There is a lesson to be learned in the fact that without even meaning to I discovered the stinky remains of my black cat's inability to find the litter box. Just think how many days, months, years (?) might have passed by without me giving the bookshelves in question a good going over. The chore itself has been kind of a pain in the ass, but I feel good about finishing the job. I especially like getting reacquainted with some old friends.
And here's the kicker, I even put some of my "old faithfuls" in a box to donate to a book sale. They are old and yellowed. Many of the pages are dog-eared as it is my habit to turn down the corner of a page that has a particularly meaningful message on it. Then, when I'm through reading, I go back and copy all the notes in one of my many journals.
By letting go of these books, I believe I may also be letting go of some of the reminders of bygone days that no longer have importance in my life. Such as:
Passive Men and Wild Women (Pierre Mornell) was a suggested read by a therapist/marriage counselor back in the 80's. I don't know the true reason Jim balked at discussing or even reading this book, but I think, with the benefit of hindsight, that he just didn't like the title. He surely didn't want to be considered "passive" and undoubtedly flinched at the possibility of his wife being "wild."
I don't even remember what significance the book had for me except that it was recommended. Back then I was all into doing as the doctor ordered. Perhaps because our lines had already been drawn in the sand, Jim just wasn't interested. We've been divorced for almost 18 years. Why have I held on to the book for so long? It feels like taking a drink from a healing tonic to remove this reminder of not so good times from the bookshelf.
I think I kept She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb) and The Year it Rained (Crescent Dragonwagon - don't you love that name?) because of their descriptions of depression. Maybe they even spoke of the hope of recovery; I don't remember anymore. Years after I read She's Come Undone, I was surprised to find that Oprah picked it for one of her book club selections. As I recall, she commented on the male author's ability to write in the feminine voice. I
t's weird to think that a person who was as depressed as I was would want to read books about depression. Or maybe it's not so weird. Because when one is lost in the deep dark hole it helps to read things that describe their situation; there is often little difference between fact and fiction. Reading about another person's depression, even a made up person, somehow validated what I was feeling and made me feel less alone. Plus, lets face it, negativity feeds on negativity.
As if to prove my point, I just opened The Year it Rained to a page with the following passage highlighted: "At that point I began to seriously observe myself, measure my condition as if I were myself an orderly in a hospital; and what I observed was that another gradual change was taking place, the violent thunderstorms of feeling were giving way to - to what? That I didn't know. Certainly not to happiness, for I felt sad most of the time, confused about what had happened to me and to my family and utterly at a loss as to what I would do in the future." (pg. 196)
It seems depressing to even choose that paragraph to copy, but here's the good news. I no longer feel the attachment to the words and feelings. It's as if the depression, that was so much a part of me for so long, has indeed released it's grip. I can see, no I can feel, the difference. Like throwing out the size 8 dresses, I used to wear when I whittled myself down to 115 lbs., I no longer need to keep reminders of my sick self around anymore.
The Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernanos) is another therapist recommended book. This one more for the story than the possibility of improved mental health. You've got to say this for me, I gave it the old "he-won't-like-me-if-I-don't-read-it" co-dependent's try. I struggled through 81 pages (I know because this is last page that is marked), then placed it on the shelf for safe-keeping. Why I ask, did Mr. Wiggle Bottom pee on some of my favorite stories instead of this tome? Perhaps there is a science to putting books on shelves. Favorites go on the top shelves while pee attractors stay at low levels.
The Purpose Driven Church (Rick Warren). Let's face it, I may be the only Christian in America who has not read, studied in a serious church setting, and put to good use the message of this book. There is still a note inside, marking the 18th chapter. It's from my Dad with the suggestion, "may I recommend chapters 18, 19, 20." I'm guessing since the note is still there, I didn't get past marking the page. I seem to be driven by a lot of things , obviously "purpose" is not one of them.
It's hard to let go of any book. But like a smile, a book can give pleasure to others by being passed on, rather than kept to oneself. What started out as an unappealing kind of chore that I made myself do before sewing again, has turned into an uplifting process of "out with the old and in with the new." Maybe that's what Spring cleaning is all about. Who knew?