Last night my laptop, which has been dutifully chugging along since 2009, finally stopped. Of course, I had backed up my hard drive, but not recently, so lots of things may be lost, blah blah. This tale of woe is predictable like everyone else's - I knew the right thing to do, but didn't do it. Now I'm left cursing my carelessness for not saving more frequently and wondering, if I had just done something slightly different last night, would it still be working? I'm also mentally cataloguing everything that I think I lost, remembering with successive little shocks to the system the memorialized vacations and small moments all stored on that hard drive.
This comes at an interesting time for me because I've been experimenting with minimalism, or at least, I've been trying to get rid of a lot of stuff. I'm sentimental to an extreme, so the key has been remembering that the memory is distinct from the thing I'm getting rid of. The green blazer is not itself the first inkling of spring the year I started dating my husband; the white cotton pants are not the sun-soaked Athens apartment; that bag is not the moist sea air hanging low in the Venetian lagoon.
Still, getting rid of stuff is difficult. After each successive round, I have felt free. But also, at first, a little sad, and a little unmoored, as if my stuff anchored me (and indeed it did weigh me down). More than that, as if it defined me, just a bit. What I mean is, the stuff, all the clothes, the photos, the objects - these are not my memories - they are representations of the life I have lived. But as much as I would like to say, it's all there, all my moments are safely stored in my mind, I know that's not true. Already I can barely remember what it was like to be 23, newly minted and underemployed, let alone 11 and trading middle school secrets under the Magnolia tree, not to mention being 4 and careening through a field of dandelions. I forget, and I'll continue to forget at a faster and faster pace until it's all gone.
The stuff is a memory aid. Without it, all those moments are still out there, but so many are just outside of my reach. Without my stuff to anchor me, I can almost feel my edges floating out to sea; like the universe, constantly expanding with no end in sight.