Hard to say about the essential facts of this, my life. One of which has most recently included the notion that, time’s cruel ravages being what they are, I have lost so much strength that, well, getting out of bed in the morning has become marginal. And while this is not to be dismissed as laughable, the sitting-up-in-bed involving quite a strain on what able-bodied fitness buffs would describe as the ‘core,’ the truth lies elsewhere. Such as in the psyche, where a predictable quantity of everything resides. If I just stay calm, it turns out, rocking myself into the sedentary just takes a little time.
There are indigenous people somewhere, or there were, or there could be…for whom ‘a little time’ does not exist. For them, time cannot be little or big. Perhaps it does not even exist in the indigenous world, at least as I conceive of it. I throw out all these possibilities, because time has been such a burdensome and unpleasant fact in much of my life.
And one doesn’t have to go all abstract. Just look at my office. Specifically, my desk. It is not only messy, things just drift into this state. It seems the natural way of entropy. Let stuff go, and it accumulates. The times, they are a changin’ these days. And faced with the very certain reality that weeks of mail had accumulated like groups of snow, that I have to change computers and make room for two on the same desk, and that like a cowboy in the old song ‘Don’t Fence Me In,’ the lack of real estate was beginning to feel claustrophobic.
That’s why God invented Menchu. She arrived this morning at 8 AM, departed at 1 PM…and hustled about my office on a virtual search-and-destroy mission. Some of the actions were predictable. Sticking bills into one folder. Assembling tax documents. Perfectly normal stuff. The interesting part came as we got beyond that, delving into some of the stacked shelves that populate my desk. For a deeply disorganized person, there is an inherent attraction to ‘office organizers.’ File holders. Pigeonholes. Whatever. Such devices substitute for the structure missing in my mind. All that happens is that junk accumulates in these things. It rises vertically, the useless piles separated by shelves or baffles.
And this was the interesting part, going through these old pieces of desk apparatus. Marlou’s high school diploma, for example. Why had I kept this? Well, I hadn’t really. Just that throwing it away seemed harsh, disrespectful of the dead, who knows? The alternative? Gathering dust on a shelf. As were old pictures of Marlou and me. Scenes from when she was healthy. Scenes from when she was dying. I was pleased to see both. One more time, that is. And equally pleased to throw them in the trash. My friend Dave from the Minnesota Mens Conference posing with me in his tie-dyed T-shirt. Great to see. Great to wonder why we have lost touch. Great to throw these in the trash. Memories. Records of memories in the rubbish bin. And so the desk cleared.
And what a liberating feeling. At the end of five hours I had a desk back. Moreover, I have a life back. That is, the sense that it’s my past, and I will deal with it in my time and in my way. It has been in my way, that is the thing. Some essential lesson here. Enjoy the photos one last time, then say goodbye. And say it happily. Because holding onto things is a myth. There isn’t room. At least for me, even if there is room, there isn’t attention.
Besides, you run into all sorts of old treasures. Why of all the things on my desk do I wish to keep a little pendant from Amtrak’s Coast Starlight? Hard to say. But enjoyable to say. The whimsical, arbitrary nature of our values and our unfolding life. It is unfolding. And, yes, I do have one.