Of Aides-Mémoire and Spring Cleaning



        I spent the good part of the day going through my desk drawers at home. I sorted through papers, pens, books, posters, scraps and scraps of bits of paper marking events, places, and times that meant something at some point. So many of these things were untouched or barely used. When I was little, I thought these things recorded my life. They had this mystical quality, existing in my room and becoming a part of the environment—a space that was a sign of what I wanted to be. I defined my life by the things I saw around me, the trinkets I’d collected. I did not know the magical transmutability of things used—of journal pages filled with messy writing, of a stationary set emptied, of thank you notes sent, and a mind broadened by the book of puzzles my best friend gave me when I was eight. I preferred instead to leave them in their wrapping, perfect and pristine.  Left for the dust and roaches, until I discovered them again, only to wonder why they had been hidden.

I placed more value in looking at these things, rather than using them as a means to an end. It was a creative stoppage, a gout—a gluttony. I was a little dragon eying my treasures, hoarding shiny plastic toys lying on others people’s stories and daydreams.  I lived so much in stasis, and my body followed my thoughts.

Looking at these things, I realized that it is true; they do have a magic quality to them—they reminded me of so much I had forgotten in the past years as my mind filed away memories to make room for new adventures.  But it is a scrappy patchwork; this paraphernalia also gives false witness, imperfect testimony to the events—parties, concerts, classes, friendships—to which they are attached.  I was not always very present or happy at those moments.  The passed notes, the saved invitations, the monogrammed bags—markers of friendships I did not maintain, bits of hope I did not pursue. So much energy wasted in worry and obsession. Compulsions I had allowed to drive me, rather than learning to drive a car when I was at the ripe old age of 16.  Instead, I crossed that stretch of I-95 with my mother every day, complained about not living close enough to people, and slept when depression overcame me. It was a stagnancy that invaded my mind and arrested my reality.

I saw what these things had recorded—my failures, my worries, my fears.  Ideas that began and ended in my mind because I did not know how to carry them to fruition.  Fragments of thoughts that did not continue on to the next page. I traded time for thoughts, action for images, reality for daydreams. I had hoped these things would somehow make me who I wanted to be, retroactively. And so I mourned the present as past.

All these things conspicuously collected had consumed me.  For what purpose? Who will care about those drawings of my dream house when I was four, my six year old writing style, the random doodles I did on paper or the pencil with a flower-shaped eraser I liked? There are a million little children out there with billions of memories and moments that are lost to the ethers every day.


Who will care if it all goes up in flame and what will be left-

I have put stock in corporeal things, and the market crashed around me, defiled by roaches and smothered by the detritus of my fifteen year old self.  I have set my clock by minutiae, counting minutes lost in worry and want.  And what of my body?  If this is all easily taken, then what does the corporeal self’s time stamp say?

This logic extended to its reasonable conclusion tells me I should live one day at a time, and waste not a moment more on things—including my own insecurities.

                           So really, sorting all this helped me sort myself a bit.

The books that I read over and over are tattered and wrinkled and creased. Ill-used but well-loved.  And these shaped my mind, as surely as the rest. They have recorded my touch, my taste(s). And yes, that is the only purpose objects should serve—as “aides-mémoire”, testaments to what I have done with them, rather than what I meant to do.  Because, looking at my one-hundredth used journals, I realized how precious each page of writing that I do have is. Even if those scribbles do not fully articulate the thoughts in my head at the time (which was the main reason why I never wrote enough, perfectionism silently strangles passion)–at least, at this moment, they exist.

              And it was looking at these pages in my journals that helped me remember what I have done and who I have been and who I will be. because it is written.


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