Last night, while I was going through all of my books and papers, I was confronted with several uncomfortable truths:
- I hoard way too many books that I’ll never read again
- The deed of organizing the apartment will not be finished by the time my daughter visits on Friday
- You can’t erase memories by throwing objects associated with them away
Among the items I had to sort through and decide whether to store were birthday cards, Father’s Day cards, anniversary cards (thought I’d gotten rid of all of those already… apparently I missed some), and our resort passes for Disney World, which I kept from our 2008 visit. At first, it was a no-brainer. I’m throwing them away. Then I saw something that gave me pause.
On my son’s card, his first name was followed by my last name – representing a hope for adoption I had throughout the marriage, but was never to be. In the strict legal and biological senses, it isn’t true, but in my heart, my ex’s son is my son.
I have fond memories of the trip, but upon reflection, I realize that much of that is rose-colored hindsight. There was much to enjoy about the 5-day vacation, but by the end, my ex and I had a conflict that just typified not only the lack of respect I felt throughout the marriage, but also our inability to do conflicts well — undoubtedly representative of our differences in what we valued and what we expected. Fair or unfair, right or wrong, that was the way it was.
So do I throw it away or keep it? Basing the answer on the sentimentality of something that isn’t true reminds me of a story I read of Abraham Lincoln. I don’t have it in front of me and am too lazy to look it up, so please bear with the inaccuracies.
Lincoln asked someone, “If you call the tail of a dog a leg, how many legs does it have?”
“Why, 5, of course,” the person answered.
“No,” Lincoln responded, “Just because you call a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”
Being a military brat, I’ve become quite adept at putting the past behind me, but I wonder if the manner in which I’ve done it has always been helpful. It’s easy for me to throw things away, because I’ve had to do it all my life after each move, and I’m sad to say that it’s also been true of relationships. My affection for people in my life is genuine, but I wonder if it’s been far too easy to sweep the rubble of lost relationships under the rug while I live life on top of them instead of dealing with the loss as I should.