As I swept the floor under my easy chair
As the historian and I moved the easy chair downstairs, so that I could clean under and around it and maybe get a slightly sleeker chair
As I threw away a dozen old copies of the New York Times Style Magazine
As I rolled up an old rug so that I could clean under it
As I burst into tears
As the historian told me the reason I have so much stuff is because of a whole bunch of things that are right with me and not because I'm a horrible person
Lord, there are so many ways to begin this post.
America: it is time, apparently, to reckon with my life. And why not? Tomorrow, I start a Poet in the Schools gig down in Spanish Fork, and in two weeks the NEH Extravaganza starts for four weeks, so why not excavate and simultaneously judge my own chaos? Because it just can't freaking wait one minute longer, that's why. And because my study is, has been for awhile, and as God is my witness shall not be anymore starting. right. NOW, a nightmare.
"What a nightmare," I said, as we turned the giant chair on its side, the better to wiggle it through a doorway.
"No, it's not, sweetheart, don't say that," said the historian. He was probably hoping I wouldn't burst into tears. TOO LATE.
"Actually, it's more of a description than a freakout," I said, calmly.
And THEN I burst into tears.
But we moved that massive chair downstairs. I've thrown away some stuff, and put stuff into bags to give away, and there is still way more stuff to go through. But I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it because it is time to be able to work in my study without having to either (a) ignore what is plainly in front of me--piles and piles of little books I've made, books I've bought, papers I've sorted once and then left to drift into other papers until they've probably procreated; receipts, art supplies, little notebooks; sharpies, pens, pencils; flash drives of various sizes and eras; drafts of poems...the list is endless! or (b) feel I am drawing near to becoming a hoarder or Miss Havisham or both. And (c) I want--need!--to have a calm, peaceful place to work, for crying out loud.
I am summoning up my most ruthless self, clearer of decks and restorer of order. I have been this person at times in my life, and I think I can become her again. Especially if my daughter is with me. She has offered me incomparable aid at various intervals.
"I'm glad Sophie is going to help me," I told the historian. "She'll help me out, and all I have to do is let her make fun of me a little."
Once, she helped me clean out my kitchen. She held up a small pile of accoutrements (which shall remain unspecified and undescribed). I wilted.
"But [beloved person] gave those to me," I whispered.
"Mom. Things are not people," she said firmly. And into the box they went.
Things are not people, America, and the things are damn well not staying in my study.