Yesterday I had time blocked off to entertain a plumber and a hot tub repair person, and against all odds, both of them showed up on time, if not early, and there I was, my long day of waiting over.
So I went into my office, deciding that I needed to tackle one of the projects I've been putting off for about 11 months now: shredding old documents, bills, tax records, divorce proceeding letters. It all needed to go, so I sat down surrounded by mounds of paper and my trusty shredder, and went at it.
Earlier, I wrote about not feeling up to the task of going through a lifetime worth of photos in order to send them off for reproduction. I feared that the constant staring at my life as it was might throw me over the edge into reverie, sadness, guilt, and despair. So even now, the photos sit up in the garage, waiting.
But this was a good prep, a nice way to start. There was the American Express bill that showed the charge for the flight my then husband and I took to Cabo San Lucas to try to fix things. There was the Mastercard bill for the ring he bought me. There were the months of financial mess that the separation first brought--the late fees due to address changes and my inability to focus. I had a small stack of bills I hadn't been able to open. Those weren't good months.
I put them through the shredder, all it now memory and tiny bits of paper.
Then there was the charge for Match.com, a recurring monthly fee. Then the flights I took to visit friends and teach down in LA. The hotel stays with friends as we went on adventures. Restaurant charges, nights out with men I would never see again, failed first dates. Then dinner charges with a man I liked; then another charge for Match.com, my dating history all on record courtesy of American Express.
The divorce letters show the long and angry process my former spouse and I went through, trying to get ourselves to a place where we could detach, part, cut everything in half. So much anger and so much sadness. But I didn't need these papers any more, the divorce papers the product I was after, the memories of our battle downgraded from Typhon to calm sea.
There were the bills for my youngest son's SAT tutoring, the weeks of study he committed to before the test. There were the receipts for his trip to Fiji and Australia, a trip he loved, something I could do for him.
Other charges related to the things I bought for myself in order to make my life real: a new bed, a couch, a chair. Trips to Target for kitchen supplies.
Finally, I find Michael in the charges. I remembered my trip to Austin and AWP just a week and a half after I met him. On the phone bill, the calls all going to a San Francisco number at that time. Dinners out. Then our first trip to Big Sur. My charges shift, change. I bought a few pieces of lingerie. The late charges are gone. The bills paid on time because somehow, I managed to pull myself together.
I came across the movers' bills, my trips from Lafayette to Berkeley, Berkeley to Oakland, the place I am now. Four years worth of bills zipped through the metal teeth, the visual evidence of the time now nothing but strips of paper.
After I was done with my chore--the rug and floor around me were covered in a white patina of fine dust. The closet had almost two whole spaces into which I could cram a couple of boxes, moving them from the garage to the office. I know the boxes I will bring down next, the ones with the visual story, the one I think I am ready for now.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org