Monday, November 05, 2012

Bit of a Purge

This is a picture of seven "short boxes" of comic books that I collected together to donate/get rid of.  Most of these comic books have been sitting in my closet for the entire time I've lived in my current apartment--about 8 years. In sorting through a bunch more boxes, I should note that I kept more boxes than I am getting rid of, so I still have 8 or so boxes of comics I don't want to get rid of (yet?).  

Thing is, this purging isn't just about comics, or about getting more room in our closet (though it is partly about that--now that I live with my partner, it's only fair she have as much room in the closets and I do).  It's also about changing my relationship to these objects.  I've always been something of a "pack rat", and this tendency seems to run in my family. Lately I've begun to recognize that "pack rat" and "hoarder" are both part of a spectrum of behaviors, and I've grown to believe that if I don't create more mindfulness around my pack rat tendencies, that they'll continue to move toward the hoarder end of that spectrum.  

One tendency of hoarders is that they have more emotional attachments to inanimate objects than other folks do, and this is certainly true for me.  When I was younger, I not only had affection for stuffed animals and the like, but I found myself feeling empathy for individual lego pieces. If I was searching for a particular brick, and found two at the same time, I would set the "extra" one aside, so I could use it later; I would feel as if it were lonely or sad if I didn't find a place for it. I recognize that this shit sounds cray-cray, which is one of the reasons I'm talking about it in a public forum--around 5% of the US population has hoarding tendencies--more than people who have OCD, for instance.  Just like talking about depression, I think folks don't talk about hoarding enough (aside from gasping in horror at reality television shows about it).  

Here's what my brain does when I try to decide whether or not to get rid of a set of comic books:
+  Ok, I haven't read this in years, and I probably won't read it again. It should go in the "go" pile.
+ BUT JEFF DON'T YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU BOUGHT IT? YOU WERE GOING THROUGH X, Y AND Z AT THE TIME. DON'T YOU WANT TO HOLD ON TO THAT?
+ Um, no. I don't. I have the memory. The comic isn't related to it. It should go in the "go" pile.
+ BUT JEFF, WHAT A WASTE THAT IS. YOU SHOULD FIND THE COMIC A GOOD HOME.
+  Um, no. There are hundreds of these comics out there for people to buy if they really want them. And nobody gets these particular comics if they're in my closet. They should go in the "go" pile.
+ BUT JEFF, WHAT IF YOU WANT TO READ IT AGAIN SOMEDAY?  
+ Um, no. I can buy it again. Or torrent it. And I haven't read it in 10 years. It goes in the "go" pile.


And, after all of that, I still feel a loss when I put it in the "go" pile. My nervous system is weiiiiiird that way. 

To be clear, there are objects that I think it's healthy to have an emotional attachment to. One comic series was coming out right at a very tumultuous time in my life (Hi Katy!), and it's so identified with that time that I pull it out from time to time and read it again. I'm gonna keep that one for a long while. But I now recognize that some of these attachments are just unhealthy, and result in heading further down a path I don't want to go down. So I'm trying to get better in touch with the feeling of freedom that comes from purging stuff. It doesn't come naturally. I'll keep plugging away.

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