Now our minds are filled with the things about ourselves which we want to change. Things about our lives which we must change. For another year in stasis is unimaginable. Floating. In between swimming to somewhere and drowning. Floating is nothing. Someone come and see me through the glass. Come see my skin chalky, opaque through the glass. My eyes empty and my lips half open. Someone come see me through that glass and not recognize me, the water distorting my features, twisting my shape. For I am on your stage and waiting clear for all to see. For I am waiting for the one to find the beauty there. To crack the glass open with the chisel and hammer. First knock at the aquarium and a score and a rip. Soon will the shards explode and the water fall and out will walk the shriveled skin into the air. Lift a face to the no more refracted light. The full on yellow light. New, fresh, born.
Walk straight on, beauty, and let that light warm your skin till it feels again like it should. Wet clothes drying and the damp seams still clinging. All five senses will love the quickening of life without muffling water and glass. Oh how the music will fill your head. Oh how the glistening will delight. Look around, beauty, decide what you will take with you, memories selected and pondered, decide and decide and place each neatly labeled and stored, easy to find for reminiscing. But leave plenty of room for all the new. For in all this open space you leave the echoes of your singing, and they will lift your soul. Heavy exchanged for light. Much though empty traded for less though full.
I am cleaning out the basement. I am pulling box after box out from deep under stairs, off of too high shelves. Box after box of things kept. Of objects set aside for what purpose. Of objects permitted to take up space in my world. Remove the lid and take the things out one by one and again and again the things that seemed significant before seem meaningless now. Oh but then in a moment that thing seems to be everything. Hold on or let go. Hold on or let go. I was holding on so tight, I was holding on so tight, I didn’t know that no one was holding on to me.
Contents, contents, contents everywhere. It’s a mess. The give away pile, heaping. The keeping piles sorted and overflowing, all over the room. I must clear a space before I can even keep working, for the sheer amount of accumulation is in my way. It is directly in the midst of this process when I begin to question its beginning. Should I really open that box and deal with all those decisions, or can I just continue to drag it behind me as I live my life? All these things, some of them not even my own, in my way.
But it must be this way for awhile. To make things better one must drag out into the open all that is problem causing. A surface tidying never truly solves anything. I’ll just end up going back and doing it all over again. The right way. So, box after box I open and sort. Open and sort and decide and decide and decide.
Open yet another bin of toys and here is how my mind drifts: I am seven. I am visiting somewhere and ask for the toys I know they keep for such as me. Into the closet and under the coats and that heavy old smell is a little red box. It is small enough for me to pull out with my hands and set on the braided oval rug. I open it and a few toys are inside. A Barbie, a few doll clothes, a tiny metal car, some little, colored, wooden blocks. Some metal toy dishes. And I am happy. I am fine. I sit on that rug, in the dim inside, blonde head bent, legs in knee socks, and play. My lips move as I sing to myself. Later I am handed a piece of paper and a pen. I am okay to draw and write for a bit. And later I will walk to the chicken house, or to the grassy field and feel sunshine on my face and goosebumps on my arms.
I was fine with that little box of toys. It was easy to take stock and understand what I had to work with. It was easy to lay all the things out. Sort them into directions for my pretending mind to wander. It is easy to love one doll. It is easy to decide what to pretend. A washcloth from the linen closet is the rug. A book, borrowed from the nearby shelf and balanced on a few blocks, become the doll’s table. I dress her and bend her plastic legs and balance her on a trinket box for a chair. She is having dinner on the giant metal dishes, no matter the scale. Behind her, on the red tile hearth, the tiny metal car is pushed and slid along. How fast can it go before it is stopped by the friction of the carpet. I put the doll’s feet on it, and she skates. And maybe by then an hour has passed, and it is time to go. And I was fine. Though no one made a world for me, I made a world for myself.
But here am I keeping box after box of toys. Dolls and all their clothes and bonnets and blankets and matching shoes in a suitcase made for them. Animals of every size and material. A stable with horses and more dolls to ride them. Legos. Games. Blocks. Dishes. And picture books and chapter books and Christmas stories and comic books and adventure novels. A parachute, a high chair, Little People and footballs and pillow pets and puzzles.
Memories are not things. But things are memories. And I hold this plastic horse in my hand and I can feel my baby girl. Open this page and his little finger will find the mouse. Tiny little world see how she arranges all her things. See how the too long days became too short years. See how the left behind loves on the carpet have become memories in bins.
All of life’s philosophy exemplified. Where will I look and keep my eyes? Changing the sheets and making the bed for the joy that other people bring, like a present for Christmas, a summer weekend in the country, a birthday cake with candles once a year, a perfect new play set assembled. Or will I look in the red box every day, right here behind the coats in the closet, joy to sleep with every night. Joy in the today and tomorrow and the next. In whatever is there. In whatever I can find. Make joy. Make a world. Make it for yourself.
Let go. Let go of too many things, the fabricated world. Let go of pictures that didn’t ever happen. Let go of stacks and stacks that bury memories beneath, unreachable without effort. Let go of over and old and broken and unneeded. Let go of doubles and too many and perfect gifts unwanted.
And then, hold on. Hold on to arms around and through and along. Hold on to fingers touching mine and smiles across tables. Hold on to long looks that understand. Words spoken and pictures that existed and exist and will exist. Hold on to little girls playing on braided rugs and baby fingers pointing in books. Hold on to white sheets flapping in the wind. Hold on to waists standing in front of a sink and a window. To hair that catches the light. To ideas. To stories. To me. Hold on, tears in eyes and gestures that endear. Hold on to me.