purging and cleansing

my sister — yes, the recently married one — said to me the other day, as we were doing some window shopping in the big apple, in response to my exclamation that i was in the midst of a closet purge: “you’re always purging! when are you *not* getting rid of stuff?” her question gave me pause. was i always getting rid of stuff? and if so, why on earth was there still so much always around? im not a hoarder — of things of any kind — with one tiny, possible, seemingly unavoidable exception: paper.

PAPER!!!! (exclaimed as a silent scream — with the same energy as elaine’s pill-induced ‘streetcar’ moment — as i sit in this philadelphia cafe, and pump both my fists to the sky, or in this case, exposed beam ceiling.)

is it just a hazard of the job? i try to go paperless, even downloading the occasional ebook and hardly ever printing out an article to read, but the main culprit remains: revisions. REVISIONS!!!! i can get so far in the writing process with just fingers on keyboard and with the use of the very handy reviewing features on the various word-processing platforms i work my way through. but at some point — and there is always a point — i just have to print out the damn thing and scribble, doodle, and generally make a mess all over it using a panoply of colored pens. there are arrows, and stars to remind me where the changes should be inserted; underlines, strikethroughs, circles and more arrows.

this would be all fine and good if, when i went to clean and organize my apartment in preparation for the aforementioned subletter to move in for the year, i did not find not one, not 2, but more a few boxes worth of papers that were just multiple versions of various articles, published well over a few years ago, and replete with scribbles, circles, arrows, galore! but as i started reading through the jottings, non-sensical to anyone but me, i could recall things that i had read that brought me to a new idea; a conversation that inspired new questions or brought me to new texts. i let myself have the afternoon to sit with these writing memories, and i kept a few choice reflective artifacts. and the rest went out with the paper recycling.

but it wasn’t just my apartment i have been purging and cleansing. my email accounts, too, have become a sort of wasteland for all manner of annoying, frustrating, at times toxic messages. and while email remains a source of great joy — in the form of missives, news, and photos from family and dear friends — i have been making good use of email filters and the delete and unsubscribe buttons. it’s slow going, but i feel better, lighter already. my next big decision is whether or not to cut my hair, which is what i usually do at the end of a school year or after a key moment in life. i’d say this counts as such a moment, and yet i’ve gotten attached to the waves on my head. i may have to find other forms of lightness — a superficial antidote. of sorts, to the heaviness that calvino describes here:

“Whenever humanity seems condemned to heaviness, I think I should fly like Perseus into a different space. I don’t mean escaping into dreams or into the irrational. I mean that I have to change my approach, look at the world from a different perspective, with a different logic and with fresh methods of cognition and verification.”
– Italo Calvino (1993, p. 7)

for the past twenty-plus years, chopping off my hair has provided this Perseus-like flight “into a different space.” in other news, i had a fantastic ice cream sundae last week. who knew fluffernutter could be made into a fantastical yogurt flavor?! it was, and it was damn good. i would have a picture of it to show you, but i inhaled it too quickly. not to worry because it’s summer, and there will be more pix (and ice cream!) to come.