by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 17, 2006
REINSTALLING THE STUFF OF LIFE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- There's not much I like anymore. I don't mean the things we can't help liking like sunsets, babies, and full moons; I mean I don't like things I once loved, once really loved with a heart-stopping reverence. Little clay or wooden objects made with the hands of my little children - who are now in their thirties and forties. I don't need reminders of those precious moments when the love we shared was actually palpable. My eyes still light up when I see the men and women they've grown into, because I see who they were as well as who they are.
I don't need the artifacts; I want to divest myself of all these things. I try to foist the objects and notes and drawings onto them. They look at them and smile but somehow never take them out of this house and into their own. The trouble is, even if we divest ourselves of one or two things at a time, we still have enough "stuff" to clutter our lives. Selling a book or two on Amazon or E-bay may bring a little satisfaction, but floor-to-ceiling bookshelves still harbor dust-catching books and things we'll never read again. We enjoyed them first time around but, really, "The Assassination of a President" or "Pride and Prejudice," are books we won't reach for nor pass on to the children: they read them in high school.
Clutter is all so much nonsense. The only answer to ridding myself of it all lives in my imagination. I imagine I could stand naked in the middle of the house where the walls have been stripped of color, windows minus wood or fabric treatments, walls blank except for old nail holes and rectangular, oval and square markings where pictures and mirrors once hung. And I want to be naked on the inside, too. I want to "restore my system to original settings."
Can you tell I've spent a weekend deleting the clutter on my computer? Half way through the task I learned how very much I've accumulated all by myself. In the real world instead of cyberspace, this is called "baggage."
After restoring my computer system to original settings, I had to reinstall the software I have come to rely on: anti-virus, word processor, browser of my own choice, things I've added after original settings and will add again, all in order to keep functioning in the computerized comfort zone I've created.
Divesting my person of the baggage and then reinstalling the "software" to my memory bank does the same thing in real time as cybertime. The first element in my operating system essential to my well-being would be called Moments with Mama. Nothing comes close to establishing who I am and how I function than the first half-dozen years of my life. Then, for the most part and in her own way, Mama was imparting her superior knowledge of grammar, deportment, faith, morals, appreciation for the world and all that's in it. Never did she teach me anything except by example. I'd reinstall that.
And the years spent in Our Lady of Sorrows school prepared me further to live in the comfort zone of being in the right church and the right pew - those years are surely reinstalled. The adolescent years where friendships were formed, rules of the game were learned, first love was experienced and love beyond adolescence would always be judged by that tenderness meter - that's software to be reinstalled, for sure.
I scan the years of career, followed by love and marriage, motherhood and all its joys, career again, and I'm not even deleting the hurts (which helped me to grow), the petty jealousies, the insults, the poor choices - in other words, all the negatives that I wish weren't lurking in the temporary files of my life - all saved in the "baggage" folder. Every moment of my life, every intersection, every detour, every triumph, every tragedy - all brought me here, right here to this chair, writing about what I can dismiss as not worth remembering. Sure there are things I wish I hadn't done (smoking for all those years), as well as things I wish I had done more of (applying moisturizer and sunscreen) - but even these were important parts of the big picture.
Doing a clean-up on my computer was easier than cleaning out the cobwebs of my mind. No, I don't want to lose any memory that added up to the package I've become. Like the Eddie Arnold song: "If I had my life to live over, I'd do the same things again." I didn't think I'd say that, but since you can't buy memories, I'd better hold on to the ones I have. And, by the way, it's the same with my computer. I reinstalled so much of what I thought I didn't need, I'll have to go out and purchase more memory for the system.
Frequently, during moments of stress, I'll say my brain is suffering a computer overload. But my brain won't crash as my computer might. There's plenty more storage space in that gray matter, with room for more memories, so I'll cling to what I have and create more in the days ahead.
As for the horde of books going unread, and the pictures on the wall being no longer part of myself or my personal sense of place, I will strip myself of those. And, as for my person: well, standing naked in the middle of an empty house devoid of all adornment is not the most auspicious way to start my day, nor the rest of my life. What was I thinking?
Visit AR Correspondent Constance Daley at www.skylinetoshoreline.com.