Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hoarders R Us

That's the Royal Us--Me, myself and I--though I could make a case for it being a national dis-ease as well; but that's a whole other post. What I set out to muse about here is my issue with collecting and saving things. I saw myself in both of the women featured on today's Dr. Phil show. One of them had nearly 200 cats on her ten acre property. The other had stuffed a large house to the gills with stuff.

I have never accumulated nearly that much of anything but it is probably only because we have lived below the poverty line for most of the 28 years of our marriage and have twice lost the contents of our home--once for non-payment of rent on our apartment and thirteen years later for non-payment on a storage unit. Though there are many items that I still long for at times (my favorite baby doll that was my mother's before me, a crystal vase that was a heirloom from my husband's maternal grandmother, fine needlework projects, two personal libraries, manuscripts going back to my juvinilia, research notes, my wedding dress, family photos) I cringe to think of some of the stuff that some 'lucky' person got to sort through when they cleaned out that apartment and that storage unit. If there was one theme to what I collected (other than office supplies, craft supplies and books) it would be containers. Any type of container you can imagine, I probably had dozens to hundreds of them. I am speaking here of used containers from envelopes to shoe boxes; from prescription bottles to shampoo bottles; from yogurt cups to the little dose measuring cups that come with cold medicines; baby food jars to pickle jars; even the plastic or Styrofoam containers of take-out foods.

Then there are the things I saved to use for bookmarks: foil candy wrappers, business cards, junk mail, postcards, the logo tags off of new clothes. I needed a lot of bookmarks because I kept one in almost every book I possessed whether I owned it or borrowed it from a friend or a library. Many Non-fiction books would have multiple bookmarks. I continue this practice today. Bookmarks are one of the few things small enough to collect when you live in a ten by twelve foot room with a husband and two cats on leashes.

All of this is having such an impact on me today because it seems to resonate with the issue that has been stressing me out--out of my mind it sometimes feels--since December when I learned our county library system was closing its doors for lack of funding. I had already been feeling the stress of the way I managed my library usage in the years preceding this but that was almost a subliminal hum compared to the last three months. I have felt for years that I was too much a slave to library due dates. It seemed that I spent more time managing the inflow and outflow of the items than I did actually reading the books or watching the DVDs--from the hours spent searching the online catalog and managing my requests and renewals to the walks to the library to return and retrieve items; from making bibliography slips and inserting bookmarks as the books came home and then pulling the bookmarks and marking the page number on the bib slip as the books went back to managing the growing files of bib slips and notes.

After learning of the impending loss of access to these books and DVDs, the subliminal hum became a screaming jet-engine roar. Before, though there was always some angst about having to let an item go back before I was done with it, I was actually finding it a healthy exercise in letting go each week. But then I was always able to reassure myself that I could send for it again in a few weeks or months. Suddenly, I no longer had that assurance. Nobody knows how long the libraries will be closed. Barring some miracle, the doors shut April 6. The levy is on the ballot in May but most people I talk to have little hope it will pass. It would be November before another levy could be voted on.

Meanwhile, my life has been consumed by this since the first week of December. Other areas of my life are being neglected. From all forms of self-care to writing, including blogging and its attendant promotion. I even stopped taking notes while reading. So much for book reviews or citing information in my writing. And I've started speeding up the DVDs to the point that they become almost comical. Which is probably an insult to the directors and performers.

The worst of it is the risk I am taking of sabotaging two years of effort I've put into my online presence--what there is of it--by creating a reputation for lack of professionalism. I was confronted with that today as I went to check on three of my email accounts and found them flooded with weeks of unattended to correspondence and spam. Among them was a personal note from a high-school friend whom I haven't seen in twenty-some years. She sent it in early February! Which is an example of one of the potential joys of life that I miss out on because my attention is riveted on the library books and DVDs.

This past week there have been a number of times that I have been about this close to reaching for the books and DVDs willy-nilly and stuffing them in the book bags. It would probably take me three trips with three full bags each trip. There are around 105 items on my card and 25 of the 30 items on my husband's which I ordered. On March 1st they imposed the limit of 30 items for each card. I can't check out any more until I bring my card load down under thirty. I still have requests coming in. Some of which I have been in queue for for three to six months! I will lose them if I don't check them out within eleven days of their arriving. Those that arrived on March 1st and 2nd are going to time out on me next Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile there are more than a few items that I have right here that I waited weeks or months in queue for which are fighting for the fast dwindling share of time. There are only so many hours left.

There is yet another category of 'thing' that I could be accused of collecting in a bizarre fashion It is hard to give it a name though because it isn't physical. It was called to my attention when I set out to plan my Thursday Thirteen meme this week on the topic of my research projects that are going to be effected by this library closure. The list grew so long it could fill more than three TT. I am actually considering making it a three or four part TT, which would take some of the pressure off for that weekly task as I head into the home stretch of this race for a finish line that feels as if it is going to finish me when I reach it.

Dr. Phil said to the women featured on his show today that it was all about balance. I know I am out of balance. I knew it even before this library closure issue. Many of the books that I was checking out were of the self-help and spirituality genres. Like Dr. Phil's books. But my habit was to read voraciously giving assent to the ideas intellectually but seldom implementing them into my life. It just always seems like NOW is never the right time. Even though most of those books assert that NOW is the only time we ever have.

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