I recently read about a Latin American New Year tradition of setting fire to dolls stuffed with objects that have bad associations. I want to adopt my own version, one that involves clearing my home of items that pull me down.
I once gave the students in my memoir writing class an assignment to bring in something that brings up happy memories. But how many of us also store things that bring up memories we’d rather be rid of? (This doesn’t mean parting with reminders of people we’ve loved and lost, for these bring up poignant connections we rightly hold on to.)
But why keep items that reek of failure – or that we’d feel guilty getting rid of? Like my oversized platter with the design of a dead fish, a Christmas gift in lieu of a bonus from an obnoxious executive I worked for. It reminds me of unhappy days at that job, but thriftiness says you don’t throw out a perfectly good platter. Well, why not?
How about the stacks of plastic boxes where I compulsively keep every birthday card I’ve received? It’s one thing to cherish the cards the children created in their kindergarten days (although they’re now way past even college). But faded cards for my 21st birthday, when I barely remember being that young, from equally faded friendships?
Then there’s the misplaced writer’s pride of keeping every version of every story and book I’ve written! My newest book, Role Play, has finally seen the light of day. So why clutter overloaded files with all the unsatisfactory versions that preceded the final one? Or all the maddening corrections that went on between the publishing company and myself? (Correcting REDHEAD from their unfathomable capitalization resulted in Readhead! At which point I recall bursting into tears of frustration.) So why keep this and the collection of similar grim reminders?
Still, nothing compares to the rejection letters we masochistic writers hoard. It’s true that some offer a faint hint of future publication, such as: We’d like to see more of your writing.No matter that it’s obviously a form letter, since I received exactly the same dead-end wording from eleven other magazines. There are also the outright rejections with their standard – read: unimaginative – phrases (already have similar, doesn’t meet our current needs,etc.) Do I need to be reminded of the times my story was turned away, like a poor little Oliver Twist? I even heard of a woman who papers her room with these rejection letters. Nothing like creating a positive environment for yourself!
I propose raising a glass (one you enjoy holding, not the ugly one bought in a misguided moment at the local flea market) and making a toast to a home cleared of downers. Let’s sing the refrain of an old song: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative . In this new year let’s try to live surrounded by – buoyed up by – belongings that remind us of joy and hope.
A safe and spacious 2016 to all
Comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOOKS: ROLE PLAY – CreateSpace.com & Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle. WIDOW’S WALK available through iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – Xlibris.com; TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – -CreateSpace.com, Amazon.com; Amazon Kindle.