I am a keeper of things. Of magazines & news clippings. Receipts & scribbles on torn paper. Expired pills & boarding passes from trips in my 20’s. Vacations in my 30’s. Concert tickets & dried flowers. Corks from dinner parties with initials Sharpied on the side from those who came & sat around my table. Preservations of anxiety, emotions & unfortunately still, pieces from every heart I’ve ever loved.
I’ve been this way since I was a child. I recall a time in 1st grade, finding a piece of paper on the floor that looked like a lion. I picked it up & put it in my bag because of 2 reasons. I thought it would feel bad if I left it there (what) & I also wanted to show my parents. I was convinced that they definitely wanted to be given the proof that their child is a tiny lunatic. I don’t think I ever showed them that piece of dejected scrap paper but I probably still have it, tucked in my creepy af Minnie Mouse backpack that legit had arms & legs. While I’ve gotten better at purging & parting, donating shirts that no longer cover my torso, I still tend to hide away mementos from anything that meant anything. Love letters that hold nothing except the inky weight of memory. From people who bore significance.
I have boxes tucked in closets containing notes once left in my high school locker, sprayed with the cologne of an adolescent teenager. Cards from old Valentines (thanks, dad!). And I wouldn’t doubt, probably some old chocolate or moldy candy hearts because U R A QT.
There’s a line from one of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs, ‘Race Among the Ruins,’ that says this:
The road to love is littered
By the bones of other ones
Who by the magic of the moment
Were mysteriously undone
God damn if that Canadian didn’t get it so accurate. I feel as though no matter how you’ve moved on, no matter how far away you are from the end of a past love, their fossils will always be in your backyard. And if you’re like me, you’ll find them on a random day because you can’t help but dig.
I had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday about death. He’s incredibly cut & dry about it. He believes we all get old or sick or have a time that we ‘might get hit by a bus’ or whatever. Which is all absolutely true. But I don’t believe I’ll ever feel like I’ve completed everything. I won’t have learned the things I wanted to. Picked up the German language or how to work a table saw. Learned to sew or become a filmmaker. Actually made it to Conan O’ Brien or wrote everyone a letter of my feelings. This actually plagues me constantly. That I will leave earth without everyone knowing how much I think of them. That even though I might have overused the ever so cliche, ‘I love you,’ I meant it every bloody time. What if I’m being called to the light & I’m all, ‘Hold on! Have to go do a few things real fast, brb lol.’ I told my co-worker I loved him & he got super uncomfortable. Maybe it was because I also pointed at him. So far I’m off to a great start in my campaign.
Letting go, for me & my brother at least, can also be awkwardly associated with times of great joy. If I went somewhere a year ago or 3 weeks back or 1 goddamn day has elapsed, I will agonize over that timeline until I suffocate it or suffocate myself. Let’s say I had the most epic conversation with a man crush over cheap beer & blue plastic lawn chairs last Wednesday. On the next Wednesday, & many future Wednesdays I will think, ‘This time last week (or insert other time-frame here) I was drinking beer on these blue plastic lawn chairs with this boy having conversations that were making me fall in love with him & that was more amazing than what I’m doing right now which is eating broccoli slaw.’ I get homesick for it. For those tiny moments that make up everything to me. Because what if it never happens again? What if nothing ever compares 2 U? So I hold on I hold on I hold on.
That’s actually pretty debilitating because it makes me want to not have any fun ever, because why do I want to spend half my life in mourning? It’s just slightly less tormenting than water torture in my humble opinion. This also prevents me from getting included sometimes & I mean this in the least dramatic way possible. I get so pre-worried that I will ruin said outings that I infect situations before they even are one. I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either, frankly. And if you’re wondering, I definitely have considered donating my brain to science just so someone can know what the fuck is going on in here. It’s like I’ve had several concussions but never played football.
Maybe it’s a mild form of rejection? But I choose to like glints of hope. Maybe that’s human nature. We keep each other hanging on, in our back pockets. Just. In. Case. But Jesus, why? If we’re over love at one point, aren’t we for always? Does it come back? Doubt it, bro. I’ve never gone back to my wardrobe from 9th grade & thought indeed, I should try to wear these Airwalks & Hypercolor shirts again so people can see me pitting out. Maybe that’s where our past belongs, in some over-stuffed Rubbermaid container. Or the Goodwill. Or in a burn pile. You do you.
Is it because we were taught to have back-up plans? Or we’ve gotten used to things not working out? It feels as though my life is like my credit score & I have to keep checking back to see if it went from ‘fair’ to ‘good’ or plummeted into ‘please just stop looking.’ Also see: ‘Girl, it ain’t looking good,’ & ‘Don’t.’
I’ve been lucky to fall in love with several people over many, many *cough* many years. I’m not ashamed to say I’m addicted to that feeling. The euphoria. The isolation from the shit show that is everything else but nothing matters because I have my person. The thing I look forward to at the end of the day. Every single day. So when they gradually treat you a little differently, when they take away from the pot they filled with riches in the form of everything I’ve ever wanted to hear, it’s safe to say that my mental health quickly turns into 2007 Britney.
I very rarely actually go back & look at things. I don’t read notes or journal entries or text messages. They’re just a security blanket I don’t ever use because I hate laundry. I guess I shouldn’t say never. There was one time (87 times) that I drank too many cider beers (maybe 6ish) & dug through a years worth (haha so many more) of screenshots to find out the last time someone said they loved me. It caused a very dramatic but Oscar worthy performance of throwing my head against the wall behind my bed while proceeding to wail/cry & wondering out loud what it all means before I curled up in the fetal & slept off as much despair as I could.
Maybe I’m just
panicked, terrified, scared nervous as balls. That every current is bound to turn into a former. So, theoretically, I’ll always be chasing a high & punishing myself in the interim. Just like how I covet being a 90’s kid. The only threat to my life was gym class & I had after-school Kraft Singles nachos & Gushers to look forward to. I used to get that straw in the right spot on the Capri Sun 4/7 times. And back then, those things didn’t make me fat. Every morning I wake up wishing I was a reverse Tom Hanks, the antithesis of the movie ‘Big,’ & I could just be 11 again. Zoltar, where even are you?!
I feel volcanic. ‘I’m fine!’ I say. ‘Just fine.’ But I harbor words & feelings & things. Then, all hopped up on generic Benadryl, I decide to let out a little squeak. For the volcano this would be maybe something on the volcano people radar. A little rumbling in her underbelly. A warning. For me, it’s ‘Hey, I noticed you didn’t say you missed me 3 times today, only once.’ And then there’s the little puff of smoke out the top. So I bring up something with just a hint of added drama. HE DIDN’T TEXT ME UNTIL 3PM WHAT IS WRONG. For effect & because I’m about to blow because worry will do that to you. Here comes that molten hot lava! I draft & re-read & finally send a small novella via a text most likely. It may have pie charts or graphs or my favorite: a timeline. But wait, there’s more! I issue an apology not long after, to myself & my mark because my eruption may have just destroyed a small city. Then the pressure of guilt coupled with the angst of waiting on a response requires a full retreat.
I de-activate things & cancel plans & don’t answer the phone. Sometimes I read books instead of try & write them. This is how I let go the best way I know how because I actually **shockingly** don’t know how.
It never lasts long. But what does? I think I’m getting better at it (insert the cry/laughing emoji). Releasing my grip, slowly, slowly. On not just the past but also my prospects. On anything & everything. Of being so scared despite the liabilities laying in wait. Because really, letting go has brought me things I never knew I needed. And chances are, if you’re reading this, I love you. This way I won’t have to worry about writing you a letter.
-a damsel & her dog-