Here I’ll put what I forgot to put in the original post.
After the intense detailsdetailsdetails of helping my parents get rid of stuff and then overseeing their professional packers and movers and unpackers, I found that instead of wanting to subside afterwards, I was fired up in a pointed way and needed to start fooling with my own possessions. The next thing I knew, I was doing a book purge of own, even though just recently I’d felt, after the prior purge, that my library was really fine as it was. A friend who lives in my building, on hearing that it was my deluded wish to alphabetize all my books (~1950), volunteered to help me, despite herself being weighed down with familial and professional obligations. Together we pulled down all my books, she egged me on to get rid of things I’d never considered giving up before (“Do you need the complete works of Trollope anymore, or can you get by with the half dozen ones you tend to reread?”), and she, younger and spryer than I, did most of the actual sorting by letter and schlepping of books between the living room and the bedroom. (Why is living room two words and bedroom one word?)
So not only did I attain separation of fiction and nonfiction, and alphabetization, but I actually had some room left over. It won’t last, because even when I think I’m being prudent about buying books, somehow at least 5 new books find their way in here every 3 or 4 weeks, between liking a long walk to end up at a bookshop, and the ease of, after hearing about some interesting book, 1-clicking it on Amazon. (And yet I also use the public library A LOT, and some time should post about what makes me need to buy a book as opposed to being content to borrow it, read it, and return it.)
Getting to handle all my books, to look at the covers of volumes that had long been visible only by their spines, made me feel wonderful, like Donald Duck’s rich uncle jumping around in his gold heaps.
The picture above shows the ‘recent acquisitions but not actually all of them’ assembly which sits next to my favorite spot on the sofa. Many of these were bought at the suggestion of the Backlisted podcast, and some just because they looked interesting at the moment. Conrad is on top because I’m going to read those next-ish. The function of this not-a-pile-but-a-row is not so much that I’ll actually read these any time soon, but that they were of recent pique to my interest and came into the apartment in the last few months. I like to feast my eyes on them.
The fervor that led to the book organization orgy then led me on, in the weeks after my father’s death, to do the same to my entire apartment. I’m fortunate to have a decent sized 1-bedroom, and while I have a lot of stuff, it was all stored more or less adequately, but the urge was on me like gangbusters to address every single little focal point of clutter, then every overstuffed drawer, closet rod, linen closet shelf, and with the help of a lovely professional organizer, my tip of a kitchen, which took two full days to sort out and which now looks like the kitchen of my actual self, ie, someone who mostly eats take-out and doesn’t need all that kitchen stuff piled up on all those visual surfaces.
Then I decided that my vague dreamy dreams about wanting to freshen the paint went from vague to Must Get Rooms Painted This Moment. Now my kitchen is Stop Light Green, and my bedroom, which used to be Eggshell with a very dirty brown wall to wall carpet, is now Ryan Red, with a bare wooden floor.
And of course, in the midst of all of this, I was listening obsessively to things like Slate’s Trumpcast and Political Gabfest and Pod Save America and the BBC News and seemingly every other second-by-second dire reportage about the Decline And Fall Of Everything, which I just COULD. NOT. LEAVE. ALONE.
All this bustle took up several weeks in October, November, December, and soothed me, because being a Domestic Goddess seemed to counteract the fact that I didn’t seem to be mourning in quite the right way, ie, I wasn’t sorry, and I was frequently irritable with my mother, and I was eating compulsively at a rate that I haven’t done in years. I kept thinking, ‘what will I do with myself when I run out of things to tidy*? Because I’m certainly not going to suddenly finish my novel or anything like that.’
In fact, I was fortunate, at that moment, after silence on that front since the end of March, to get called for a gig. The gig ended up being put off for a few days, in which I scrambled the last of my home tasks and nagged the painter to finish the last of the last of the kitchen, and suddenly I was a Freelance American again. At least for the moment.
Now if I could just somehow be overtaken in 2018 by a similar fervour and clearness around creative writing, THAT would be something. Is it too much to think I’ll never see the inside of The Zone again? Well, probably yes, because I’m Eeyore.
*Tidy is one of my favorite words, because it feels so old fashioned and kind of dumb. Like dainty, another favorite, and frock for dress. A perfect sentence, when I’m some moods, would be, “I could tidy up that dainty frock.”