CSI: Portland

When I cried every time I even started going through one of the dozens of boxes of “stuff” I still have (even after dozens of moves), I knew it was time for The Work. Surely this would be the toughest enquiry I’d done yet, for “I shouldn’t have kept all this stuff/I should have gone through all this before” was true. True, true, true!

False, false, false. To my surprise, I saw why I’d hung on to so much, and why it was impossible for me to have done it earlier. I’d felt “my life was in those boxes.” Clean them, purge them, and I’d disappear. After The Work, I could see that wasn’t true, so with my new-found self-esteem (still fragile, but growing daily), I attacked the boxes cheerfully.

I slowed down a mite when I realized I still had nearly TWENTY boxes in J.R.’s storage room. And the book sale is Saturday. And those boxes weigh a lot. Yesterday’s efforts, indeed, have left me with a very sore back, and another opportunity to do The Work: “My back won’t hold out. I won’t get the essential packing done next week, because I’ve ruined myself getting ready for the sale.” Ah! The real question: What is the “essential packing”? What is “essential,” after all?

Let me pick my way slowly up this path of thought. I’m not throwing away memories — I get that — they’re with me always. What I think I’m tossing is evidence, evidence that will — what? Prove my existence? Like there is some great CSI in the Sky? Evidence. Physical evidence of the stories in my head, the Thought Families that have by and large already left of their own accord, thanks to the three-month hiatus I’ve enjoyed. What a gift from J.R. and Adrienne! They’re not insisting that I move all my boxes out, either. I’ve placed that burden upon myself. Why insist on this “burden of proof”?

What lingers, like a useless appendix (or an extra spleen! yes, they found an extra one in my CT scan), is the idea that I need to prove my life’s activities to — who, exactly? My Family of Origin? My children? Friends? Doctors? Universities? Employers? Banks? Strangers on a bus? The ones who know me don’t need my “evidence,” because they’ve built their own story about me. I have already seen that new evidence does nothing to change people’s original stories anyway. So…I don’t need to keep my stuff for those who love me.

My business is to take care of me. What evidence do I need? A CV; transcripts; rental references. Those things that will aid me in getting a place to live, food to eat, healthcare. Doing what I love, as in completing the books I’m working on, and writing new ones. Possibly. Most of that stuff’s in my head, too, or at least in my laptop. So…the evidence goes to: Universities, Employers, Banks. (I might even leave the Bank out of this, if I can.)

I’m surprised that “CSI” came to me as the title of this blog. It’s as if I think my life has been a crime; a felony of great gravity; its dimensions impossible, however, to pinpoint. I confess I have carried the weight of this imagined crime for most of my life, trying to work out my penance, without ever knowing how long my sentence was, or what it was I’d done wrong. Box by heavy box, I meticulously gathered the evidence I was certain would prevent the Guilty verdict.

What I was doing was damning, alright, as in stopping my life’s natural flow; no judge or jury needed here. Upon inspection of the crime scene, however, Lo and Behold, it’s beautiful! There’s light there, not darkness! What I thought was a crime was only Life, in all its complexity and wonder! The only judge, the only jury, resided in my head. I didn’t need to change your stories, or to prove anything; you love me the way I am.

I needed to change my story, not yours. You’ve never cared what’s in those boxes, for you have the live person—and you love her. I’ll let you in on a secret: That person you see is you. Those traits you love are your own. What we see is what we are. That’s why, when I’m gone, I won’t be, not really, for it is always you that you see. Isn’t that beautiful? And it’s the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth.

I’ll swear to that in court.

  1 comment for “CSI: Portland

  1. September 30, 2010 at 13:47

    This is an enlightening entry. I find myself in the same situation. The need to purge my life of most of my belongings. To pare it down to the bare essentials. But, as I stared at my apartment the other day, I realized I had no idea what was essential and what wasn’t.

    This was especially true for my books. Oh, my books. How I love them! I scanned the shelves and continually thought, “Oh, I can’t get rid of THAT one.” Over. And over. And over. Oh, I’ll need that cookbook later. Oh, I love that book. Oh, someone bought that for me.

    That last one, well, I hadn’t really thought about it until now. It’s probably the most irksome. I mean, I feel extreme guilt about giving something away that someone else bought/made for me. I’ve kept things for years that I don’t really like because someone gave it to me as a gift. Is that something everyone does? Do we all feel that guilt when we give that stuff away? Because I do, big time. And I will face this again when I go through my things and think, “oh, that was a Christmas present five years ago from so-and-so.”

    How do you overcome that guilt? That’s the toughest one I think, for me. The one I will continually struggle with as I downsize my belongings to something more manageable.

    And, yes, there are books I love. Signed copies of Palahniuk. My Vonneguts and Thompsons. Weird editions of stuff. I have to keep those because they are essential to me. I love them. The others, well, I don’t necessarily love them. I just feel like I need them.

    Same goes for the rest. Clothes I’ve kept in case I get back down to my college frame. Papers for days, mostly because I need to shred them and don’t own a shredder. Furniture, pint glasses, magazines, pretty papers, art ~ all just things. Things that mean so much to me. But why?

    I don’t think it’s because I define myself by what I own. It’s just that I’ve done such a good (read: amazingly ridiculous) job at collecting things. And I love things! And being a collage artist doesn’t help. Any piece of paper, magazine, or random trinket could possibly become a work of art. How can I possibly get rid of those things? I might need them someday!

    I’m glad to read that you are doing great with your offloading. I’m going to need to tap into that as I go through my life and offload my things as well. I’ll feel lighter in the long run, but the work is heavy. It will weigh me down while I’m in it, and I know I will doubt getting rid of some things. Many, many times.

    But in the end, I just have to remind myself that it’s all just stuff, just things. They don’t define who I am. They don’t make me who I am. I can always buy them again if I need them…

    But, damnit, they sure are nice to have!

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