Monday, 23 May 2011

The great clean up begins

Spend the day throwing stuff out. Hurtling worn objects (torn coat, size 4 wellington boots, broken picture frame) into various bins (giveaway, recycle, charity shop, landfill). The experience of shedding these old layers unveils a delight that bursts quickly into exhilaration. This is emotional cleansing indeed. Too long have these objects surrounded me, showing me my own inability to act. But finally, finally I am taking control!

So I embark on the next step: emptying shelves, the ones bending under the weight of my ancient abandoned craft items. I look at boxes filled with unfinished objects and shake my head at my past self in pity. These boxes each speak of my determination at some moment in time not to give in. One day, I would have consoled myself while shovelling book craft into a cardboard box, I will finish making that!

No I won't. I can see now with my elevated gaze that the half-stitched book cover made of carpet tiles was doomed from the start. I punctured two fingers, bled all over the bathroom and dropped the pokey tool down the back of the toilet. I hardly think I'm going to revisit that particular craft project. It speaks now not of hope toiling under adversity, but of misdirected energy, blind failure and misery. In the bin it goes, and joy flows into my heart.

If I throw out all stuff like this, I think, soon I shall leave everything clean and bare!

But something bad happens as I mine down into each heirloom bag and box, finding all the totems of the family past (child dressing-up clothes, ballet costumes). Is this great throwaway at too much of a heady, reckless pace? At what cost?

I start to panic. Maybe I am making bad purging decisions, using all the wrong judgements!

Here is Squirrel's cloud outfit, made for stage performance. I hated the build up. The endless Tuesday ballet groups for 7-year olds, my showing up used as evidence of my parental devotion or damnation. I routinely failed the test. Into the giveaway bag I shove the perfect white tulle.

Then again, I might have not a ballet gene in me, but Squirrel is my little girl. Out the bag pops the sparkly net and nylon.

But I didn't, couldn't, fit. Each week, while the piano tinkled, I found myself locked in a dark, back room with five women driven by the power of sparkly hairgrips. I wanted to scream, kick furniture, smash windows. Into the bag I press the sparkling silver sequins.

Then again, how could I forget Squirrel wearing this? Think of the future! Each time I will fetch it from the cupboard, where it will hang for all my life, I'll touch the tiny sprays of pearl cream beads like raindrops and remember how my little girl wore her most intense, serious expression, her footsteps measuring out her responsibility to be a cloud, three steps left, two steps right. Remembering which is left, and which is right. Out the bag I haul the silver-lined cloud.

I run my fingers over the white edged ribbon. And I really, really hated how I was forced to endure every weekend, evening, and waste the contents of my bank account. Squirrel was never thankful for that type of devotion. She chucked up all the dance the week after I bought the sodding tap shoes at forty quid a pop. Into the bag goes the stiff white net. I push it down hard, and squash it with a witch's hat.

Before I can think again, I quickly shove in three princesses, a torn clown and the red love-heart costume that made my stomach turn, then tie the bag and Hurrah! I broke some sort of barrier.

But, if I can throw out each totem with these fond memories, what else am I capable of casting off? What if I find I can jettison every object? What if, in doing so, I discover I can steadily denude every emotional attachment I've ever made?

What if I leave myself so clean and bare that I will discover I'm not anything at all? That I am all filled up with empty. Gone will be my supporting objects of history, experience and meaning, gone will be all my memory, distress and affection, and I will find I am a floating hollow, and all this clutter only served to wrap around a person-shaped space, one who isn't there, not in any way, any where, any more.