The pile lies before me in a daunting mountain as I sprawl on the carpeted floor of my office. The papers glitter with patterns and textual swirls the decorate years and years worth of notes. I must face the truth: The time has come to part with precious things I’ve stashed away.
I am a pack rat when it comes to preserving pieces of the written word.
When my closets recently underwent an organizational tsunami, what rose to the crest of my cleaning wave was my box (okay, fine, it was an embarrassingly large heap) of saved notes.
I found the long, heartfelt silly account of summer camp, written by a dear friend on the back of soup labels. I refolded it with a smile. This I would still keep.
My heart twinged as I turned over the card penned on my high school graduation by the first boy I loved. I read it one more time, then dropped it into the pile that would leave my home.
I unfurled the list of snarky marriage advice, written in tongue-in-cheek style for my bridal shower by my then-unwed cousin, and laughed hard enough to jerk tears into my eyes. This I also saved.
My treasure notes lay buried among stacks of cards with messages that held no enduring value to me.
Some of these notes are signed by people I’ve stopped speaking to. We’ve grown apart, moved on, or taken different paths in life.
Am I the same person today who these letters were once written to?
Sure, I recognize my brother’s goofy humor from his postcards, and my best friend’s strong voice of passionate encouragement still sounds familiar, but were these letters written to a past self who I once was, someone who I’ve outgrown like an old reptile skin, but who still vaguely resembles the woman called “Elise”?
As I “traveled back in time,” I felt emotions resurface that I’d suppressed and forgotten. When I tossed the notes aside, I released their authors into the past, perhaps never to return…or perhaps they will, but hoarding old notes won’t be the deciding factor.
I remembered who I was, who I am, and made room for the woman I’ll still become. And all because I cleared out some old letters.
Have you had a similar “time travel” experience while cleaning out your house (i.e. your closet or under your bed)?
This Post Has 4 Comments
Jack Flacco9 Apr 2013
I cleaned shop late last year. All the old photos, letters, notes from past girlfriends–gone. I have a stack of little notes my wife popped into my lunches over the years. I’ll always keep those. I have letters we sent to one another when we were courting. I’ll definitely always keep those. And I have cards she’s given me for our anniversary and birthdays. They will never leave me. I chucked the rest.
I can’t comment on being a better woman, but I can certainly confirm it’s better looking forward than looking back. It’s the only direction we’re heading!
Elise9 Apr 2013
I like what you said about it’s better to look forward than look back. So much of “looking back” is so very comfortable, because we know so much about the past, and there’s so little we know of the future, but you’re right, it’s the healthiest direction to look!
I’m so glad you keep all your wife’s notes. When I got to all the notes my husband had written me, those were the ones that really brought the sweet tears back to me eyes.
jan9 Apr 2013
Hi Elise – Your post touched my heart. A friend of mine passed away last summer and later I found some letters she wrote when her children were young. They were sweet but sad. She had to get married when she was seventeen. I finally decided she would not want her children to read them and threw them away. I know that’s what she would have wanted. Jan
Elise9 Apr 2013
Thank you, Jan! Making the decision to throw out notes is a really tough one, but I think it leaves us more room to move on and continue to grow. That’s a brave thing you did with your friend’s notes, and I’m glad you did what you felt was right.