I’ve been clearing out boxes of my mementoes, in lieu of our upcoming move. I’m not a hoarder generally, but the one thing I hold on to is paper: letters, postcards, photos (when we used to print them out!), ticket stubs, event programmes. I’ve got shoeboxes labelled per year, and each one is brimming over with words. We’ve moved so many times in the past decade and I’ve dragged these ten or so boxes around the country with me each time, so today I decided that enough is enough.
The thing is, after going through each one with a fine toothed comb, is that all these interactions, all these feelings, that felt so unbelievably intense at the time, well – I can barely remember them now. I will state that my long term memory is not great. You know those people who can remember what happened at that one party in 2001 and what you wore as well? I’m not one of those people.
But you would think that you’d still be holding on to that particularly painful break up or betrayal, and that some of those feelings would linger a bit. It felt so traumatic at the time. And now? Well, there is just peace. And a vague feeling that you’ve forgotten something (perhaps this is what happens after 40 though;). Of course, I know that in the grander scheme of life, that these things I felt then were not truly awful things. They were simply part of a life that has been lucky, and has mostly been spared large bouts of trauma.
Still, is this what living is about? Intense periods of emotion followed by simply forgetting? Or is this what they mean when they say “this too shall pass”? Or is it more about youth as a life phase? Those feelings you felt were so powerful in your earlier years were actually not that powerful, instead that was just your inner self learning how to be human?
I sorted through each box. Saved the letters from my mum. Ached at the loop and slope of her handwriting. Sniffed at postcards from my gran, I swear they still smell like the perfume she used to wear (lilacs or roses I think). Laughed at how bad most of the photos were – so blurry and dark. Marvelled at the friends I’ve made. The people I’ve had in my life so far. Wondered why I’d chosen to save chocolate wrappers, feathers, pebbles and bits of ribbon (am I secretly a magpie lining a metaphorical nest?!). Felt grateful that I’ve now learned how to shape my eyebrows properly. And also that I finally have (sort of) cheekbones.
Looking down at those boxes, my life felt so full. Like gratitude brimming over. Blame 2020 and moving countries but I’m unbelievably sentimental and nostalgic at the moment. What are we put on this planet for, after all, but to love? It makes me think of the above Raymond Carver quote, which I always carry around with me in my head and in my heart.
I hope you all have good weeks. I hope there is love.