Saying Goodbye to Physical Relics of My Memories

I had a great day yesterday. Even though I was still fighting off my fever, I felt a lot better than I had in Monday. Ben had taken the day off to be my chaperone for the colonoscopy. Even though it was rescheduled, we decided to keep the day off because he has to use his remaining time off by the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30th. He can take the day off in two weeks again for the rescheduled exam and still have extra time, so we decided there was no reason not to stay home. Plus, unlike on most of his vacation days where he stays home, I wasn’t working a full-day either, since I had already alerted my supervisors that I wouldn’t be working most of the day because of my procedure. That made for an especially fun day off because I was able to join in on the things he was doing around the house instead of working all day while he was around doing his own thing.

After working a couple hours in the morning, I put away my laptop. Ben and I had a heavy, but important discussion about some relationship stuff. It can be difficult to bring up issues or vulnerabilities, but our communication has progressed so far over the years that we can talk openly about most everything and count on the support, respect, and care from the other partner. After our conversation, I felt closer and more on the same page with our relationship goals and understanding about some of our challenges as a couple. It felt good to get things out in the open and to recognize that we have worked hard to successfully achieve a closeness and trust in our marriage that we can share such intimate concerns without fearing shame, rejection, or discomfort.

In addition to the emotional work we accomplished in our deep discussion, we also got a lot done in the physical sense yesterday. We finally splurged on the $10 annual fee for a dump sticker. One of the benefits of our tax dollars here in our town is that weekly trash and recycling collection is included. Therefore, we’ve had little need for a supplementary dump membership, save for the two times we’ve moved into our same house and had superfluous waste. Now that we are aggressively trying to sort, clean, and unload junk we’ve amassed over the years and kept in storage, we have the need to offload more than our weekly allowance. Ben obtained a dump sticker and then bagged up and dropped off the garbage we sorted during our work this past weekend in starting to sort what’s been stowed away for so long.

While he did that, I mowed the front and side yard and started on the back. I love mowing but I’m unable to start the mower myself, so I have to rely on his presence to start it up for me. Therefore, I can’t usually mow on weekdays. This was the first pass over our yard this season. Last year, we mostly neglected the backyard because it’s so large and it got overgrown quickly, so it became discouraging to work on as it was too difficult to pass the push mower through such tall grass. We kept up the side and front yard, which are visible to passersby, but even with those, the growth would often get out of hand. This year, we are committed to taking more pride in our home, inside and out, and that entails regular yard work. When we bought the house, the adult children of the family that had owned it tried to sell us a ride-on lawnmower, since that’s what they had used. Between being tapped out on extra money because of the down payment and closing costs and thinking the backyard didn’t look impossibly large, we passed on that purchase. Now I understand why they had used one. It takes a long time to mow the whole yard, especially the back.

After a break for lunch, we both worked on the backyard. I finished all of the mowing while Ben continued his hard manual labor felling dead trees, invasive vines, and unruly bushes. He’s learned to use a chainsaw, clippers, and a variety of pruning instruments and has started to make a noticeable improvement in the unsightly vegetative overgrowth all over our property. When we bought the house, it had not been occupied for some time so the yard was already in poor shape. We moved away for over two years about eight months after moving in, over which time the property grew even wilder. Ben started chipping away at it last fall, but there was so much work to do that it was just a drop in the bucket (not that I’m not impressed or appreciative of what he accomplished himself).

I also sorted more of my boxes in our storage garage once I finished mowing and needed a less physically-demanding task. Much of what I have in there are big plastic bins of memorabilia and childhood belongings that my mom saved for me growing up. After she sold the family house, she disseminated my siblings’ and my belongings to us to deal with however we so choose. I was too emotionally fragile at that time to go through all of the stuff and make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. I must have eight large bins and boxes stuffed with cards, scrapbooks I made, yearbooks, pictures, relics like my Girl Scout vests, and hundreds of trophies, medals, varsity letters and certificates, and newspaper clippings about race performances. I don’t mention this as an excuse to brag about how decorated I am as an athlete, but because the reality is that when I lift the lid on these boxes stuffed to the brim with running accolades, I’m confronted with the painful loss of that part of my identity as such a successful runner. I must also face the decision about what to do with all the physical awards (trophies, medals, etc.) and the stacks and stacks of saved newspaper coverage.

I had initially saved all of those things because I cherished each medal and derived pride and a sense of achievement from looking at them, reading the articles, and remembering the hard work that went into earning those honors. I also figured that I would love to have them to show my own child one day. In fact, many of the childhood toys, diaries, penned stories, and artwork that I saved in these bins initially was with the idea that someday I would have children who would love to see stuff from my childhood. I remember always wanting to see pictures and toys from when my mom was a little girl and she had very few preserved items to show because her parents had not held on to much of anything. Coupled with the fact that I know we won’t be having children, the further I get away from posting those running times, the less tied I am to the material manifestation of the memories. It’s all in my head; I lived every one of the experiences captured in a photo, written about in a news article, or that earned me some sort of athletic hardware. I guess that means it’s time to let all those things go; I’m not sure most of what’s in any of those boxes, even the adorable diary entries about my experiences as a kid or some of the most prestigious trophies garnered, hold enough value anymore to be saved. That’s not to say that it’s easy to add them to the trash pile, but it’s part of the emotional process of moving on in my life I guess. I think it’s good we got a dump sticker because that way, I can have a more permanent goodbye with the more treasured items that I’m getting rid of, without running the risk of salvaging them back out of our trash bin before it’s collected by the truck. I’m often dubbed myself Miss Nostalgia because I think I’m particularly fond of many of my memories, both those stored in my brain and that remain in some sort of material possession or snapshot. It’s not easy for me to let go, which makes perusing all the saved possessions and getting rid of the physical manifestation of some of my fondest memories very upsetting. I think it’ll be important for me to acknowledge the significance of an item and recognize that I still retain the sweet memory surrounding it and allow that to be enough.

I was supposed to see the foot surgeon yesterday but that got moved to the 22nd. Instead, we did a little more housework and then I got to indulge myself in some weekday puzzle time, a rare treat. It seemed well-deserved after the non-job-related, though productive, work accomplished during the day. Today, we are back to our normal routines. I’ll be home alone all day working and taking care of healing Comet. She’s coming along well and shows signs of increasing strength and decreasing pain. We took our first official family walk yesterday post-surgery. I’m confident that from here on out, her mobility and strength will only continue to improve.

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