Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Revisionist History

I am entering into the final phase of my Marie Kondo tidying process. It has been a long journey and even though I am not finished yet, I am already starting to notice a lot of changes in my space. My house feels lighter and more alive. I know that may sound strange, since a house is technically not a living thing. But you just have to believe me when I say that the energy has definitely shifted.

This week I am moving into the final category, sentimental items. Marie Kondo saves this category for last because it is usually the hardest one for people to complete. Kondo says that by the time people have sorted through all of their other belongings, they have a good sense of what is truly important. That makes tacking the sentimental items a lot easier.

I got a head start on the sentimental items last month because I went through the process of sorting all of my old photos and putting them into albums. The final phase of sentimental items will be a little more complicated. I have boxes of old cards and letters dating back to high school that I need to go through. And I have all of my old journals. There is even a journal from high school that has a combination lock on it.  I obviously don't remember the combination, so if I want to get into that one I will have to break the lock open. I am sure the high school version of me would not be happy to know that I violated her top secret journal.

I have a good idea about some of the things I will find in those boxes. There are letters that I specifically remember from college and graduate school in Minnesota. I read them over and over at the time, especially when I was homesick or missing my friends. But I am sure I will also discover many artifacts that I have long forgotten about. Events from my life that will suddenly come flooding back, like watching old home movies.

I am still not sure how deep I want to dig into my old journals. It may be enough to just set them aside in one box, perhaps flipping through a few pages of each book just so I can organize them by year. Or, maybe I will find myself climbing into the rabbit hole and reading through all of my thoughts and experiences from various times in my life. Just typing that sentence feels overwhelming enough, let alone actually reading everything!

Today I had an interesting experience with one of my journals. A few years ago, I started keeping a separate New Year's journal. Instead of making New Year's Eve an entry in my regular journal, I started writing my New Year's resolutions in another journal, along with my thoughts about the prior year and perhaps some insights into the changes I want to make in the coming year. Each year, I look forward to reading my resolutions and the prior year's entry to help me see how far I have come.

In preparation for 2017, I pulled out my New Year's journal today. I had forgotten that it started off as a regular journal with a few random entries from the summer of 2009 before I got to my 2010 resolutions. From then on, it became my exclusive New Year's journal. Instead of just flipping to last year's entry, I started at the beginning. I read through pages of angst-ridden scribbles about a guy that I was really into back then. In my blog, I referred to him as "the Teacher" because he taught 5th grade at a local elementary school. He later got a promotion, so technically I should refer to him as "the Principal" from now on.

The Teacher would always go to the same bar every Friday night. He and his wife had an arrangement. He could go out on Friday nights with his friends and she would watch the kids. Then she could go out with her friends on Saturday nights and he would watch the kids. As you might guess, they were not happily married. In fact, he made it very clear to everyone that if he and his wife did not have kids together, the marriage would be over.

The Teacher and I had a complicated relationship. Every time I would see him out at the bar, we would talk about politics and social justice. Until we both had a few drinks in us. Then he would start flirting with me. And to be 100% honest, I would flirt back with him. I knew it was a dangerous game, but I really liked him. Our conversation would usually end with him making some wistful comment about how he wished he had met me sooner in life.

For some reason I found that flattering, instead of totally creepy, which is what I should have thought about it at the time. Back then, the idea of someone saying they wanted to be with me was enough to create a relationship without them actually having to do anything about it. At one point, he even asked for my number so we could talk outside of the bar, but he never called me. The next time I saw him, he said he had stashed the little piece of paper with my phone number on it underneath his keyboard at work. And he looked at it each day and thought about calling me.

Sometimes I can't believe I had such low self-esteem to think that an imaginary relationship filled with empty promises was good enough. At one point, the Teacher told me that he was thinking about getting a divorce. He and his wife had planned a trip to New York City as a last ditch effort to save their marriage, but he told me that he already made up his mind. He said that he would get in touch with me when they got back from New York, but he never called.

The journal entries I found are all from around that time. I had written down all of my theories about the Teacher and his wife, wondering about his trip to New York and what happened there. As I read through those entries, I realized that they have absolutely no applicability to my life today. I was a different person back then. So lost and desperate to find a true connection with someone that I was willing to accept whatever he was willing to give, instead of being brave enough to say what I wanted and needed. And I did that with a lot of my relationships, not just the Teacher.

The last time I saw the Teacher was about a year later at the same bar where we first met. He started flirting with me again, as if nothing had happened. I finally stood up for myself and told him that he was married and he needed to stop flirting with me. He made some comment about it being "our bar" and I told him that he could keep the bar all to himself. Then I walked out and never saw him again.

Journals can be enlightening. They can provide a snapshot of who we were at a point in time. They can provide insight and trace out the path we have walked to get to where we are. But they can also be an anchor weighing us down to the past. There is something about the written word, especially the handwritten word, that is so powerful. At least it is for me. My journals represent the official record of my life.

The whole premise of the Marie Kondo project is to hold each item in your hands and answer one simple question: Does this item bring me joy? In this case, the answer was no. So I ripped those pages out of my New Year's journal and ran them through the shredder.

Some people might argue that I am trying to escape from my past, or as the title of this blog suggests, rewrite history to only keep the parts of the story that I like. But that implies that my past experiences should somehow carry equal weight in my life as my present experiences. I once read a story about a woman who went through all of her old journals and decided to throw everything away. She said that she had learned all of the lessons from those experiences, so she didn't need the journals anymore.

I keep thinking about all of the things I have purged from my house during these past few months. Just as my house has gotten lighter from not having to carry the burden of all that stuff, I feel like my mind and heart will be lighter from not having to carry all of those experiences from my past around with me anymore.

"Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light." 

No comments: