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Trip Down Memory Lane

I got some good writing done today, so as a ‘reward’ I allowed myself to indulge in 3 hours of cleaning and organizing around the house.  Well, mostly around my room, sorting through the remaining pile of boxes I have to face.  I first spent some time organizing the clutter into piles: office stuff yet to be filed, clothes to be put away once the new hanging rod is installed (was supposed to be today’s project but I got distracted by the other tasks), dog stuff to be put away more neatly (i.e. towels, toys, travel crates etc) and finally: the memory pile.

This is my stack of memorabilia collected over my life.  It comprises mostly letters and cards, but also brochures from performances, tickets to concerns, and photos.  Lots and lots of photos.

Today I went through one box of letters and one box of photos.  The photos were tough – they were very disorganized and it was hard for me to know what to do with them.  Some I threw out, i.e. any that brought back negative memories.  There were a few ex-boyfriend photos that I didn’t care to keep for example.  Surprisingly most of the ‘ex’ stuff just put a smile on my face, however.  I guess that’s a good thing.  I’ve either healed from the heartbreak or it never was really that big a deal in the first place.  Indeed, there were a couple I actually started to think of fondly and wonder where they might be.  No, I don’t plan on tracking them down.  This is a ‘letting-go’ process, not a dredging up the past project.  I actually had worried that it might turn into the latter, but I am finding this process surprisingly peaceful and enjoyable.

I actually found the letters much easier to deal with.  Most were cards, which I looked at, smiled, and tossed into the ‘to-burn’ box.  About 90% of them received less than 2 seconds of my time, containing little more than a signature.  There were a few long hand-written letters (remember those?), and several printed out emails.  I put the letters aside to read later – there were less than a dozen, most from a dear friend who is coming to visit this weekend.  I thought we might review them over a bottle of wine, just for fun.  Of the emails, I only kept two from friends I’d like to try and reconnect with.  I’m hoping the email addresses on those pages will help with the process.

I was a little surprised by the number of items I was keeping that were from people I don’t even remember.  Or perhaps I remember the name and vaguely how they fit in my life, but not their faces or anything more about them.  Talk about time to let this stuff go!

In addition to these letters from other people, I found several letters and cards I had written myself and either never mailed, or that were ‘return to sender’.  Several were drafts of letters I then did send.  One was a good-bye letter to a serious ex-boyfriend who I decided I could no longer keep in my life even as a friend.  I cried for months over him, yet reading the letter surprisingly evoked no emotion, just a little pity for the suffering it expressed, as if it had been written by someone else.  I guess it had, really, as I am no longer that person.  It’s amazing how much we change.

At the same time, there are aspects of us that don’t change at all.  I found a couple of letters from when I was a teenager that I could have written today.  Indeed, I find the letters I wrote when I was really young are much more ‘me’ than those from my 20’s or even 30’s.  Does this mean I’ve come full-circle, rediscovering some of the things I knew when I was a kid?  I remember reading an article, years ago, that had great impact on me at the time.  It asked “if you had lunch with your 10-year-old self, what would she think of you?  Do you still have her hopes and dreams?  Do you still know what she knows?”

The one letter I found talked about how I didn’t think going into engineering was the right choice for myself, and that I didn’t think I was going to go through with it even if I was accepted.  I did get accepted, and I ignored my inner wisdom and went through with the degree.  Foolish young adult that I was – I followed what I thought I should do rather than what my heart told me to do.  I don’t regret doing an engineering degree, but I abandoned that field completely within a few years of graduating.  Indeed, I likely should never have gone to school at all, considering how much I struggle with the process and wish I was doing other things most of the time that I am at the books.  How ironic that I should spend 13 years in university (and counting).  Ah, the wisdom of youth!  Apparently I still have not remembered much of what I once knew.  Perhaps this rediscovery is the journey of life.

Overall it felt good to finally go through these boxes that had been waiting patiently for me to sort through, some for well over a decade.  I had long procrastinated, cringing at the idea, expecting it to trigger painful memories.  But obviously I have made peace with many of my demons.  Time will tell…  I still have three boxes of letters left to sort, and three or four boxes of photos and slide (oh, soooo many slides!).  The photographs are going to have to be a project – I want to sort and organize the important ones into photo albums.  I kept detailed albums until I was in my late 20’s, and then I stopped keeping track.  I am not going to set a deadline for doing this, but I hope to finish the process before I move again.

Now I must make dinner and head off to the sheep farm to train the dogs.  Until later…

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