Life Is A Pile Of Papers

Doing Morning Pages at the living room desk I was troubled by piles of paper on the shelves to either side. Mail, drafts essays, reminders, notes, a magazine, two folders, and whatever was at the bottoms of the piles. I kept writing my pages, knowing I’m best served by doing one thing at a time, but those piles nagged at me.

Soon as I finished writing, I consolidated the piles into one and cleared one shelf. I breathed a little easier. Hoarding works up my anxiety. Clarity lowers it. That clear shelf had me feeling better. Not fully healed but a smidge calmer.

The tough thing about a pile of papers is that some of it can’t be cleared easily. The essay drafts, one that’s twelve pages long, need revision that will take hours. More troubling, I don’t know what to do when they’re done. I’d like to think they could be published, but I would need to figure out where and how to do that. Piled papers are daunting, but just the thought of finding somewhere to publish exhausts me so that I don’t want to even begin.

As I worked into the pile, I thought of this Fitzgerald quote: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly into the past.” I’ll argue it’s not the past into which I have to let myself be pulled. I beat on against the current to be in the moment. Sure, I’m often dragged back and waste too much energy trying to peer into the future, but I’m trying to be in this moment. That pile of papers is an affront to this moment. It is to me. It represents what I should do or should have already done. How can I be in this moment when I’m embarrassed by the things I haven’t done and wishing for a future in which I am a better man?

Morning Pages served as the first draft of this. I’m done with them now and typing this last thought. Soon I’ll walk those pages downstairs and file them. That much will be done and cleared away. I’ll check if there’s time to dig in more, clear away even one more piece of paper. I’m rowing hard against the current, stubbornly working at being in this moment with a clear mind if not a clear desk, ready for what is happening and whatever comes next.

This Shouldn't Be Difficult

I'm wearing an old orange sweater with blue stripes and worrying about it. I haven't worn it all winter as it has been buried under other clothes on a closet shelf. Last week, working on minimalism, I pulled the clothes down and each day have worn something from there to see if it's worth keeping. I eliminated one sweater without even trying it on and kept two others right away. Today, however, I'm stuck in a ridiculous quandary over this sweater. I've been thinking for hours about keeping or discarding it. Like I have nothing better to do.

The sweater is comfortable though a bit baggy and long. The cuffs are not elastic, so I can't push the sleeves up as I like. Obviously it should go into the bag of clothes to donate. Problem solved. Except...

Except for "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

To get rid of a sweater I bought, especially if it's still of use, is not at all frugal. Sure, it's not perfect, but it's not bad and it works. Getting rid of it would be such a waste.

This is the fine line between minimalism and frugality, not at all unlike the quandary in Spinal Tap:

David St. Hubbins: It's such a fine line between stupid, and uh...
Nigel Tufnel: Clever.
David St. Hubbins: Yeah, and clever.

I'm in this mess because I pulled down a pile of clothing, things I haven't worn in a year and found I've got too much stuff. Even without this one I have too many sweaters. This isn't a difficult decision. Come on already.

I'll put it in the donation bag and I'll feel some regret, not for any sentimental attachment to the sweater but for a sentiment about making do and using things until they wear out. But mostly I think I'm trying to escape a mistake.

I bought the sweater and other clothes when I already had too much clothing. That was a mistake and it won't erase the mistake if I make another by hanging onto something I don't need. It will just be a burden.

This shouldn't be that difficult but it is for me. There is so much stuff weighing me down right now. Some of those things are things I've bought that I haven't needed and which I don't use. More of it is the job I'm quitting and questions I have about what comes next. Too much clothing, too much depression, too much anxiety. I need to let some things go and a sweater is an easy place to start.

It may be that I'm assigning more importance to keeping the sweater than it deserves. In all the confusion about my present and future, it's sometimes easier to obsess over an old orange sweater with blue stripes than apply for jobs, write a book, or figure out finances. I can (eventually) make a decision, donate it, and move on to the next piece of clothing.

Maybe other things can be settled so easily.