What I Got From Cleaning My Bookcase
I'm on the mend. It's amazing how a cold can affect perception (asking my opinion when I'm sick is never a good idea). Having said that, sickness serves a purpose. At least it does for me.
It creates a full stop. It's taken me half a life time to listen to when my body needs me to stop instead of just taping things together. Quieting the self critical voice that wants to blame me for not overcoming/quelling the whatever that is taking a vacation in my body is a full time job.
This current illness is auspicious in a way. A few weeks ago I started one of my periodic spacial clearings. I started by working through the areas of greatest chaos until I finally wound up in my room--the one with my desk and book case. Only a few months earlier I had emptied the book case to dust but put the books away in a hurried fashion--not really looking at where they ended up on the shelf or giving much attention to what I had in my personal library.
In this instance I went my room because I intended to do a re-edit on my book to prepare it for the paperback edition. Instead I found myself going to the bookcase and pulling the books off the shelf. A pile started to form of books to keep while others went into bags to take to the book seller--many had unbroken spines. Some of them were books I had read before and knew I'd never read again. Some were on topics that I lost interest in. But there was a third category of books--books on self correction (some people call this "self-improvement"). I recognize these books as being purchased in moments when I was sure there was something I had to fix in myself--the topics were all over the board. Fixing my body. Fixing how I write or how I do art. Fixing my approach to work. Fixing my thinking. Fixing fixing fixing. The pile I created was so dense it had it's own gravitational field.
Coincidentally, this was the evening I finally got sick. By finally I mean the cold that was trying to catch me for weeks (actually sending me to bed for extended periods) expressed itself as a horrible sore throat. I lost my voice and my energy dropped like a stone. I left the piles and bags of books alone and went to bed.
I felt bad enough that I had to take a day off work. Fortunately (?) it was the start of a holiday weekend so I could really rest. Unfortunately, it was also the weekend I planned to spend with my family--my sister was coming up for a visit to add some cheer and energy to what would be a sad weekend for my Mom (for all of us--it was Steve's birthday). I croaked my regrets to my Mom and sister over the phone. They were sad to hear I wouldn't be coming over but agreed that getting them sick wasn't going to make anyone's party better.
I slept hard through the night and following morning. When I finally woke up and had something to eat I peeked in my office. The book pile looked like an unscalable mountain. I picked up a couple of books and felt all the energy leave my body. I went back to bed.
The next three days had a pattern. Sleep, move a few books, drink some tea, sleep, move a few more books. The discarded books made it to my car one bag at a time. The remaining books took longer to deal with. Why do these books and not the other ones make the cut? Some of the books going away were in perfect condition, great titles that other people recommended...mostly good stuff. Regardless, they no longer had a home here so releasing them was the right thing to do for everyone.
Slowly the keepers found new homes on the shelf. How I see their new arrangement I can only describe as clusters of joy and curiosity. Looking at my books now, I feel parts of me that I like and treasure come to life. By discarding the reminders of who I was trying to be allows me to better see myself in all my unvarnished beauty.
The upside is I feel better too--not fully recovered but I can actually speak and even felt well enough to get dressed in something other than pajamas.
We spend the first half of our lives really trying to figure out who we are. And while that is a never ending process, the second half of life is concerned with discarding all that we are not so our true selves can be seen.
There is a multi, multi billion dollar industry devoted to informing you on how you need to be corrected. Correcting your body, your life, finances, profession, relationships--everything! Not much of that is devoted to loving what actually is AS IT IS.
Even when teachers say they are preaching a message of self acceptance, there is usually a stinky little self improvement thing going on (if I love myself as I am, I'll magically be able to fit in these jeans!!!!). It's always a change yourself game and just a mask for the same, tired self-criticisms.
I'm amazed how the same message gets played over and over and the only thing that is different is the marketing.
What if what you have right now is perfect? Imagine today as your last day on planet earth and there is not time left on the clock to correct, redeem or improve. What would you be choosing for your last precious day? What if who you are right now is everything you need to be?
It is. You are. What will you choose?