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Amateur archaeology on a budget

Sometimes it’s hard to understand if certain aspects of your life are symptoms or causes.

I’ve got weird cleaning habits. In my ideal state I’m a nitpicky perfectionist about organization, systems of layout and arrangement, and that kind of keeping house. Less so the dusting, the laundry, and actually getting dirty shit clean. The deep brain layers just don’t seem to get as excited about it. I don’t want it to sparkle; I just want to know where it is & have it good enough to use. But, the perfectionist streak never goes away.

So this manifests in a lot of delaying tactics, hoarding, good old denial. Reliable pals. I still can’t handle the clutter though. I can build up some tolerance, some immunity, but it’s the same way a person living in a garbage dump might develop a tough immune system: you’ve just gotten better at living in a shitty life. And denial is cool but it doesn’t get the towels off the floor, the books out of piles, or the tumbling stacks of bills… actually, denial doesn’t do half bad on those. Point taken.

The moment still comes though when I feel a sheen of flopsweat over my whole body and a shuddering certainty that holy shit, we’ve gone too far. Too far with the normalizing, too far with the rationalizations, far enough that if I don’t sort out this mess right now I’m going to lose my mind. And not by accident, but like, drop it down a storm drain or fire it into the sun.

It would feel a lot more unhealthy if it wasn’t so stimulating. Like, whoa, I can see carpet again! Hot damn, there’s room for humans at the kitchen table! And man, this is taking all day but all the carboard boxes are gone and the pantry’s all sorted and I found where the motherfucking moths are coming from…

Yeah, some of these are dubious pleasures. I still won ‘em.

Mixed in with that there’s the mind-blowing shit. Because yeah, these papers are important, but not now, not yet, let’s revisit this in a couple of months. So the envelope gets added to the stack, swiftly forgotten. And it all worked out okay in the end. But then today, I come across DMV paperwork to renew my car’s tags through 2012, which I just did the repeat of this month to cover me through 2016, which means this watermarked DMV form is from holy shit all the way back in 2010 and sat on that couch for 4 years and suddenly this sound is playing.

I can remember a lot about that DMV form, actually. I remember more delay tactics, being summer-poor, the heat & boredom, I’ll-do-it-later, getting the ticket once fall came around & now the tags were expired, and the shape of the yellow envelope from the traffic cop, and whose house it was I was parked in front of. (And how did they know I was actually driving the thing anyway, since it hadn’t moved from her house in like a week?)

But after the memory comes the time. I can feel the years in-between then and now: the dizzying differences & unseemly sameness. There’s a moment of silence, not commemorating anything in particular. Just a brain with a tangle of concepts and a practiced reluctance to really connect the dots.

Because we’re still cleaning, right? Still riding the high that comes with it being 3 AM and we’re still awake and fuck you, we’re getting shit done. But later I have time to think about it. And I have thought about it.

It’s funny, because the more I inventory what’s left to chew through in this season’s purge, the more I appreciate how I’ve left myself landmines everywhere. Memorials to past disgraces & defeats sit patiently in wait, until my organizational zeal disturbs their forgotten tombs. Blasts from my pasts. In the war-scarred European countryside, they call it the iron harvest.

I can’t make up my mind if that’s my perspective on what I do, though. Do I forget these things, let the ignominy build up so that I can interrupt a decisive moment of inspiration with an explosion of time-released shame? Lord knows I harbor mild-to-moderate self-defeating & self-destructive tendencies. That could be the thing right there.

On the other hand, jolts like those DMV forms aren’t just raw nostalgia & ennui. It ain’t all sad playlists and self-pity. Sometimes it’s a reminder that, yeah fucker, get a load of yourself living in the past without even realizing it. You wanted to bust out of this gravity well but you fell back into the same old loop. You didn’t notice, but now you did.

Do I let the time bombs tick on the shelf because I don’t want to deal with it? Or is a part of me saving them for later… just in case?

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