Why Do I Hold On To Things?
It’s hard for me to get rid of some things.
It goes beyond keeping them – it’s holding on to them, even if I don’t ever look at them. Even if I forget I have them until I find them again. If I had someone to clear out the junk for me, they could probably get rid of a lot of stuff that I’d never miss. But, alas, I am my own minion. And I’m more likely to pack something up again than I am to let it go.
So what brought this up? Well, I was cleaning (a shock to my system, in and of itself), and I was dusting off my tapes.
This isn’t the first time I’ve dusted the tapes and asked myself, “Why? You have tapes and no tape player. Oh, and did you know this is 2011?”
“Why, why – why is a crooked letter, pet.”
When I confront myself with the possibility of getting rid of truly old and un-necessary items, I’ve typically just thought, “No, don’t want to,” and moved on. So today I’m really trying to give it a little more thought. Ok, so why is it that I’m able to get rid of VHS movies that I replace with DVD? Bam, Goodwill bag, and it’s gone, I couldn’t care less. I’m surprised that I never thought about that before. It actually makes me happy – one less clunky VHS, a little more space, happy times. But with the tapes it’s different; I just can’t get rid of them.
I should say I don’t want to get rid of them.
So why not the tapes? On the surface, I don’t have a solid answer. I just don’t want them to be gone. Ok, so I’m really looking them over, and I’m realizing that there are a few that I could toss today(1). And again, I’m surprised. I guess I haven’t taken any time with it before. I’ve just made a quick blanket decision, “tapes stay”, and that was it.
So I dig a little deeper into myself to pull out a reason.
As I look over the titles and contemplate letting go, I finally grasp the understanding that these tapes are a physical representation of my memories. Memories of carrying my boom box around the neighborhood, of riding the bus to NYC on senior trip, of burning up the batteries in Margaret’s tape player outside the Emergency Room. And there’s so much more. These tapes are the soundtrack of my youth.
And of my friendships: Rick Springfield and Olivia Newton John belong to Angie & Robin; Stevie Nicks, Heart, Freebird and Slippery When Wet belong to Margaret W.; R.E.M., U2, INXS, Indigo Girls, The Smiths are Margaret C., Toni & Jessi; Indian Summer, Bruce Hornsby and Amy Grant belong to Christie, Pam and Laurie; Alan Jackson and Allison Krauss belong to Chris, and so on…For every period, there is a playlist. There are songs that come on and make me think of working at the amusement park with my friends, songs that put me in the front seat of a car “cruising town” and songs that have me right back in the mountains during college. And let me tell you, Nostalgia is a powerful drug.
I have a little man that my nephew Peyton made six or seven years ago. It’s been sitting on my table ever since. Logan made a lizard that’s been on my window at least that long. I keep those things because it’s like saying “They were here and they loved me.” We spent time together and they loved me, and they made these things for me because they loved me. By the way, did I tell you they love me? I don’t need art or presents to know I’m loved, but to throw away his little man feels like throwing Peyton away. Then again, I’ve thrown away plenty of “art” over the years, so what is it about these two particular items that won’t let me go? Is it simply that the longer I hold on, the harder it is to let go?
I am not someone who wants to go back and relive the past(2). God forbid. It was difficult enough the first time. But I am a nostalgic person and sometimes it’s hard to look at old photos and remember. Sometimes it makes me happy. But other times, it just makes me sad that good times pass by so quickly and that life changes.
Just like the universe, we are slowly and surely spreading apart from one another. What started off as the nucleus of a family – grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins – begins to separate out in a starburst of kids and more kids and grandkids and great grandkids, and it spreads further and further apart. Families get bigger, you have more commitments, you have your own kids and you’re involved in their comings and goings and doings. Life just gets bigger and more complicated as you get older. I don’t have to always like it, and I can get really sad – not all the time, but sometimes – about the fact that I’ll never get that moment back again, or I’ll never be close to that person like I once was, and it hurts my heart.
Maybe that’s why I sometimes feel that digital communication is enough. You can’t be lonely for people when you don’t commit yourself too deeply on an emotional level. Maybe I just need digital communication to be enough.
Hmmm…this has taken a turn somewhere and I’m not sure…I’m not entirely sure how to end this sentence, much less this post.
Want to see my records?
When in doubt change the subject. Or change it back, as the case may be. So…
As for the albums, it’s more that I just want to keep them. Yeah, I need to keep those. I mean, I have Thriller on vinyl. And The Breakfast Club soundtrack. I bought my first Stevie Nicks on vinyl. Can’t pry me loose from my albums.
I should probably admit that I have a hard time getting rid of my things in general. It gets easier the more that I work with myself, reminding myself that I don’t need it. Objects aren’t memories. Memories are in your heart. So I take pictures to maintain the memory, and then I let it go. Some things are still hard to part with, and so I don’t. I will when I’m ready.
1 But I didn’t 🙂 Go figure.
2 It’s true about all the things that might be different, It’s A Wonderful Life style. When contemplating a decision that I would change if I had it to do over, I realized that my friend’s child would not have been born. Simply reversing a move from one town to another would have altered more futures than mine – and negated his existence altogether.
Items of Interest:
Is Digital Communication Enough
Nostalgia: a mixed feeling of happiness, sadness, and longing when recalling a person, place, or event from the past, or the past in general
Nucleus: a central or most important item or part that has others grouped or built around it
I so identify with this piece. I think we all place a value on our memories, sort of like a rotating priority system. Whichever memory surfaces becomes the most valuable – at that time- then it leads to another memory -and so on and so on.
Sometimes it is difficult to imagine that our feelings could be just the same as someone else’s. They cannot feel this way about their possessions or memories or hurts, but they do.
The other day I had a memory of high school (I know you didn’t think I could remember that far back). I hadn’t thought of this girl in probably twenty years, but the memory was fresh, like yesterday. Some little thing or word just conjured her up. That’s why we hold on to most things, because of what they conjure up. That’s why my basement is so cluttered and my closets and my mind. And why should we have to give them (the physical objects) up?
Oh, yeah, I forgot “Hoarders”, but my stuff is not like that, other people’s stuff, maybe, but not my stuff.
I find myself going the other way – projecting my feelings onto the population at large. I’ve noticed it much more as I’ve been writing this blog, how I have a tendency to say “we” (as people) when what I really mean is “I”. With that in mind, I’ll agree with you and say that our stuff is not like that.
I may not see you as much as I would like to, but I always carry you in my heart.. : )
I know!! Me too!
I’ve been thinking of you so much these last months, and yet did I once call you? But I love you!
Ditto. : )
What a great piece, Michelle!
I’m going to quote a big fat block of it: “Just like the universe, we are slowly and surely spreading apart from one another. What started off as the nucleus of a family – grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins – begins to separate out in a starburst of kids and more kids and grandkids and great grandkids, and it spreads further and further apart. Families get bigger, you have more commitments, you have your own kids and you’re involved in their comings and goings and doings. Life just gets bigger and more complicated as you get older. I don’t have to always like it, and I can get really sad – not all the time, but sometimes – about the fact that I’ll never get that moment back again, or I’ll never be close to that person like I once was, and it makes me hurt in my heart.” You put this beautifully, and I so relate. But though you’re lamenting this gradual separation, you describe it in what I take as positive terms. When you call it a “starburst” I think you evoke the energetic, creationary nature of the separation/expansion. Kids are born like stars, they marry and have kids of their own, and all of them gather around each other in constellations of kinship that shine down on us. You don’t get to tell me you don’t write beautifully! Basta!
Also, nice job changing subject. 🙂
I started off writing what was supposed to be a light piece, laughing at myself and how I sometimes cling to my personal possessions. As I was writing, it just took a turn on me. I went from feeling light and airy, to feeling nostalgic, to feeling downright sad. When I reached the wrap-up point, I had nowhere to go. I had no sad ending in me. I had a light and airy ending in me, because I had already written that in my head. I debated on leaving that line in there, about not knowing where to go. There was a part of me that felt vulnerable and exposed, and there was a part of me that was really curious to see if anyone would address it.
Plus, I still had a picture of my albums, and I was determined to get those in there – I mean, vinyl Thriller deserves a shout out 🙂 .
What I find interesting and wonderful about blogging is the feedback. When you write a book or song, poem or what have you, you don’t always get that instant and detailed kind of feedback that blog comments provide for us. One of the coolest things is how people respond to specific parts of a blog, particularly a longer one – where multiple jumping off points almost force you to choose just one or two things to respond to. I was just talking to a coworker about that tonight, regarding the Queries. I try to ask the question simply, so I can see where the person takes it, because that’s half the fun. In the comments, you can see what a person picks out and examines, and in a way that can tell you a little bit about the person.
Witness above: my mother, one of my best friends, and you. I can’t say I was surprised by what struck a particular cord in each of you – at least at this moment in time. 6 months from now, you all may have latched on to something completely different, but I bet that wouldn’t surprise me then, either. To be more accurate, maybe multiple cords were struck as you read, but you each responded in writing to something specific.
Oh, Nick – what a smorgasbord of delight and wonder! Being human is so complicated and so beautiful and so rich with possibilities! I think I’m going to just start turning some of my comments into posts. There’s some good stuff in the there. Is it wrong to recycle some of these thoughts? It’s just too interesting to keep it to ourselves.