Tag Archives: memories

Hey you…get off of my cloud.

The boxes are unpacked, a place has been found for everything, and everything is indeed in its place. The stress of the move has faded like the cardboard paper cuts that hacked away at my hands those first few days in the new apartment. The space feels less like a “new place” and more like home.
Surveying the apartment, it is clear that it will never reach the sparsity that a true minimalist requires, but I think it’s reached a nice balance of stuff to space. Although I still have a few pictures strewn about, a dining cabinet filled with tabletop items, and full size furniture in every room of the house, there is still a good flow. The space feels open and airy, not claustrophobic. As I said in my last post (at least I think I said this in my last post, humor me) my family and I have been very happy since we moved here. There is a completely different energy compared to our last apartment and with that energy, a sense of possibility and an overall feeling of peace.
Ok, I don’t know for sure whether or not it is the new space or lack of superfluous belongings that have brought the three of us to such a zen-like state, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I know that I could probably go even further and purge more of our stuff, but in the short term I am content with the stasis reached on all things material. Though I must admit, I never see myself going 100% in on the minimalist home idea. One tiny chair in the corner of a huge, empty room is a little too “french movie” for my tastes. I like my home to look streamlined, yes, but still feel cozy. White washed walls with a tiny Lucite dining set does not say “cozy” to me.
So, does this mean I fail at minimalism? Ultimately, yes, but fuck that. I may not be the textbook definition of the movement, but when have I ever been the textbook definition of ANYTHING (aside from “fabulous,” natch.) No, like everything else, I am going to half-ass write my own definition. I am going to do minimalism…my way. There are PLENTY of other areas where I can trim the excess in my life.
For example, did you know that right now you could be suffering from “digital clutter?” Of course you didn’t! Who the fuck would?

Has this happened to you?

That is the lamest sounding bullshit EVER.

It’s true though. There are literally tens of blogs written about how people have too much stuff gunking up their desktops, their inboxes, their “clouds,” along with the proper ways to tidy up their digital life, no trip to the troposphere necessary.
I’ve decided this will be my next project. So far, I’m going to be honest, it fucking blows. Not because I have too many errant files or an inbox loaded with garbage, but because I have come to realize that I have dribs and drabs of my digital life all over the goddamn interwebs. Seriously, I am a web-based Hansel and Gretel; I have left bread crumbs all over this virtual forest.
I am not even talking about the now dormant Myspace pages or Livejournals that are out there haunting the internet. Those would easily disappear with a simple click of “delete account” (if I could only remember their passwords!)
I am referring to the various web-based platforms I CURRENTLY use. The website that allows me to bookmark…other websites. The cloud storage website where I store my clouds. The Facebook that apparently houses two of me (don’t even ask me how that happened!) The Twitter page that I still don’t quite understand. The 30,000 different sites I use for photo storage. Pinterest (why!?!). Evernote. My 4 gmail accounts, and (yikes!) my two AOL accounts.
Well, OK I never actually GO to my AOL accounts. One address is older than my daughter and the other was created when J and I were planning our wedding. They’re still out there though…mocking me with their “digital clutter” creating ways.
Or something.
I took a deep breath and decided to start with Evernote, mostly because before this project I forgot I even HAD an Evernote account, so I figured there was no way for it to possibly backed up with virtual garbage.
Much to my joy, I was right. In fact, the account was practically empty save for a few random “to do” lists from 2010 and a handful of blog ideas that never manifested. This would be easy! I deleted the to do lists immediately and quickly perused the blog ideas for any nugget of salvagability. I was about to declare my Evernote house “CLEAN” when I noticed a folder that I missed in my initial once-over.
The folder was titled “READ ME” and it housed one whole document. There was not one part of my brain that could even begin to recall what this folder could be.
Fearing the rabbit hole I may no doubt fall into were I to open the folder, I thought about deleting its contents sight unseen. My curiosity got the better of me though so I quickly hovered my mouse over the folder and clicked on the icon before I could change my mind.
The title of the lone document was “Melissa Makes a List to Prove What She Already Knows.” It was created July 14, 2010. It sounded fairly innocuous, so I opened it. The document fleshed out in one page reasons for staying or leaving my soul-crushing corporate job.

Should I stay or should I go now?

There were 2 reasons for me to stay.

Despite the recession, despite living in a (gorgeous) apartment that cost more a year than the average person makes, despite my total lack of plan or safety net, the “Reasons to Go” column prevailed. I gave my notice two days after that document’s creation.
Looking at the list almost two years later, I feel as though a completely different person wrote it. I can’t believe I allowed myself to be that miserable for a (shitty) paycheck! I can’t believe I let myself be defined by my house and my “things” instead of my character, my actions, and my relationships. I can’t believe I didn’t set my cube on fire and lead the publishing proletariat to freedom (or at the very least smack my boss upside the head with an Intro Spanish textbook.)
So much about my life has changed since I walked away from the “security” of the corporate world. I have made the most amazing connections. I have taken to the streets and been arrested fighting for social justice. I have been a part of HISTORY, for chrissakes! Only one year ago my daughter and I sat in the NY State Senate gallery and watched as the Marriage Equality Bill was passed. You don’t get to experience anything quite like that sitting in a cube creating “one pagers” for fucking textbooks.
The connections I’ve made, the experiences I’ve had, the relationships that have been renewed and deepened, the life I have built in less than two years time feels more mine now than any other time in my life.
I thought about saving the list. Yeah, it’s intended use had passed and could now easily be classified as “digital clutter,” but so what. It was also a reminder of how far I’ve come and keep going on the crazy road that is my life. I may be more sure of myself now than I have ever been, but even the most confident person sometimes needs to bring to mind a time when they weren’t so sure.
I kept the list…in the trash. I figured at the very least deleting the original folder it was housed in gave the illusion of less clutter. Minimalism my way. It may not be the spartan internet presence a true minimalist requires, but who cares, it works for me, and that’s really all that matters.
So far I haven’t really felt the sense of ease one is supposed to feel as they wipe their web life clean…maybe after I delete the 24,485 emails on AOL…
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Memories are Made of This

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” John Lennon

 

There are only so many, “oops my bad” intros I can have to explain away why, for all intents and purposes, this whole project is FUBAR, so I won’t even bother.

Suffice it to say I have always had the best of intentions for keeping up with this blog and its underlying theme. Unfortunately though, it would appear that intentions are like opinions, and well, we all know what they’re like.

You can have your life mapped out to the minute, but when the universe has something else in mind, (which she often does) that map becomes about as good as the theoretical paper it’s written on.

Indeed the universe was not impressed with my map and proved it by snatching it out of my hands, setting it on fire, and throwing it at my head.

In the plainest of terms, my life basically blew up in the last month, and I am just now clearing away the debris. This foundational explosion of my existence however, wasn’t all bad.

No, I am lying, it was really, really, REALLY bad…but not unlike the spectrum of light that appears through the clouds after a rainstorm, the aftermath is proving to be quite a thing of beauty.

Just over one month ago my husband’s grandfather by lineage but father by actions was taken to the hospital. It was clear that this was the beginning of the end.  How soon that end was to be however came as quite a shock when he passed away just 12 days later.

You may ask why the death of my in-laws patriarch would rock my life in such a major way.

Or you may not, whatever, I am going to tell you anyway.

From the moment we were introduced he took me in as one of his own, but more than that, my daughter became his world.

Avie and Papa, celebrating life

I can still hear them playing up in his room, him trying to coax her to say, “I love you” and her dancing around, oblivious to the spell she had cast. Though her and Mama had become fast friends, Avie was incredibly coy with Papa for the first few months that he was in her life.

Our first Christmas as part of their family, I was able to convince Avie to record a message to Papa on an electronic picture frame. She simply said, “Hi Papa, I love you.”

When he opened the meager gift Christmas Eve, and was shown how to make the gadget work, he beamed. More than anything else that lay before him wrapped in shiny holiday paper, this gift was everything. He proceeded to play the message over…and over…and over, until I am pretty sure we all went to bed that night hearing, “Hi Papa, I love you… (click) Hi Papa, I love you…(click) Hi Papa…”

Avie and I came into his life when his health was starting its slow decline, but we were still lucky enough to bask in his presence and energy. And boy, what energy! Those early Sunday dinners, though nothing special gastronomically, were by far some the best memories I have of my in-laws. Sitting around the table, long after the pasta had cooled, and the vinaigrette had begun to congeal slightly at the bottom of the salad bowl, we would listen in awe, as Papa would regale us with amazing personal narratives that almost always seemed to end with him threatening someone’s life, or punching someone in the face.

Lingering over limoncello and legend became a regular Sunday affair and before long the sun was setting on our first summer together. J and I went to his grandparents for our usual visit one Sunday in August, but there was nothing usual about it. It was one of those late summer evenings where the air begins to hint at a cooler time to come, enticing you to squeeze all of the life you can out of the remaining daylight.

Dinner came with its customary show, but the real entertainment happened after the meal was over. J and I brought over a Dean Martin record that I had given him as an early token of our budding romance. While Mama did the dishes, J and I put the record on the turntable in the dining room. For a brief moment, the sounds of the Italian crooner drifted through the house and transported us all back to a different time. Through music and memory, J and I got to experience a sense of Mama and Papa’s early amore, all while living in the moment of our own. We danced and sang, we laughed and watched as, for a short while, any ailments that had steadily attempted to eat away at their already fragile bodies seemed to vanish, and through Dino’s words, they were again able to live la vita bella.

Time marched on, as it has a way of doing, and the Sunday dinners became fewer and far between. Soon, Mama and Papa required assistance in the house, and despite the fact that J’s mother took on the task; dinners were never quite the same as those first summer gatherings.

It’s easy to disassociate yourself from the reality of your loved ones failing health. Your own life becomes a distraction and before long 8 years have passed and you’re standing over the casket of someone you just kind of always expected to be there.

Though this wasn’t the first death I had experienced by far, it definitely hit me in a way that I wasn’t at all expecting. I have lost blood relatives of all ages. I’ve seen friends lose their parents, and I’ve cried over the loss of friends my own age. No death until now however has made me examine my own mortality in such an explicit manner. I don’t know if it’s just my age, but it’s as though Papa’s death has shifted all of us one step closer to the great precipice, and it became painfully clear that I am just not ready to fall to the other side.

I immediately took stock in my life at its current state. All of the parts that I had been unhappy about but felt too paralyzed to truly fix suddenly appeared in crystalline focus. One by one I placed each life fragment into two mental piles, “toss” or “change.” Obviously I can’t toss my health, but I can change the amount of exercise I get and what I ingest into my body. Despite the fact that school was an expensive commitment I had set up for myself, I had never been truly happy there, and as of late felt that it was more of a waste of time than anything. Though I worried about what my next steps would be were I to quit, and still worry, nevertheless I made the decision to put my MSW studies on hold. It has only been two weeks, but my general demeanor has lightened, and the load off my chest is immeasurable. I’ve been saying that I wanted to hone my photography skills for the better part of ever, but always seemed to find less constructive ways to occupy my free time. I’ve since been picking up my camera every chance that I get in an attempt to self-teach as much of the craft as I can. I honestly love it.

So, what does this all mean? Do my loved ones have to die in order for me to cut through my complacency and actually live rather than merely exist? Perhaps, but fuck, for their sake, I hope not! I prefer to think that this was just one unfortunate incident I needed to finally push myself in the direction I have been so afraid to move toward on my own. Papa’s life, more than his demise, has served as a reminder that it all really is fleeting, and it’s up to us to make our own memories, so that one day we too can sit around the dinner table regaling our grandchildren with stories of living la vita bella.