Monday, November 22, 2010

Mental Clutter

I am currently transitioning out of the job I've had for the last five years, and preparing to hand over my laptop in a couple weeks when the gig is up.  In real life, I'm something of a neatnik, with all of my drawers and files in order.  My computer, however, is another story.  I've got files of recipes I wanted to try in 2006, several spreadsheets regarding the arrival of the baby and everything I wanted to do to prep for that, photo files that have long since been copied to our home computer, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Wiping this laptop clean for its return is turning out to be quite the project, and an unbelievable trip down memory lane.
Some of the memories are good: like the first twelve-week ultrasound photos of Baby J where he's sucking his thumb in exactly the same way he does now, the extremely exuberant invites and directions to the husband's law school graduation, the letter I wrote to the lab rescue organization trying to convince them to give us Louie when they almost didn't because our house was too small (it worked!).  There's the menu planning document prepared by a law school friend when another friend broke her leg and we all were determined to keep her and her husband well fed through 1L finals, which warms my heart even to this day, so earnest was the desire of our community to help.  There are Christmas lists and travel plans and more recipes than I can count or cook.  All of these bring a grin to my face as I save them or toss them accordingly.

Then we have the less pleasant things: appeals to insurance companies and minor squabbles over minor things at work and home documented in the form of letters of protest are at the top of this list.  Reading back over, say, my request for specific asthma medications to be covered by insurance during my pregnancy (this request was denied, btw), I get that same pit in my stomach and clench in my fist that I got when I was originally authoring the letter.  I feel my blood pressure go up and my shoulders tense.  There's a lesson here...

One of the first times I ever hung out with my husband, long before we got together, we were having drinks at some friends' house in Boston, and we had both had a day of car trouble.  I had gotten in a little fender better with my truck, and his car had been towed from a no parking zone. Our reactions?  I was apoplectic; enraged at the unnecessary expense I'd incurred, the damage to my car, the inconvenience of it all.  He was copacetic; "these things happen" was his mantra, and then he just let it go.  I'd go home later that weekend and write, "I wish I could be more like B" in my journal.  This anecdote still makes us both laugh, but it also kind of makes me cringe.  As with the documents I've been reading through today, just thinking of that fender bender two cars and ten years ago still gets my heart rate going.  I guess you could say I have a hard time letting things go.

As I sort through these documents, it holds up a mirror to the last five years.  I'm doing my best to savor all the great memories being conjured, but I am downright embarrassed by some of the more impassioned "protest documents", as I've named them.  I think because my partner is so good at letting things go, rather than follow his example as I promised I would in my journal years ago, I've become all the more stubborn about holding on to arguments, subconsciously feeling like I'm doing so for the both of us.  The letter I found that I wrote to a landlord claiming a small sum of a security deposit is a perfect example of this... the husband was ready to let it go and move on, while I flew into a zealous campaign to reclaim what we were owed, come hell or high water.  Again, the blood pressure climbs; again, I find myself blushing at the paragraphs long case I made, arguments framed carefully in a Word document.  I won that battle, btw, and perhaps that's another reason I have a hard time letting go... whether through natural loquaciousness or law school osmosis, my powers of argument often end up working in my favor, at least in the short term.  Still, as I sort through this virtual pile, it is clear to me how much I could benefit from just.letting.go.

Do you have things like this in your mental filing cabinet?  Small yucky slices of life that you hold onto and allow to irk you when you should have long since rid your memory of them?  If so, do you care to join me in a resolution?  Sorting through these files has made me resolve to be better at sending things to my emotional recycling bin.  Yes, there will be appeals to file and small injustices encountered down the road, but I renew my vow of many years ago to "be more like B" and let these things wash over me and out of my life more quickly and efficiently.  There's no good that can come of dwelling and ruminating on these things; they must be sorted through in the paperwork of life and then thrown away.  There is no time like the holidays to make such a resolution, I might add.  At a time of year when everything from people cutting in line at the store to security lines at the airport can make your blood boil, why not recommit yourself to not sweating the small stuff?  With a sense of humor, perspective and scale, these things won't be absorbed into your psyche and shoulder muscles, and you'll be able to enjoy your December so much more.  I know that I will.  Let's just let it all go, shall we?  I'm hitting "empty" as we speak...


  1. I just ordered this on Friday. I can't decide if I should hang it in my office or tape it to my pillow as a subtle reminder.

    Yes, I am blogging - slowly and a bit self-consciously so. Hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

  2. Try this link instead -

  3. we aren't called the fighting irish for nothing
    but when in doubt throw "it" out can work for rage as well as commas

    love this reminder that comes just in time to think about new resolutions for the year

  4. omg omg omg, you just wrote a chapter straight out of my life!!!! Wonderful piece, SMJ! I can't tell you how much I relate to every word.

    As much as I love tripping down memory lane, reading over old emails and correspondence (well, at least the ones that don't re-skyrocket the ol' blood pressure), I think the key here is to learn to discard more from the get-go. I tend to save every little last email sent to me at work, and strongly suspect that 90% of it can go straight to trash. But I fear letting go of something that may, just maybe once-in-a-blue-moon, become relevant at some unforeseen moment in my future.

    So, if you figure out how to let it go up front, do let me know. :-)

  5. Meghan - I love that print. Hello stocking stuffer.

  6. Once again, brilliant...Having read this on a morning which consisted of cursing at the moron drivers for their stupidity during my morning commute. :-) I've found that I am guilty of what a therapist once told me was "rumination", from time to time. Last week, I even recalled a debate from my hs freshman year english class (which I lost & turned beet red)...and find that I want to somehow have the argument over again, in some strange attempt to vindicate my younger self. Ridiculous! We could all "be more like B"....Nick is very much that way too. Thank goodness for the men in our lives who help keep us balanced! <3 you J xoxo