Monday, July 18, 2011

Ballast

This week I’ve been cleaning out my files. It’s a task I’ve been putting off, not because of the time, labor and tedium involved, but because of the emotions that surface as I sort through the previous chapters of my life.

Amid the usual flotsam of domestic paperwork – bills, receipts, pay stubs, manuals, medical paperwork and the like – I unearth business cards proffered after chance conversations, tickets to events I’ve attended and enjoyed and programs from the funeral services of friends.

I sit cross-legged on the floor among the papers, remembering.

Sloughing through a stack of old bills I find boarding passes, postcards from family members and photos that didn’t make the cut for the album, but were somehow worth saving.

I scan newspaper clippings of stories I found interesting enough to keep, and sometimes find them interesting again. I find birthday cards from friends and love notes in wobbly writing from my sweet 6-year-old.

Should I save these things? Will I remember them without the visual cues they provide?

I started this project to offload some ballast; to remain within my baggage allowance. I’ve been telling myself that I don’t need papers to remember people by; that my mind is a good enough filing cabinet for my memories.

But after the culling is done and the bags have been taken out, I’m left with things I can’t bring myself to part with. The stack is smaller now; it doesn’t tilt so precariously. And though some of the items are starting to fade, the foundation they provide will be firm, I feel: strong enough to support the next chapter.

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