I have spent the better part of today going through stacks of papers, trying to decide what should be kept, what can be recycled, and what needs to be shredded. I think that shredding as an activity ranks right up there with monthly faculty meetings and cleaning the bathroom. Mind-numbing and faintly disgusting. But, until modern life becomes the truly paperless utopia it secretly deludes itself that it already is, sorting, storing and shredding are just one of several downsides to be an adult. Not a grown-up, mind you, but an adult. Adult is a term that recognizes the number of years spent living and breathing (and for some of us those years were spent breathing more than living) but to be grown-up means to have come to terms with the downs as well as the ups of attaining the age of legality. And, I think, acting accordingly.
Having exhausted the shredder, which now sits idly as I wait for it to cool down, I am left to ponder how the room consuming piles I had this morning have, being lessened, managed to take on an even more unkempt appearance. A lesson to be learned about organization is that it is always more chaotic before order is restored. In my case, this isn’t quite true. My ideas about order could unhinge even the most bohemian soul, but it (mostly) works for me.
My Facebook profile of late has stated that “Ann is currently attempting to force organization on her life.” This is only partly true. There is order, of sorts and even routine. It just still seems that some days I am not making headway though where I think I am going is a mystery. I am where I want to be, but, and this should be unsurprising, I am still the same haphazard person I was before baby and dying husband supposedly infected me with disorganization. Who knew? Well, I did. I like to imagine that I cleaned more often and had all my important papers sorted, labeled and safely stored. I really didn’t clean but once a week and since it was just me, it was pretty easy, and I have always filed horizontally. Even at school. I remember one time when I was teaching eighth grade Language Arts, a student came in at the beginning of class and remarked upon how wonderful it was to be able to see the top of my desk. And she was one of my nice students. I am order challenged, then and now. Still I somehow retain the fantasy of clean and put away.
Shredding is like cleaning toilets though and on a scale of one to ten, it is a two when it comes to increasing efficiency and aiding the quest for order. It’s dusty, dull and intermediary because even when you have finished shredding, you still have shreds with which to deal. It is a task that forces you to actually read and assess the worth of the items Many of the papers concerned medical issues of my late husband’s and paperwork that was generated by his stay in the nursing home and then hospice. Lots of application copies and consent forms. Nothing heart rendering but there comes a time when you wonder where the end of the paper trail is. Though some people refer to the process of downsizing official files about their loved ones’ illnesses and/or deaths as “shredding their lives” for me, my life is and was more than a stack of wood pulp. Rendering them confetti doesn’t signify literally or even metaphorically a loss of my past. Memories are not that easily gotten rid off. I suppose for some their is a finality to getting rid of old papers (or clothing or anything tangible really) but most stuff is just stuff. In my personal frame of reference there are only a few items that hold meaning to deep to allow them be destroyed or cast away.
Still, even minus drama the kind of burrowing in today’s efforts entailed is taxing. In the end though, it is better to divest oneself of the literal baggage of the past, good and bad, on a more regular basis then we do. It is an exercise in growth as well as space saving.