I cleaned out my office recently, cleared out two bookcases, actually found a bookstore that would buy some books, and dropped the rest off at a thrift shop. I do this from time to time, necessary because it’s a small space, but also because in an earlier time, when I had a house and three children, I also had room for lots of books. The books helped me hang on to an identity, I think that’s why they were so important. The exercise of shoveling that out when I downsized is one I don’t ever want to repeat, and the exercise went on a long time after I moved, because most of my books came with me. I’ve been paring down ever since, and can now see the wall in a few places.
One of my motivators in this latest effort is a desire to be more honest with myself, but also kinder, and it’s not just about an acknowledgement of space restrictions. A lot of the, well, debris, piled on shelves or in closets here still refers back either to earlier activities, or an earlier desire for activities, that I might have had. I have to decide that some things I once meant to do, I am not going to do. So I let them go, and forgive myself for changing.
Lately I’ve started to see books differently, not so much as the identity declaration they once stood for. Some I keep, like favoured knickknacks (yes, yes, there are knickknacks here too; they contain stories as well). Many of the books are artifacts of something I once intended, or maybe thought, I’d like to read/do/be/appear. But if I’m honest, and I’m not going to get to them, why hang on? So that random and stray visitors who wander into my place, peruse my bookshelves, can admire the person I once wanted to be? Something like, see how interesting I wish I was? It’s not as though friends and family don’t know who I am.
Having a lot of books on the shelf that I haven’t read is just delusional. Especially as I’ve noticed that while I have these books, I go pick others up at the library. And guess what? Usually I read the library books, and when I don’t, back they go, and I don’t beat myself up about them.
So for now, I’ve kept two shelves of fiction, bought with the full intention of reading them. The pile used to be bigger, but it started to embarrass me. Now each time I filter books out, I keep ones that I really do want to read, and actually, I have recently read some (for one, Julian Barnes, Sense of an Ending, so good!). Then, when I finish a book, it goes into my out basket (actually I think I might read Barnes’ book again, soon) and once the pile builds up enough, out they all go. And every now and then, I look through what’s still here, as I did just recently, and admit I’ve lost interest, so let those go too. I try not to think about wasted resources, mine, and the planet’s.
I do have a couple shelves of poetry that I like to pick up and dip into. I think that’s an okay reflection to give, that I like to dip into poetry. I don’t read straight through poetry books, so keeping them for longer is a good idea. They warrant sampling. But in my latest sampling, I found several that no longer interested me, so they went too.
There’s some fog here, but I think my attempts at letting things go, are really so that there is room for other things to come clear. Some pruning is easy, like ditching piles of newspapers. In fact, I’ve tried to cancel newspapers so that I’ll keep time for reading the books I want to read, but then the newspaper companies are so desperate, they keep giving me free subscriptions. It’s hard to resist (and I didn’t) but so far I’ve declined to send more money, and I think soon, I’ll have more time in the mornings.
Yes, it’s foggy, what I’m trying to get at, but the area where I think I’ve been letting things go in a way I don’t like, where the fog is thickest, is where my writing has drifted. I’m trying to find my way to my own priorities, throwing things out , which may sound like a simple thing, but isn’t. (Sometimes things aren’t concrete.) I’ve been achieving some clarity about myself in the last year, and what I find is that a lot of what I do is somehow influenced by (imagined) outside influence, that has somehow found its way inside my head. I find that letting some things go fills me with relief. I find that I’m learning to, in a sense, mind my own business, and shoveling out stuff, well, that seems to give me room to think. Which will let the writing back in.
At least I think that’s where things are going.