Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Photographic Memories

     Right now a pile of boxes are smack dab in the middle of my bedroom floor.  It's not like me to leave out a mess.  I'm more of a stuff everything into a closet type of organizer.  I absolutely DREAD the chore of cleaning out my closet space, but it's been affecting how I feel about myself and my work for a while.  With the wonderful, absolutely wonderful rain and a free schedule with no demands, I went into the closet yesterday and stood there for a while.  It was stuffy and hot and a disaster.  I've often thought of taking down the outer wall to this closet and creating a meditation space.  I'm sure I could find another closet to hang my summer sun dresses, wedding gown and jeans.   While many people love the idea of having a spacious walk in closet, it is the place I throw things that I have no idea what to do with.  Mostly, there are memories that I find difficult to sort through.

     On the floor of my closet there are boxes with photographs and journals that I cannot seem to organize because during the sorting I get all weepy inside.  Looking at one photograph leads to looking at another.  Before I know it, I've been sitting for an hour, stuck in the sticky goo of memory.  I don't like to read my writing voice of eighteen years ago, or even one year ago.  I don't like to look at pictures of myself as a young mom.  It's funny, but aging doesn't seem to bother me.  I looked at a picture of Emily and I when she was two, and then compared myself with a quick glance in the mirror.  I like me better now.

     Like a person driving by an accident on the road, I couldn't turn away and glanced through the first journal I wrote as a new mom.  At that time I was in the grips of post-partum depression and living away from my parents and brothers, my home church, my neighbors and extended family.  My first husband worked long hours on second shift.  I didn't know a soul in the town where we were living.  I had recently left college and my own licensed home day care to take on full-time motherhood.  The joy of my new, perfect, sweet daughter was clouded by sleep deprivation, isolation and dependence.  In this journal wrote that I was ashamed and shocked to realize that I had been watching up to 10 hours of televison in one day.   This wasn't me.  This couldn't be my life.  I was an active young person who loved people, books, crafting, sports, the outdoors.  This couldn't be me.  I'm surprised that I made it through those months (years?) without medication or therapy.  

     I have no idea why I've kept that journal for so long.  Journals are sometimes a place to cry out one's despair privately.  I should have thrown it away.  Maybe today, I will.  Today I'm going to face the memory pile again, sorting through pictures, organizing everything as carefully as possible.  This was my life after all, and while much of it was beautiful, there was pain and loss too.  It's hard to look at Emily's young life in photographs and remember that her room here still sits empty for most of the year.  I asked myself yesterday how it was possible that I let go and lost my daughter.  Then I have to remind myself that she isn't lost; she's healthy and alive and discovering her life's journey.  I don't have much to say or do about it, and that's the way it is.  It feels good to reconnect when you don't have a ton of expectations for one another, but can talk like friends talk to one another, with interest and support.

     But let me tell you, it's hard to go through the boxes.  While being a new mom changed everything, it also brought me closer to who I am.  If it weren't for Emily's arrival, I  may have spent years chasing a society based expectation, instead of having many years to develop and grow into the ever complicated me.

     Yet being intuitive and mindful has its drawbacks.  If one spends too much time getting wrapped up in the philosophical side of life, focus and purpose can become blurred.  Just like watching too much television can  make a person's life miserable, so too can being an over active thinker.

     Several years ago, well, maybe more like thirteen years ago, I realized that I needed to have hands-on projects going almost all the time, or have a job that requires constructing, organizing or assembling.  I do take periodic breaks with nothing on the table, but I find that when I don't have an active project going for at least two weeks, I start to get obsessive about perfection and orderliness.  Then I don't like me very much.  I can't breathe.  Richard notices the that the cleanliness factor has gone up, and instructs Elliot to be neat with everything.  We all try very hard to keep up the standard and then in the following days, everything floats back into it's unorganized position, like random particles of unrelated parts.  The world shifts and turns, and so does everything that's not packed in a closet, hung on a hanger, folded in a drawer, put on a shelf.

     In a last minute discovery before leaving the pile of memory, I happened upon my papers from college.  Which got me thinking and wondering about whether or not I had done anything really beautiful while at Guilford.  Soon, a memory arose to the surface that has me full of an idea for my next project.  In my imagination, I can see it through to the end.  Which will help me hurry up with the boxes and get back to the table.

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