Saturday, April 1, 2006

making space

I spent this morning immersed in memories, sorting through file folders of accumulated scraps, clips and mementoes I've collected for the past 15 years of my life in Mississippi and Minnesota. It was all taking up too much room, especially now that Steve and I have combined our spare rooms into one "study" to make room for a nursery - but also because I don't feel the need to hold onto a lot of that stuff anymore. Being pregnant has upended my priorities that way, made me want to do a little psychic spring cleaning along with the physical. To make space, maybe, for the major identity shift that is coming when I become a mother.

Anyway, it was time to lighten the file folders. In the end, I got rid of a full grocery bag's worth of paper to go in the blue bins for recycling Monday morning. I was fascinated at what I found - articles about subjects that had once been important to me, faded newspaper clippings I couldn't let go of (the clippings or the people in them?), self-help articles I'd promised to absorb later, packets of workshop information I had completely forgotten I'd saved. It was kind of like going back in time and reuniting with the young woman I used to be. As it turns out, she is much like the woman I am now, though maybe a little more idealistic and expansive and a little less pragmatic and wise. But I came out of my time travel happy in the knowledge that I'm still the same romantic, introspective, occasionally neurotic dreamer I've always been.

Among my finds ...

  • A goodbye card from a job at a law firm I had briefly after college, signed by all the women on the support staff - yes, all women - but none of the attorneys, even though I got along with a number of them, too. Ick. That pretty much summed up the atmosphere at the firm and turned me off to any fledgling ideas I had that I might want to go to law school. Threw it out.
  • A poster showing the family tree of all the kings and queens of England. My junior-year English teacher in high school had one just like it hanging from his bulletin board, and I have always meant to study it in depth sometime. Kept it.
  • Copies of funny, wry Dilbert cartoon strips about dating, faxed to me by a significant ex in Mississippi, who, oddly enough, never really liked to talk about our own dating relationship. Kept them.
  • A copy of that ex's wedding announcement in the local paper, from 2000. Kept it.
  • An article about Portugal from the Star Tribune travel section from the late 90s. I probably thought it would inspire me to go someday, but now it just seems to take up space. Threw it out.
  • An article about W.B. Yeats' Ireland from the Star Tribune travel section from the late 90s. I thought it would inspire me to visit County Sligo someday - and I actually did. Kept it.
  • A packet of e.e. cummings poems. Love him. Kept it.
  • Catalog of Walter Anderson prints from the Walter Anderson museum in Ocean Springs, Miss., on the coast. I went there alone on one of my last weekends in Mississippi before I moved here. (After Katrina, I wonder if it even exists anymore.) It was a blustery January day, and I drove a long way to get there, but the trip carried so much meaning for me. Seeing the home and museum of this artist I loved was something I had wanted to do before I left. Though I was solitary, I felt independent and alive and strong, and I had begun to come to terms with the sadness of a relationship ending. I had just turned 30, and I felt as if I was embarking on a momentous decade. Still, I threw out the catalog. I don't need it anymore.
  • Two photocopies of "God's Xmas Letter to All." Threw it out. It's nice for a one-time read, but I must be ruthless as I pare down my space.
  • Article about how to be happy. Threw it out. Must be ruthless.
  • Sweet love letter from Stephen, written during our Engaged Encounter weekend in July 2002. Kept it, obviously!
  • Folder from an enneagram workshop I attended with my coworkers shortly after I first moved here. The collage of images I cut out to reflect what inspires my soul was so lovely that it softened my resolve to be ruthless. Besides, it was full of information I found myself rereading. Kept it.
  • Invitation to a 2002 family reunion I wasn't able to attend. Kept it. The picture of my dad's Swiss ancestors is the only one I have. I glanced at their names to see if we might possibly be able to use one for our baby. Nope. We will not be naming our son Bede.
  • Brochure by Liz Claiborne on ways to tie a scarf. I don't wear scarves often - I can't stand having anything wrapped around my neck - but they look so chic and French on women who do, so who knows? Kept it. I know, not very ruthless.
  • Photocopied packet with a long list of "Religious Houses Around the World." Dates back to the 90s, lacks Internet addresses and, in some cases, phone numbers. Threw it out - then salvaged it from the recycling bag and filed it under Travel. It's a far-flung dream of mine to travel around the world and stay in monasteries and soak in the spirituality of the places we stay. Maybe someday the list will come in handy.
  • Birth announcement for my cousin Lynn's daughter, Taylor, from October 1992. I get a Christmas photo from them every year, but since they live in New Jersey, I've only met her once, around Thanksgiving of 2004. I guess she would have been 12 - and she was already taller than her mom.
  • Yoga book list. Threw it out. Easily available on the Web.
  • Brochure from Degas exhibit at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Threw it out. I'll never read it again, and we have a poster from the exhibit in our bedroom.
  • Results of the Strong Campbell Interest Inventory I took in October 1989, my senior year at Columbia, when I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. Among the careers with which it said I would have been highly compatible: Photographer. Librarian. Speech pathologist. Nurse. Social science teacher. School administrator. But the highest-scoring career? Drumroll please... Reporter!
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