I have a bad habit of keeping things when I have no use for them. I keep coupons past their expiration dates. Empty shoe boxes. Birthday cards, anniversary cards, Christmas cards, love notes, just because notes, small pieces of paper containing handwriting. Like I'm hanging on to them in case the words that were written decide to fade off of the paper, which means they no longer exist. That the words of love that feel forgotten will just float away. I think that's why I love Facebook so much. It documents everything. Every photo, every funny or heartfelt comment. And at any time you can go back to that time in your head and there it is, right in front of you. Well, you and whomever you are friends with.
Now my addiction to shoe boxes?* That's something I just can't explain. It's like one day I will finally figure out the true reason for keeping them and I can be all smug and tell Thomas, "See?! I TOLD you they would come in handy one day!"
Then there is the part of me that just forgets when it's time to get rid of something. Duplicate photos stashed in tucked away computer folders. They don't take up "space" in a physical sense, so what's the harm? It's not that I'm attached to digital photos, it's just that I forget they're there. Floating around in my hard drive just waiting to be looked at, uploaded, or discarded. Emails in saved folders that have no redeeming quality other than at one point in time they were needed. Paper documentation from my first drivers permit to my last drivers license with the fat face smiling back at the camera. My first home purchase, my second home purchase. And of course both records of their eventual sale. But just like the shoe boxes I hang on to them, as if one day I will have a use for them.
My cell phone is no different than my computer. Folders and files sit in the memory banks waiting to be queued up and looked at. Call logs date back to the day I purchased the phone over a year ago. Text messages from months and months ago are there too. These are the things that I forget about. My life is filled with enough to remember to do, so forgetting to delete something that means nothing is not at the top of my To-Do List. It's not until I start to go through them all am I reminded of why I couldn't delete them in the first place. Like Facebook, my phone stores a photo or a memory of words within it that at a moment's notice I can go and remember that time and that day. Even when those times hurt.
I took this photo somewhere in the skies over the midwest on the morning of September 4th. It was early and I was exhausted. I hadn't even gotten to her yet and I was already mentally wasted. I was terrified but all I knew was that my family needed me more than they had ever needed me in my life. I was sad that I had just wiped the tears from my husband's cheeks as we said goodbye at curbside check-in. I knew I was going to remember those moments for the rest of my life, but this photo speaks volumes of emotions to me. To some it's a photo of clouds, to me it was just the beginning.
I took this photo on the night of September 7th. By boarding time I was going on about 8 hours of sleep over the past four days. I had a couple of beers in the bar before getting on and immediately took the First Class flight attendant up on her offer of a stiff drink before take off. I remembered that I had procured some heavy duty sleep aids before I left and as the pilot announced before take off that we were expected to experience turbulence over Oklahoma City I decided that for the first time in my entire life I was going to sleep on a plane. I didn't want to be awake for any of it. As we taxied toward the runway I swallowed the pill. As we were headed for take off I pulled the blanket over me, closed the window shade, and closed my eyes. To this day I don't remember taking off, and I don't remember any turbulence. That was the best hour of sleep I have ever gotten. The pilot's voice over the speakers woke me up. I heard Dallas. I heard flight attendants prepare for landing. I opened the window shade and saw the lights of Dallas below me. I snapped this photo with tears in my eyes. Knowing that I was 500 miles away from the pain I had just experienced. I was within minutes of seeing my husband for the first time in days. I was home. My real home.
These photos are among many that sit in my phone. Along with the text messages between her and I in the weeks and days before her death. Along with the text messages from those who reached out to me after she was gone. And just like those greeting cards I keep, I can't seem to part with any of them. As if I am daring my phone to blip and erase it all for me just so I don't have to go back through it all and do the deed myself.
I feel like I'm starting to get to a good place in my own grief process. I don't think about it every day like I used to. My anger is slowly dwindling. My sadness is more about the loss of what could have been instead of what really was. I'm beginning to let go of things in my life that no longer bring me the joy it once did. Why hang on to something if it hurts? Why keep something for the sake of keeping it? Let it go, throw it away, donate it, delete it and then empty the recycle bin. Life will and does go on. I am finally beginning to realize that holding on tight to the past and never wanting to let it go can hold you back, can keep you from moving on and letting yourself heal. I don't want to dwell in that any longer.
I'll start with the expired coupons, then to the cards. My memories and emotions are more difficult to let go of, and I know I will have to put the true memory of those three days into words before I can finally push past them, but for now I let them sit. Happy that with each day they become older and with age comes wisdom. It's so much easier to write about it now, I can only imagine that when my heart and mind know they are ready the words will flow and then I can tuck it away right here in this little corner of the internet. Out of my head, but permanently written just in case I ever want to come back to it.
The shoe boxes though? We'll see about that...
* I swearz on everything holy I am not a hoarder. I'm a hider. There's a differencel. And I just so happen to really like shoe boxes.