An interesting shift took place over the last three months or so. It started with a simple redecorating project, and as I cleaned out my old bedroom I finally picked up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, recommended to me years ago. To begin with, I wasn’t going to put all that stuff back into my freshly-painted closet. So began a journey of wading through 30-some years of personal belongings and 30-some years of life, inspecting each item, experiencing every memory, and deciding what to keep and what must go.
This really is a life-changing venture, especially, I think, if your situation is anything similar to mine and you’ve been surrounded by every memento from childhood on for 30-some years. I love my home, this land I grew up on, but I have been here all of my life and the weight of that history begins to hang upon you.
I went through every photograph. Every school paper. Every drawing in every sketchbook. I went through boxes of toys and stuffed animals, souvenirs from concerts and travels, gifts and greeting cards from friends and relatives, always asking myself, “Does this make me happy? Does this ‘spark joy’?”
What surprised me were not the yes or no answers themselves, but rather the following question I asked myself, just out of curiosity: “Why?”
My stuffed animals, for example, which were brought out of the attic and placed here and there to be seen and enjoyed, made me happy because they were so unique to me, an odd band of dinosaurs, hand-made sheep, fuzzy crustaceans, and one ancient leopard. They are old friends, goofy and sublimely happy to be out of a dark Tupperware bin, and the cats curl up against them now.
Going through my art, on the other hand, was a different experience. There were, of course, many drawings I kept, ones I had done for myself. They got torn out of sketchbooks, trimmed down, tucked into plastic sleeves to be stored for posterity. But so many pictures — and so much of the entire whole pursuit — was done for other people.
The two themes are clearly evident in photographs from my youth: there I am shirtless playing in the mud with a cousin; there I am in a dress, hands on my knees, smiling for Easter pictures. Over and over again through every item I picked up — books, clothes, music — I saw a duality in my interactions and responses to life. Half the time I have interacted with life and responded on my own terms, and half the time I have interacted with life and responded in accordance to the people around me and general expectations.
This made me very angry. I burned the bulk of twenty-six sketchbooks, letting all that effort and energy I put into drawings for other people transform into heat and light and free-flowing smoke. And I asked myself, how could I have used that energy to interact with life on my own terms? What could I have done? What could I have created? What could I have experienced instead?
Maybe we all ask ourselves these things as we age.
This isn’t about regret, however; this is about discernment. Because the process of going through every item of your life hones your discernment, and the results are, indeed, life-changing magic. Everywhere I look now I am reminded of what I love, what makes me happy. Everywhere I look I am grounded against sacrificing myself to make other people tolerate some lesser version of me.
This has extended into a mindful look at my thinking, what words I say and write and why, what actions I take, what decisions I make, what plans I follow through. The same story holds true: half the time I speak my own heart; half the time I am arguing with the world. And I can’t say the latter makes me happy, or that it sparks joy in my life. That’s something I want to correct.
This blog has been, in many ways, an argument with the world, and I don’t honestly think that existing as a lesbian free from gender should be an argument. That’s not the story I want to surround myself with; that’s not the life I want to live. I find I’m at war with myself presently, because half of my brain doesn’t know any other way to be. But I feel there is another way, though it is only discoverable if I step away from the argument entirely.
I need it all to become incredibly unimportant, and sink back into a natural way of life. I need to feel like a justified human being on this earth. No amount of words will do that. It’s a matter of settling into daily life without discussion, without exposition, without wrestling always with the ways of the world.
I just wanted to wish all my readers well, and assure them there is a bright and beautiful future ahead.