cigarette CASES, still...) and repeated, "a WIDE swath."
*Several hundred pens. I apparently do not like to throw away pens, no pens of any kind.
*Many reminders of my planful, hopeful spirit. I own hundreds of dollars worth of craft supplies just waiting to make the pretty things I envisioned when I snatched them up, not to mention hundreds of torn out recipes that I fully intended to make at the time I tore them out, guitar tabs, flyers and brochures for programs I knew would change my life, event calendars, gardening guides for the apartment dweller, and yes, more craft supplies.
*A couple of pairs of earrings Ithought I lost, and lots of single earrings, whose partner was long gone.
*Several songs I'd forgotten about.
*Some things that I made myself throw away, that I never dreamed I could ever make myself throw away. You reach a point sometimes where you realize that certain things only exist as talismans of pain, as reminders of impossible dreams, and who needs that kind of trouble?
*Two fortunes from cookies - "You have an active mind and a keen imagination", and "You will have a pleasant trip."
*A lot of really bad poetry, reams of e-mails that made me laugh out loud and made me cry, eulogies for my friend Bruce and my grandfather, notes to myself about things I've forgotten, letters I never finished, essays and article drafts - a million words, at least.
I've found all kinds of - too much - stuff. I'm exhausted from it. And today, I'm especially exhausted, cause I'm feeling a little bit jerked around by life and by people, but I know I'll get over it. More time will pass and the disorientation and occasional emptiness will cycle back around to centeredness, and fullness, and clarity. The inner reserves just need to get built up a little more, because they're running low. It'd be nice if there were more short cuts to this, but I know there aren't any, really. You just have to sit back and let it roll.