Groundwork: Wading Through It by Nancy Fitzpatrick

an embraceable life Jun 09, 2018

My life is a mess. 

I don’t mean that I’m in legal hot water or that my relationships are screwed up or that my house is battling grime and dust balls.Au contraire, my current daily existence is like a bumper sticker. Life Is Good. 

I am retired, or as I like to say, post-career. I am not crazy-busy every second. Barring the usual aches and pains, I’m healthy. I’m married to a kind, funny, smart, good-looking man who indulges me beyond belief. (Think coffee in bed every morning while I read novels.) I can prioritize exercise and seeing friends instead of squeezing those things into leftover spaces. My adult children are pleasures to be with and my ex is a friend. And…the clincher…I have a new granddaughter, the world’s most beautiful and precocious 8-month old.

So, what’s this mess that plagues me?  Or rather the multi-messes that lurk behind closed doors in my house, in my new workspace and in several rooms and barns at The Red Lion Inn? What is truly rattling my gray matter? Stuff. Stuff. STUFF!!

A quartet of photos from left to right: 1/Fine porcelain and glassware from my mother and behind that my son's crib in need of repair. Also about 100 Projectile Art tee shirts and some really cool mid-century whicker. 2/ A dozen file drawers with 40 years worth of travel brochures, receipts, maps etc. 3/ A giant photo of my mother, sister and me, old appliances and some wallpaper. Also archival boxes full of "rare" stuff. 4/ My grandmother's satin and lace graduation dress, fragile and falling apart but still beautiful. She was from a modest family. The mystery is how she had such a rich dress? Another mystery: there are eight granddaughters...Why did I end up with this??

Yes. That old bugaboo. That old cliché. The detritus of life. Of lives. Mine, yes but also my mother’s, my father’s and to some degree, my sister’s. And let’s not forget the business we recently had to liquidate. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do much sorting or hefting there, but that mess has thoroughly scrambled my cerebellum. What do you do with a landmark like the Hubby’s Cabins sign or family mementos sprinkled through a hundred thousand square feet of warehouse/office space? 

My blood pressure rises just writing these words. Anxiety wells up even as my intentions soar. Feeling like a warrior, I’m ready to do battle with these beasts. I’m ready to open one door after another and pounce. POUNCE. And sort and toss and make piles. And then…Inertia. Stupor.

I am paralyzed. My head stops working. I can barely sort the colored file folders from the buff ones. Most of the paper clips I ever used form a small mountain near  stacks of empty manilla folders. Will anyone in the future use so many paperclips? I go to the coffee shop for an iced latte. How many copies of my father’s birth certificate to I need to keep? Maybe none? What about the condolence notes, so heartfelt and appreciated.

Every thank you note I’ve ever received, I have saved. Each one, passionate or perfunctory, holds a person-to-person connection that acknowledges something I did, and adds connection and fellowship to my time on the planet. This is not rubbish, but that’s where I’m supposed to heave my stuff? 

This is, for me, the current groundwork, wading through these relics of several lives. Wading and wondering...And it’s okay for now. If I’m still doing it in a year, I’ll request a firm kick in the butt! 


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