I am in the process of dejunking: Therapeutic, very! This morning, I was up betimes and, having heaved a hundred-weight of ripped, and feather-sprouting pillows, and duvets so old they were probably an integral part of the Ancient Egyptian Mummification process, down to the car, then looked around for more rubbish! An ironing board of decidedly Heath Robinson-esque design followed, as did a pair of lamps in an advanced state of decrepitude…
…and this was just the start!
Why is it that we hoard the minutiae of our pasts so zealously? Why is it so fiendishly difficult to part us from old school reports we haven’t looked at in fifty years or more, rotting educational letters to our parents circa 1972 (and bloody tedious even back then), handwritten essays from our university days, Duke of Edinburgh Award handbooks – and all the other stuff which so fills our houses whilst having no current – or, in all probability, future! – impact upon our busy lives?
Why, also, is there this nasty little variant of The Law of Sod whereby that thing we most want, and need, to find proves the most elusive, while landfill sites of unutterable bollocks almost springs into our hands?
Sod’s Law of Elusiveness has struck innumerable times during my life – most poignantly (and irritatingly) for me when I was designing the cover for ‘Riding at the Gates of Sixty’. There are rules concerning the use of images when it comes to covers – and I hoped to circumvent this by scanning and then uploading a drawing of Virginia Woolf done by my then-boyfriend, Nigel, back in 1980. But could I find the accursed thing? Could I heck as like!
It eluded me just as effectively as the fictional Scarlet Pimpernel avoided the attentions of the Frenchies!
I sought the demmed thing here; I sought it there; I sought it well-nigh everywhere. It cocked a merry snook, from whichever crook and nanny it was hiding in, and continued to elude me!
Until today, that is. Ripping old essays and crap examples of writing into tiny pieces, and shoving them in one of several black bin liners, I suddenly saw a thin, slightly torn piece of paper the colour of old teeth/ancient manuscripts (take your pick!) – and, on winkling it out from the soon-to-be-rent-pile, I saw the familiar lines of Virginia Woolf drawn in black ink thirty-six years ago.
It I have kept, along with a small handful of certificates from my school days (including the unfathomable decision by the Oxford Junior Art Competition judges to award me First Prize for painting two years in a row – 1970 and 1971, for those still vaguely awake! – when even my dearest friends would have to concur with my view that I have the artistic skill of a cirrhotic liver), my copy of the Browning Family Tree and a few photos.
Three drawers full of my past is now reduced to a handful of items. Two trips to the Civic Amenity Site (Tip, to you and me!) later, I am feeling lighter in every sense. What is the point in keeping things just in case when you have not given them the time of day for thirty years and are highly unlikely to do so this side of the grave? When I roll up the curtain and join the Choir Invisible, my Lad is not going to want to trawl through oceans of foetid old school reports, essays written decades earlier and notifications that his mother was due to have the measles, mumps and rubella injection some time back in the seventies!
Who, frankly, gives a toss? Even I, who have kept these bits of paper for so long, found myself nodding off as I flicked through them!
I have also jettisoned all old birthday and thank you cards. This I have resisted, out of some kind of misplaced sentiment, for YEARS: Had examples going back thirty years from children now adults and parents themselves.
I think, for me, a lot of it was down to insecurity and a very elusive (going back to the DP word for today) sense of myself: I kept physical objects to remind me that I was real, liked, loved, important, alive. But the memories of those special people and their gifts are already recorded in both mind and journal – and I no longer feel the need to keep the physical evidence. I know I matter to those I value – and have no further need to prove it by keeping my own weight in forty-year-old trinkets.
I am so glad I have started this process – and that I have been able to let go. I had worried that I would cling on, make endless excuses (as I have done so often before) and keep all these useless artefacts for yet another decade or two!
I think it is a very healthy exercise for all of us to look at what is really important in our lives. Once that becomes clear, and in a sense impersonal, throwing out the chaff is relatively straight-forward!
If the chains holding us to the past are over-weighty, it is almost impossible to move on – and any kind of positive, hopeful future remains a elusive.
“We seek him here, we seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere!
Is he in heaven? Or is he in hell?
That demmed Elusive Pimpernel?”