Sunday, August 7, 2016

Books and New Skins...

I've been a hoarder of books since I first discovered the Nancy Drew series when I was about eight years old. Three years later I discovered the Lord of the Rings and after that - let's just say book shelves were required in any room I called mine.

One of the best parts of college was getting to go to the campus bookstore at the beginning of each semester. As an English major, I reveled in the sheer amount of books I got to read for each class. From Plato to Faulkner, poetry to memoir, I was happy when the books started to pile up. My friends thought I was a bit odd. I worked at the college library and then moved to retail book sales. I worked in bookstores until I was pregnant with my first kid.

This was all pre-internet, of course. Books were the predominant way to explore the world - and escape the world when needed. I was quite the escape artist, being the introverted hermit that I was - and still am. For the last thirty years, my library has always been a key part of any home. Books are comfort. Books are knowledge. Certain books will always be old friends who gently remind me of who I thought I was and who I dreamed of being.

When we started the moving process that had us finally downsizing last fall, the books got packed up pretty quickly. For the most part, the library of books stayed in those boxes until this past weekend when I finished painting the built-in bookcases kindly made by Andy. Nine months had passed - nine months of one of the most profound transitions I'd ever made in my life.

And the books tell the tale.

As I unpacked and sorted through the boxes, I realized how many of the books were no longer interesting to me. I've donated hundreds of books over the years but never have I been so aware of how my own shifting interests have guided that process.

Books on organizational health and leadership - into the donate pile. Books on parenting (other than my all time favorite, Parenting from the Inside Out) - on the pile. Psychopharmacology, the old DSM-IV - goodbye. Other therapy books, psych theory, how to build a practice - gone. Taking care of an orchard, year-round gardening - heading to new homes.

There is nothing like physically moving just far enough away to find a little perspective - and figure out what really draws my gaze as opposed to what I need to be looking at to feel like a "good" parent or a "team player"; or what other people think I should be steeping myself in so I can be my 'best self" (How does anyone else really know that about someone?).

This last nine months has brought me  - time and time again - up against this question: what is important to me? And of course the follow up question is - why would I ever waste time pursuing anything that doesn't energize and excite me? Why keep books on my shelf that no longer serve me? Why hold on to old versions of who I thought I should be when it is just so easy to breathe and be myself?

Because sometime it isn't easy to set aside all that conditioning that tells us to strive for some better version of ourselves. And that image is usually generated outside of our souls by all sorts of influences - like family, society, community, age group, gender, etc. We aren't taught to be unfinished masterpieces, we're told to keep taking painting lessons until someone -someone who is not ourselves - tells us the painting is perfect.

That just isn't going to happen. There is always another someone else. And besides, the perfection "lessons" are fucking exhausting.

So I'll keep my hiking guides, creative writing inspirations, books on ecology. Children's books that are no longer in print and my first edition Simarillion. Yeats and Sagan, Palmer and Plotkin. Mysteries and sci fi, poetry and Marcella Hazan cookbooks. Books that invite me to dream.

I'll buy new books and generate new boxes of donations. New directions. New strokes on the canvas. Releasing the old, painting over old lines. Outside the lines.

A piece of poetry that I love -

Be received.
Be received by the broad earth of your worthiness
Cast off everything
Everyone else has known for you
Move gratefully from these old skins
And this time, as you toughen,

for whom?

- em claire

I like this new skin...

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! I like the you that you are discovering. That awesome unfinished masterpiece that you are...