Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Life in Boxes - Letting Go

It is getting close - 38 days - the sprint to the finish - and all of these things that I've been procrastinating doing but need to be done, nevertheless.

The catalyst of the big event last night was the birth certificate. In NY, we need ours to get our marriage license. Well, my mother has always been the keeper of these papers, but as of late, she has not been keeping them so well! She tried to pawn the loss of the said piece of paper on me, but I assured her, I did not have it in my possession.

"Well, what about when you got your passport?"

"Mom, that was 1996. I was 22 then. I am sure I gave it back to you. I was still living with you at the time."

She told me to just check through my things before we had to go to the town to get another copy. Well, that led to me going into the back of my closet. This isn't just an ordinary closet...it's the kind that goes back and back, under the staircase, so far back that you'd think you would end up in Narnia if you kept going.

And I have been dreading cleaning out this closet. When I was in high school, I was....well...let's say...the sentimental sort. I saved every note, card, award, ticket stub, movie clipping, calendar, token of affection from a boyfriend or crush...anything that could possibly have a memory attached to it.

To my credit, I have to say, it was effective, because in looking at these items, I really did remember some of those things I have forgotten. And some (not all - but some) were actually worth remembering and made me smile at the memory of it.

But it was a strange experience...coming face to face with my life like that. It made me wonder, 'Who was that girl? Was that me?' It felt like two different people - I was a little embarrassed by the 'cheese' of that girl and her friends.

But the question at hand was this: How much of that girl needs to come with this girl? [Which begs another question: Are they two different girls???]

Well, I did throw out a lot, which is cathartic and cleansing for me. I hate clutter. But some things...I just didn't know if I could get rid of:

I have this purple pullover hoodie I got in 8th grade. My girlfriends and I all got these hoodies (long before Abercrombie took the monopoly on the market) and wore them all the time. I just couldn't give it up. I also found this souvenir T-shirt from a Washington DC class trip in 1988. Along with my 'Class of '88' shirt - Class of '88 graduating from 8th grade, that is. We had all signed it...so weird seeing the signature of the 8th grade Katie.

I found all of these old calendars...marked with everyone's birthday in known world (including Ron Darling, who I adored), every event, every party, every school trip...and while I couldn't remember every social extravaganza, there was something comforting in the fact that, even in spite of the insecurity I had felt at that age, I had a full, fun life.

Then I found all of these sports awards I had gotten. And old trophies. And my softball cleats. And my basketball Converse sneakers (which are back in style, I might add)...how do I get rid of all of this stuff? True, it might not be important to me, but it was important to her, the girl I once was, the girl who I suppose is still a part of who I am now.

Part of me wanted to just chuck everything out in the garbage - too much energy to go through all of this stuff. But another part of me felt that I owed myself this process - to reread some of the letters, look through some of the pictures, if at least one last time, to give my past the tribute and time it deserved. I owed it to the girl who felt it was important enough to her to save.

I didn't really come up with a system of what to keep and what to pitch. I know James would have a coronary if I showed up at our house with all this stuff. And honestly, it is too much work to hold on to every single memory and experience, as much as I try. So, I had to keep some and let some go. And, I'm still in the process of deciding. I couldn't decide it all last night.

So, I threw out a bunch of trophies, but kept a few of the meaningful ones. Same thing with awards. Pitched the cleats but kept the Converse (historic memorabilia, I tell myself). I got rid of some of the pictures I had stolen from yearbook, but kept the ones that really made me laugh or smile. I kept the cards that had something written in it that I might want to read again - or maybe my kids or grandkids would like to read some day; I threw out the old love notes, cards and gifts that I had held on to because, 'You never know..." (Well, yeah - now, I know. Good riddance!)

I got rid of folders of notes from my college classes - information I could easily look up on the internet now - but I kept a report card or class schedule or two.

I still may need to rake over all that stuff one last time, but it is getting thinner and it makes me feel like I am making progress.

But it is still kinda hard to let go.


  1. I lugged childhood memories around for years. A decade, to be precise. When we moved from Michigan to Washington, I purged a great deal of stuff. Soon after arriving in Washington, my marriage imploded and I had to move again. Already low on stuff to throw out, I burned more than half the letters I'd kept since all the way back to childhood. I only kept stuff from people who were still involved in my life. I said a little prayer, thanking the letters and the writers for their energy and lit the match.

    I couldn't just put stuff like that in the Garbage.

    I try to keep stuff based on what would the (grand)kids find interesting because at this point, it's for them. No longer for me.

  2. Having moved 9 times in 7 years - throwing out becomes a lot easier than moving... but when you find gems from your past that stir up memories you are so glad you kept them.

  3. Thanks for stopping by. I had trouble getting rid of stuff before I got married. I only left myself three days to pack before I moved from Virginia to South Carolina a week after I got married. I was more motivated than I would have been if I had given myself more time.

  4. I have a heck of a time letting things go. I haven't lived with my parents since I was 18 when I went to college...so all my childhood stuff has stayed behind since then..but when I move or clean out its always hard for me to get rid of things..

  5. "It happens differently for everyone. There are guys I have loved, but didn't like at first. There were some I was just infatuated with. W/ my fiance, there was an instant connection w/ us (2x - we had a run -in at Borders the yr before we officially 'met' - but caught each other's eye both times). But the working out of the relationship has had its bumps, so we've had to choose to continue in our love for one another. Whether it just 'happens instantly' or comes from a deeper knowing of someone over time, it still has to be nurtured to survive, either

    Thanks for posting about love! I like what you said, and I am so glad it all worked out for you! :)

  6. Did you ever find the birth certificate? ;)

  7. "Love the story! That is great! I can relate to you on so many levels...esp about wanting to do God's will and not being sure. I went through a TON of that in dating James...very fearful of not doing what God wanted and wondering if it was just what I wanted. But, God showed many ways it was right. That's just me, lol...Thanks for your story and your honesty. It helps when I hear stories that have their 'bumps' - although most do. We just don't always hear about them!:)"

    Thanks! I am glad I am not the only one who worried about those things. It's so nice to know that I am in God's will too, even if I had to go through all that to get there! Thanks for the comment! :)