Inner Voices Redux: Strong as Ever…

The inner voices don’t go away — they just get stronger and more insistent…

xmas tree 3rd gr ca1820
(#1820: art work, 1962; recycled — also see narrative details below)

During my first 1000 things project, one of the first things I discovered was the presence of inner voices: an internal dialogue between me and my things which I encountered whenever I dealt with them. I learned that these inner voices were the most subtle but perhaps also most powerful attachment, and so I learned to listen to them and try to understand what they were saying.

They often took the form of scripts or mantras which I’m sure you’ll recognize (and indeed many of you have told me you’ve heard these same ones), such as:

  • “It might be worth something; I can’t just throw it out”
  • “I paid a lot for that; I can’t just give it away”
  • “My son [child, relative] might want that some day”
  • “This was my favorite [x] when I was a kid”
  • “I might want to look through those (papers, pictures, drawings, etc.) some day”
  • “This was so-and-so’s favorite [y]”

These inner voices also embodied certain larger themes for internalized rules about how to deal with my stuff, themes like “Just in Case,” “Get Maximum Value,” or “Some Day.”

Now that I’m well into my third and final 1000 things project, I’ve learned a deeper truth about them, which is this: The inner voices don’t go away. Not for me, at least. You might think that, after having gotten rid of so many things, I would have learned to manage the inner voices better or subdue them more effectively. But no. If anything, they are at least as loud as ever.

This phenomenon in itself is not new; I had previously noticed that my inner voices were stronger and more insistent when I dealt with things that had deeper attachments to me. But I’m finding that it’s more common now, probably because I’ve gotten rid of most of the easy things to get rid of, and the ones that remain have a stronger claim on me.

In particular, mementos require more attention and more difficult decisions. I’d already started this process in the 2nd thousand things project with many of my own mementos; I’ve disassembled trophies (e.g., #1750, 1774-75), thrown out moldy baseball caps (#1682-86), and disposed of a lot of old school papers (e.g. #1697-98, 1804-05). This process has continued in the third 1000 things project with certificates (e.g., #2042), art work (e.g., #2043 below), and high school handbooks (#2051, 2052).

js artwork date unknown 2043
(#2043: art work, date unknown (middle school?); recycled)

The process involved a fair amount of time discovering, reminiscing, and deciding, and parting was sometimes not that easy. I expect it will be even more difficult when I go through other remaining mementos such as photographs, some of my son’s stuff, and some of Martha’s remaining stuff.

In some cases, encountering these objects evoked instant strong memories of something I may have remembered now and then over the years, for instance Little League and Teener League baseball team pictures (#1836, which was a bit moldy; I have kept the others for now).

indians bball team pic 1836
(#1836: Little League team picture, ca. 1965 ; trashed)

In other cases, the memento evoked a long-forgotten memory, for example the faux stained glass X-mas tree I made out of tissue paper in third grade (#1820). (For me, third grade seemed to be a big art year.) In still other cases, I had no recollection of the object, and seeing it did not evoke any memory for me, for instance a letter I wrote to my mom in second grade (#1830) asking her to make sure I got enough sleep so that I could do well on exams the next day.

js note to mom 462 ca1830
(#1830: letter to my mother, 1962 ; recycled)

There were also some new inner voices, or at least some which I had not paid any attention to previously. For instance, I recently got rid of some comic books. Most of them were in decent shape but certainly not in mint condition; they’re mainly Archie, Jughead comics from the 1960s (only 12 cents!). I listened to the inner voices and followed their guidance for awhile. They could be worth something. Maybe one of them could be worth a lot of money. So I looked on eBay — eh, not so much. Maybe someone else will value them. So I visited a local comic book store while out doing some errands nearby (I’ve learned from the previous projects that they weren’t worth a separate trip!). Not interested; ‘try this other local store, or there’s a place in Waldorf’… So I called the local store; not interested either, ‘but there’s a place in Falls Church that might take them; or there are a couple of places online…’ Falls Church? Waldorf?? Online? Now we’re talking entirely too much time and effort; if two comic book stores won’t take them, then maybe I should just — Still, It would be a shame just to throw them out. The inner voices are strong and insistent. So I went on Freecycle — any comic book collectors out there? Turns out there were plenty who were interested in them, and they found a good home, with my efforts producing a little more gratitude in the world in the process.

Speaking of process, the process of dealing with these mementos is helping me develop my own process for getting rid of things more quickly and effectively (at least in the long run!). More on that in my next post…

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