….but we are all fabulous.

Filing the past and living today

“What you are is what you have been. What you’ll be is what you do now.”  attributed to Buddha.


In a quest to declutter my home office, to free up the physical and mental space to work efficiently and to think clearly, with some ultimate hope of achieving the magical writing state of ‘flow’, I found myself sorting through old files of wage slips and bills, car documents and guarantees, ‘useful’ health articles and one of many collections of scrapbook material.


Gustave Caillebotte, 'Les raboteurs de parquet', 1875

Gustave Caillebotte, ‘Les raboteurs de parquet’, 1875 (postcard rediscovered from a trip to Musée D’Orsay)


Old wage slips were illuminating – weekly dockets of £42 for part time work from 20 years ago providing concrete proof of how far I have come in material terms at least. Guarantees were a mixed bag – many were for items long since discarded – but a glimpse backwards to the day when I bought a new TV following a break up or received a clock radio as a gift. Health articles were insight-provoking – a collection of articles collected over the past 15 or so years and carted from bedsit to flat to house to home, all addressing the same perpetual concerns – how to live a healthier life, how to deal with stress, how to spot the signs of cancer. These were never reread once filed, but were added to with more recent incarnations of the same information, carried like a talisman against death – as if carrying the knowledge rather than acting on it was sufficient.

The memories these items stirred were bittersweet – a glimpse back to a simpler life in some ways, before mortgages and promotions and an awareness of my own mortality, a reminder of important places and times long gone. Of matters that seemed so earth-shatteringly important and beyond which I could not see imagine.

This is only the first stage of the process of sorting and even these practical documents have been strikingly evocative. I have barely grazed the surface of more meaningful material. I have bags and piles and boxes and drawers of cinema tickets, restaurant cards, gallery maps, plane tickets, postcards, photos, birthday cards, and so on – all saved to be organised into scrapbooks – a reminder of happy times not to be forgotten.

It is good to remember and honour one’s past – an end of year review often reminds me of just how much life I have lived in the past 12 months – friends visited, experiences had and work achieved. A scan even further backwards reminds me how far I have come from past setbacks – from a toxic relationship, from a divorce, from a failed attempt at university, from failed A levels.

But I need to carry the past lightly, to take the wisdom I have gained from my past and bring it to bear on my present, to distil the essence of the past and discard the rest. I should not be dragging the past along behind me, allowing it to hold me back and preventing me from appreciating my todays.  I do not need a chronologically ordered memory book or more likely an item on my ‘to do’ list, destined to be forever carried forward, to create one.

Instead I shall sift and discard and selectively keep only those things which make my heart smile, freeing me up to be here, today.



One comment on “Filing the past and living today

  1. Mum
    April 13, 2014

    I like this it resonates for me as well

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This entry was posted on April 13, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , .
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