Somebody I used to know

(Is that Gotye song stuck in your head now? It’s stuck in mine.)

Now that I have a newborn, I figure it’s the perfect time to take on a massive and long overdue declutter of the house. (Read: It’s not the perfect time.) But I watched that Marie Kondo show on Netflix while rocking a baby to sleep, and, well….

I decided to start with my books. Knowing that this would be difficult (so many old friends!) I wisely chose to begin with my reference books. You know, non-literary non-fiction. Old textbooks. Self-help.

This has been surprisingly difficult. I have not written a computer program in nearly twenty years, but I still have books on algorithms. I have old language learning texts, stuff that predates the invention of Duolingo. I have business books even though it’s been fifteen years since I was in a corporate environment. I have investment books, ones that advocated a ‘set it and forget it’ philosophy, which I have already set and forgot. (That rhyme doesn’t work in past tense.)

I walked away having not touched a single book, and went on to clear out the baby extra clothes. I cried a little over my son’s first pair of sneakers, which are totally worn out and broken, but I was able to thank those red Saucony shoes and let them go. Yet all the books are still on my shelves.

I think it’s because for much of my life, I was trying to figure out who I was, and every time I landed on an identity that sort of half-fit, I’d buy a book or twelve. (Don’t ask me how many writing books I have.) And so my books are a collection of my identities, some of which were a very bad fit.

But it’s hard letting that go. I have some sort of fantasy of people perusing my bookshelves, finding an unlikely book (“Why do you have a math history book?”) and then that sparks a conversation about things I have done, with the end result being that the other person sees that I am not just a writer, I have done other things, and am therefore more intelligent and interesting than they realize.

Writing that down, it reads a bit desperate.

Still, Marie Kondo points out that if we let go of the past, we make room for the future, and somehow it makes me wonder, have I made enough room in my life to write?

Perhaps that something of an easy answer as to why (even though I currently have very legitimate reasons) my writing has been in fits and starts over the years. But I wonder. Have I hung on to too many ill-fitting ideas about what I should write or what I should love?

Did I buy a ton of books that I will never read because I believe the kind of writer I ought to be ought to read those books?

Have I lost touch with the writer that I am, and what I love to read?

I don’t know. Part of the reason for this declutter is to make space in our extremely cluttered third floor for me to have a place to sit and read and write again. My writing desk has been shifted from kid’s room to kid’s room, and has most often been covered by assorted books and papers that never had a home, and is now currently stashed amid further clutter.

If I don’t make space, I’ll never have room. And that means thanking my former identities and letting them go.

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