Wednesday, April 17, 2013

mental inventory

Something I know about myself is that I tend to be very methodical. This whole recovery process has followed my path of obsessive order- a must be done before b, b must be done before c, c must be done before d. It is on the one hand the way I have to work and on the other a source of frustration. I consider that if I could fly around and jump from d to g to f, I could be more free. Not that I always work in a linear fashion- in fact I really like jumping from task to task. But when it comes to order and cleanliness, I'm one of those people who needs all my materials set up before I can start doing anything creative. So given that all of my shit was agitated in a giant, salty washing machine, it is taking seemingly forever to get it back in order. Something else I know about myself is that I like to know what I have. I can't stand the thought of not knowing where things are- I could never be a hoarder. If I have too many things, I shave the collection down. I like living in small spaces, and so I like to get rid of things periodically.

You know that thing about being alll...mooost...done? Well yeah, I'm still almost done. Only now I'm really almost done. I've made some good headway in the last week or so. So as I'm starting to see a clear work area on my desk, combined with the fact that I'm dying to create something, I browsed through some of the little hardware bins where I'm now keeping my pendants, large beads, watch parts, keys and the like. Holding some of these things in my hand earlier tonight, they were suddenly unfamiliar to me. I know I have them and I know they're there, but my brain can't comprehend that they're there. It's like I've lost my mental inventory. All of my knowledge of what I have and I don't have is kind of lost. The last several months have been all about what was lost and was was saved. Maybe it's too much for my brain to process. I do have a lot of little bits. When you build a collection of these things over many years, you get a chance to process the collecting of these things at a rate your brain can handle. Or at least that's how my brain works. I've seen people who have lots more stuff than I have- but it's likely that these people don't process everything they own. Maybe they're okay with not knowing what they have. Maybe they're comfortable shoving their excess in the back of a closet. But that's not the way I operate. So naturally I've been focused on what was lost. Because it's difficult to lose your things all at once, in a hurried state to clean out a space that is no longer yours. It's upsetting and you want to get a handle on what's no longer there. Or you want to look for something and determine if it exists any more. Or you want to try to find something, in hopes of recovering something your brain tells you is missing. It's what woke me up so many early mornings, after getting to sleep so late the night before. The other reason for knowing what was lost is for more practical reasons- to provide a list for FEMA, for SBA, and for the IRS. And the list just keeps growing. The list I provided the SBA grew by the time I filed my FEMA appeal, and the list will be longer when I file my taxes this year.

So now that I know more or less what has been lost, I start to look at what has been saved. And it's not that I haven't looked at these things before. These objects have been in my hands countless times since the hurricane, as they have been moved from apartment to back yard, some of them rinsed and sorted, binned up and placed on shelves back inside the apartment, moved over to storage, periodically sorted through in the storage unit, boxed up and placed in a truck, moved to a second storage unit, unpacked and moved into our new apartment, cleaned, and possibly cleaned again. And yet these objects are unfamiliar to me. I don't expect them to be here. I expect everything to be lost. It's a hard thing to wrap my head around.

Hearing about the bombing at the Boston Marathon yesterday was maybe a little too much for my brain to process too. The Newtown shootings happened pretty soon after the storm, and at first I couldn't pay attention to the news reports at all. I was still too raw with the facts of my own devastation. It was a few months before I could start to read the accounts and get a handle on what happened. And now this. It's too much. I'm only now starting to understand what it must have felt like to live in New York City when the World Trade Center was attacked. I was living in Los Angeles when it happened and visited the city a year later, when my dad passed away. I made a point to visit what they were calling at the time Ground Zero, a big, empty pit. I followed the plywood walkway around the whole perimeter of the site and cried along with other visitors. My tour guide, an old friend from Richmond with whom I've since had a falling out, was emotionally detached from the scene. He rushed me along to see the renderings that had been submitted by world-renowned architects for a building to replace the twin towers, which were displayed in a building nearby. The night Hurricane Sandy hit, as we watched transformers blow and sections of the city go dark, the construction lights for the new Freedom Tower remained on. Then they, too, lost their power and faded.

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