The Tiny Things
Good morning. Meet my blog with an identity crisis.
The reason she has not shown up here for weeks/months is because she doesn't know how or what she wants to be.
Momtemplative (pronounced to rhyme with contemplative) was born just before COVID showed up, early 2020, and she then became a chronicle of Those Early Days, highly crafted and researched pieces that took hours, even with both kids at home. An hour in the morning, a few (highly distracted) hours in the evening and a LOT of perseverating—that was the recipe. Then, she hit a wall in the autumn of 2020. The magic was gone. It all felt forced and predictable and, well, empty. She felt like she was putting hours into pieces that were read by 12-25 people, tops. Suddenly it all felt like a colossal waste of time. Her moral sunk, she chewed on "why bother" til her jaw locked up.
Then she got back to it. She decided to be pithy for the New Year, to write weekly, with a lighter, 500-word touch. But this did not take less time or brain-juice. And the weekly aspect rushed the magic, like she was constantly checking her watch. None of it felt particularly right or like enough, and she had no steam for any other writing that may ask for time and nuance, perhaps to be submitted to a journal or publication. But she couldn't simply go away, be all done. She, Momtemplative, was now a living, breathing thing. She loved being able to put words out there into the atmosphere like typing into a clear blue sky without any middle-man. When it was good, it felt like texting directly with God.
After a matter of weeks, the Light-Touch-500 grew to whatever it wanted to be. There were some gems in there, some duds, mostly a beige polyester-blend of something in between. But, (and this is the part where, if you had a few of those little Fourth-of-July crackers that pop against the hard ground, it would be good to throw them at a wall now to drive home the point) it started to feel like an assignment, and assignments live in the real estate of the Head, and we know the best shit grows from the fertile compost of the Heart and Gut.
So, toss another wardrobe into the bin, today, Tuesday, she is naked (metaphorically, literally she is quite the opposite with fleece attached to every body part but fingers) with a light caffeine buzz and a microphone held to her chest. She does not want to be composed, she does not want to be curated, or crafted or controlled. (But she does want to be validated and acknowledged and is that still possible without having all her shit together?)
Today, she just wants to write something honest. Simple as that.
So, what exactly is wrestling around inside the rib cage in this moment?
Let's talk about the fact that the Grimes Family is moving out of our house entirely, squarely in the midst of the holidays. We are having renovations done on our Elm Street House that we love more for its deep roots in the community and the school system than for the actual house. So we decided, after 14 years, and after 2 years of COVID forcibly instilling an un-blindness to the odd, mis-matched, poorly-executed-in-the-first-place physical space of our home, to make some changes. 4-6 months worth of changes. So many changes that we need to remove every solitary object from every corner, cupboard, shelf. We will take the few pieces of furniture we plan to keep with us to the tiny rental, but the rest goes (or has gone). What's left of what has accumulated over 14-years-and-two-kids must be distilled to fit into the tiny crawl space and half our garage. (The other half needs to store the kitchen appliances that we will not be getting rid of.)
What a worthwhile exercise!
Let's talk about the Tiny Shit that accumulates in a lived-in space like organic bobble growth or mold or the molting of foreign objects in the dark. Drawers full of orphaned lids, buttons, beads, one barbie shoe, an alarming collection of gift cards with unknown value. Shit that's homeless and, individually, small enough to fit in an envelope. Collectively, it could fill the bed of a Tacoma.
Months ago, I took a personal vow to do everything in my power to keep things that we discard out of the landfill. But does that include one rogue part-of-a-plastic Command hook, a random Ken doll head, a locket from when I was teeny and a button from when I was a cheerleader for the Heritage Huskies in Middle school, the prime years of my youth? How about three marker-caps, a used eraser with an eyeball on it and a, is that a tooth??
Where does one draw the line in triaging the endless stream of worthless bits, while maintaining an inkling of good humor but still being able to rest at night with morals in place?
There is something so tantalizing about the blind-shoveling option, where you just get rid of everything in a space, buh-by, swift and painless into a box for Arc—you are kicking the can of having things go into a landfill, but you can fool yourself into thinking that you are somehow taking the virtuous road that way since you are not the one to do the tossing. This baby-bathwater approach also leaves you susceptible to throwing something out that could be of some importance to your child or partner.
You could resolve to go through every bit of minutia and wind up brain dead and resentful to everyone, especially the dog simply because he takes up so much space.
Is there another option? Phone a friend? Minutia-sifting wine parties? And as strangely enjoyable as that sounds as a scene-in-the-life, (read: great music, thematic dress), the CLOCK IS TICKING PEOPLE. We currently have three weeks to get it all out and that includes one very-long winter break—a vast and barren land of distractibility—and one, very large CHRISTMAS holiday to tend to.
Anne Patchett discusses the accumulation of Tiny Things in her New Yorker article, "How to Practice," an essay I've read no less than five times, presumably to add a pleasant literary aroma to my own actions and experience. With regards to the personality-less minutia: Every table had a drawer, and every drawer had a story—none of them interesting. I scouted them out room by room and sifted through the manuals and remotes and packets of flower food. I found the burnt-down ends of candles, campaign buttons, nickels, a shocking quantity of pencils, more decks of cards than two people could shuffle through in a lifetime. I gathered together the paper clips, made a ball out of the rubber bands, and threw the rest away.
Then there is the shit that may be monetarily worthless, but that still matters: The sandwich-size ziplock of my grandmother’s costume jewelry nearly sank me, all those missing beads and broken clasps. I have no memory of her wearing any of it, but she liked to sort it now and then, and she let my sister and me play with it. Somehow the tangle of cheap necklaces and bracelets and vicious clip-on earrings had managed to follow her all the way to the dementia ward.
A good friend said to me, "So, you guys are probably going to be those people who talk about their renovation all the time now."
Fact is, I'm way more interested in creating a doctoral dissertation about the Exercise of Clearing Space. It is a mental/emotional/physical experience. The more shit that leaves the house the more I see Jesse and I stretching out, breathing more deeply, walking lighter. I even see him do a little jig down the hall when nobody's watching. There is less to tend to, to sort, to put away. There is mental/emotional/physical aeration.
It's the existential difference between shlepping five lopsided bags to each and every event of a day (remember all the shlepping that had to happen with babies??), 90% remaining unused but you had it just in case, versus fitting everything you need into one tiny fanny pack that your husband got you for your 15th wedding anniversary.
Everything changes when you can go hands-free.