Cut the rope and sail free!
Looking through the mounds of paper in my drawers shocked me into an absolutely clear awareness of their combined role as a rope, tethering the boat of my life to an iron stanchion composed of banked tears, bitterness and the sad urge to continually prod the sore tooth of the past with a tongue which ought, by rights, to be savouring the flavours of the present and dreaming of those exotic ones yet to come.
Two folders, in particular, stopped me in my sentimental tracks. One contained the sellotaped-back-together pages of a journal ripped up in 1984, and a collection of self-indulgent pieces of writing vomited out at around the same time. All covered aspects of a relationship now firmly in the past; none were worth keeping. Oh, there may well have been fragments of the writer I undoubtedly am in amongst it all – but, the fact that this yellowing folder has lain there, untouched, for well over a quarter of a century tells its own story.
What would be the point of reconstructing something so negative that, even back then – with the relationship in its infancy – my urge was to rip, rend and destroy parts of the evidence?
Other volumes, still intact, deal at huge length with this, and all other relationships, in my life – and I have not taken the decision to throw them all away. But the savagery of the hands, still young, probably drunk, which caused paper to flutter all over a depressing flat in Weston-super-Mare can still – in their much older manifestation – remember those moments (and others of a similar nature) with shocking detail.
Why did I tear them? Why did I so painstakingly repair them? Because I could see the doomed nature of the relationship I was in and wanted to destroy the evidence. I did not want to face this inner recognition. But I can then recall thinking, ‘No, this is just a blip, just my mind seeing darkness where actually there is light – and, mended, this volume will prove that in months and years to come…’
And yet, having repaired it, I never actually put it back together as a journal, nor did I ever replace it on the shelf where all the others now reside. Why? Because it contained the seeds of something which would take a further twenty-nine years to face.
Blip it was not. But keeping those pages serves no useful purpose.
I tried to destroy the stark warning – and then, by burying it, allowed the thick rope it became to keep me tied to that salt-stained iron post.
The other folder contained thousands upon thousands of letters, mostly business, which I had kept, for reasons now lost in time, in parts of the house. Letters which, in a world increasingly going paperless, had no value at any level; letters which, by reminding me of horrible events now gone, kept the chain of unhappiness, pain and anxiety attached to the oars of my boat and stopped me from progressing even when the tethering rope was finally untied.
We often keep such things out of fear. Fear that we will get into trouble if ever asked for them; that we will be told off, or sued, if Authority finds out we no longer have them. That documents relating to my life as a teacher constitute some kind of bulwark against destitution.
We often keep those things, if we are writers, as potential evidence for a future time in which someone may, painstakingly, piece together the fragments of our lives to write the biography!
Crazy! None of the things I threw away have any bearing on my life now – and the life I intend to make for myself when I move on. I had forgotten that I even possessed 75% of them!
With each black bin liner of rubbish collected, the process gets easier; I have to think less before making the decision!
With each black bin liner, my boat edges out that little bit further into the beauty of an unknown ocean and the adventures lying before me.
With each black bin liner, I float ever-closer to freedom of spirit!