Monday, 26 October 2009

Memories and Reminders

I'm posting this now because I won't get a chance tomorrow. Busy girl, you see.

This morning my plan was to grab a few boxes from the loft and re-arrange all of the items in to smaller boxes for a car boot sale. And in doing so, reclaim my living room. And whilst I was wobbling about on an unstable ladder, I thought, I may as well go through the two boxes in storage so that I know exactly what I will be taking with me when I move.

The first box contained items that I can sell, with a few surprising additions.

When I tried to lift the second box I bizarrely lost all of my energy. My arms went limp and my legs started to shake. It was like an attack of Vertigo. What was in this box?

My past. My past was in this box.

Letters and diaries from years gone by - and not so very happy years at that. Transfixed, I lifted out the contents and flicked through them, reading through my thoughts from all of those years ago, and seeing the truth that lay underneath them, unexpressed.

I plummeted in to a head-space I wasn't expecting, and rang a friend for support. The energy of the week, she told me, was to make a connection with the person we are meant to be. Unearthing the diaries, she said, was designed for this week so that I could see the challenges I have faced in the past and handle them differently today, thus transforming my nature.

Later in the evening - having rather pathetically only managed to sort my CDs in to alphabetical order - I decided to go through the box, read the diaries and sort the contents.

And so I did. The similarities between then and now were fairly profound. There were three diaries. In the first one I spent most of the time alternating between the lie of "quite a good day today" and the truth of "rang in sick". I was off sick an awful lot. In the second diary I was splitting up with my fiancé, complaining of having no money and not knowing where I was going to live, and in the third I was trying to organise my first trip round the world, which involved selling a house-full of possessions.

I drew comfort from the knowledge that every time I had written "I just don't know what I am going to do" or "I just don't see how this is going to work out" or "I can't imagine anything good ever happening", two months later my situation had changed for the better and it had sorted itself out.

Feeling much better, I decided to go through a couple of carrier bags of old letters with the aim of tidying them up. The first bag I opened actually belonged to the ex I went travelling with and contained every single piece of paper he had collected for the 11 month duration of our trip. I started to rifle through receipts, stamps, information sheets, flyers of events we never attended, adverts for guest houses we never stayed at, hand drawn maps of places we never visited - all of them folded up in to the tiniest possible size, all of them covered in the dust of the ages. Why did he keep this crap? I unfolded every piece and rolling my eyebrows, made three piles - recycle, shred, throw away.

Then I opened the next bag and found every single piece of paper that I had collected for the 11 month duration of our trip - again, places we never stayed, receipts, information sheets. But at least it was not folded quite so small.

I was very well behaved and kept very little. I think my plan had been to use all of the receipts and maps and names of guest houses and restaurants in a novel I planned to write, just to add that little bit of reality. The book had a great storyline, but if I ever actually get down to writing it then I can manage without the tat.

For some reason we had kept an awful lot of international phone cards - no idea why - and 3 business cards for the Piercing World studio on Venice Beach in L.A. where noses and eyebrows were made sore for the flight home.

I counted 33 handwritten letters, and 9 Birthday and Christmas cards, sent halfway round the world by my closest friends and family, and a postcard I had written to my Granny but never sent, upon receiving the news that she had died just after Christmas.

One of the items which took me most by surprise was a folded piece of A4with a child's felt-tip drawing inside and it took me a while to register. And then I remembered. On my 26th birthday we were staying in a tent pitched in a hostel garden in the fruit growing region of Keri Keri. Keri Keri is somewhere along the toe of the North Island of New Zealand and well out of reach of Auckland's Poste Restante. So I was weeks away from collecting my cards from home.

I spent the day in a freezing cold field pruning mandarin trees with a blunt pair of loppers, instructed by a rather terse and hardy farmer's wife. Only two of us were in the field - she started at one end and I at the other. At the end of the day, I revealed that it was my birthday, and that it had probably been the most unusual birthday I'd ever had.

The next morning she handed me the piece of paper and said "I told my five year old daughter that it was your birthday and she thought it was sad that you didn't have a birthday cake. So she drew you one" It made my day.

Out of all of the random pieces of paper in my box, I am keeping hold of this one.


  1. It sounds as though you've had two fruitful trips, one round the world and another through your past. I would keep hold of the birthday cake drawing as well. I wish you well with the rest of your sorting and packing.

  2. lots of symmetry.
    what you say and feel are layered together beautifully.

  3. There are certain things that just cannot be thrown away.
    Beautiful post.

  4. e: That's quite a lot of travelling for one day, isn't it! Thanks for the well wishes - lots to do but starting to see things from a new point of view..

    JST: Thank you. I take little credit :o) I seem to write best when I stop 'thinking' or 'trying' - maybe it comes from a different place when I do this.

    Braja and Lulu: I think this is going to touch my heart for days. Amazing how the simplest acts of kindness can be so timeless.

  5. Good for you. It's good to keep some of those memories. Just like it's good to know that whatever challenges you face today you have faced up to similar challenges before - and come through them.