We went down to our condo in DC today to do a couple repairs and get some things out of our storage unit. I know, we haven’t lived there for nearly five years and still have stuff in storage there. It’s shameful. And, what’s worse was that the only reason we went down was because the Board warned owners with fines for keeping hazardous materials in their storage units, and we had a bunch of old paint there. So, off we went.
It turned out to be a delightful day. Our babysitter was here because we had planned on doing a lot of work, so we were able to go down just the two of us. I read in the car. I’ve been reading Elizabeth Berg’s book A Year of Pleasures, and it’s made me very concentrated on enjoying moments and small beauties. It’s a sadly beautiful book.
Marco left me in the storage area to go work on the repairs for our tenants. I was supposed to pack boxes into the car. And I did…just very slowly. I got a little side-tracked by all the treasures I found. I had left myself all these little time capsules. I forgot how much I love Marco. Well, I didn’t forget that – I guess I forgot how long and how much I’ve been loving him. I found all these little mementos of our life together. I found framed photos of us, poems, cards and art we’d purchased. The paint was junk, but it still reminded me of all the spaces we’ve turned into homes, the colors of my memories.
And then I started digging through my own archeological history. I found tons of little wooden boxes, some I had made, others I’ve picked up on travels. Inside were all these random artifacts – shells, flowers from high school boyfriends, glass beads, a clay head, pennies. I had one box that I had divided into categories and labeled “Not Mine” where I had placed little pieces of paper with various worries. I’d given them away. I loved it. I was so thrilled to meet myself. Turns out I’m pretty freaking cool.
In one box was a huge pile of photographs I had completely forgotten existed. In between books on gender identity and used Jeanette Winteson novels, cookbooks and sculptures was my life in pictures. I was flooded with memories. I flipped through, watching myself descend into a deep sadness. I started with charming pictures of me in high school. I was so lovely and had no idea. And I ended with pictures of a much sadder, miserable person doing everything to cover herself, change her appearance, escape her body. I ached for her. I wanted to hug that poor girl. I was so very grateful for the friends who were there with me during those dark days, and who are with me still. They loved me when I could not love myself. Thank you Katie and Kristin.
After I finally loaded the car with my treasures, I went upstairs to
help Marco wait around and check out our tenants' stuff. I was sitting on the couch and picked up a book titled Sensing the Self. It is about recovering from bulimia. After a quick flip through, I started reading a passage out loud. I ended up sobbing. The description of the pre-bulimic child was so accurate and hit home so acutely. And reading it just after seeing those pictures, I was overwhelmed – with gratitude, for the fight I’ve fought for myself; with frustration, for not having understood sooner; with fear, that I might pass along these problems to my girls.
Just as I recovered, my tenant arrived home. I told her about what had happened. She said she’s had the same response. She loaned me the book. I can’t wait to read it.
And I can’t wait to unwrap the art we have wrapped in old newspaper (BTW – who knew a wallaby had once been loose in Ann Arundel county?). I can’t wait to really go through all those boxes, to scan the photos, to use the old stationery, to read the old journals. I can’t wait to find all these little gifts I left myself along the way.
So, as a now very aged person, I am giving this advice. Pack away special things in a storage unit and don’t touch them for five to ten years. You will thank yourself. You will be astonished by how much you’ve grown. You might even fall in love again. I know I am a very crazy person to live with and that for Marco, the analytical engineer, it must be mind-boggling – all my weird little ways and pieces of odd art and collections of random things. But he was standing there smiling when I pulled out that Dennis Kucinich for President sign that I had stolen from someone’s yard when we were drunk and young and laughing. He’s loved me all along. And now I’m finally seeing why. I have gifted myself with joy.