What you leave behind
After years of accumulation of books, papers, notebooks, research photocopies, old letters and journals I’m coming to a place where it’s time to go through the material and down-size. This fills me with a sense of giddiness (well, after the hard labour of sorting through the shelves, files and boxes…!). How marvellous to be free of the tether of material things! When Daughter and I were in Edmonton for one academic year we took with us mostly clothing, ‘though I brought along some few books and, of course, my laptop and printer. It was so freeing to realize that one needed very few things to live very well. I’d love to feel like that every day!
What do I save? What do I destroy? (Are feminist archivists screaming?) University and library archives collect writers’ stuff. Especially early drafts of novels with marginalia, letters between two writers/artists, relevant business letters, journals, etc. I’m torn because on the one hand I think my private life and private journals are private, but on the other hand recognize that the personal is political and that there hasn’t been enough saved and researched on the lives of women. All these archives filled with the lives of men of belle lettres and women only more recently gaining a foothold in the stupid canon. Shoot me out the cannon, I say! In a tutu and fishnet stockings, blasting a foghorn as I sail above everyone’s head toward my event horizon!
In the grand non-scheme of things my mortal time and space is nothing more than a single heartbeat in a vast dark universe. And the universe will reabsorb me just like I breathe in motes of dust. (This is an image that reassures me though I suppose it may give others the willies.) So really? What do my papers matter?
But then maybe this vantage point is too far out. It’s unlikely I’ll ever get to see the Earth from outer space (Billionaire Benefactor, hear my plea!!! I’ll dedicate my next un-nice novel to you! ^__^) let alone leave the Milky Way. And I am of this Earth and of the communities of people around me. I’m a small part of the greater body of feminists, writers, artists, activists, queer folk of my time.
A writerfriend told me that really personal stuff can be sealed and not be accessible until a time you’ve specified. A very good thing to do if you have children. There are some things children would rather not know about their parent(s) and that’s perfectly acceptable.
So I’m torn. I think about how wonderful it would feel to shred all my old stuff and fold it into the composter! Really! Awesome! It may feel like a snake shedding her skin…. Oooooooo! Lovely. The snake doesn’t hoard all her old skins and save them in an archive! (Hmmmm, nice story image. And reminding me of the cell libraries in A Door Into Ocean. Love that book. Tho the first 1/3 was kinda slow-going. Well worth the patience, tho!)
Haven’t made up my mind. The scale is almost perfectly balanced. I’ve a deadline on this project so I must make a choice. I suppose many writers/artists go through similar dilemmas. <shrug>
I’ll post on this when I’ve come to my decision! ^__^