In the spirit of personal growth, I am shrinking my possessions. Or at least, just keeping what sparks joy. A deep admirer of Marie Kondo and her Konmari Method, I’ve dedicated this weekend to the ritual of discarding what no longer serves me, and building my life on a foundation of what infuses my spirit with energy and motivation.
The past is scattered all around, but books in particular are a point of heartache. Heartbreak. As a writer, yes, I love books, but I’m no longer a voracious reader. I read a handful of books a year at most. I miss my teens, when I would read multiple books a week, and though I despised much of my university career, the number of books I read was a hallmark of happiness and success.
I have many unread and half-read books on my shelf. The half-reading is a chronic problem. Maybe it isn’t a problem, maybe I just need to accept that only certain books pull me in enough to actually finish. Or perhaps it just is a lack of discipline and regularity. If I start a book and don’t keep reading every day, it won’t be finished. I need to make a point of committing.
The books are who I want to be. Or hold things which were once important. What still is? Politics, theatre, languages. These are the ones hardest to let go of. I’m willing to let go of half or unread novels, poetry volumes, etc. But textbooks on Japanese or German, Peter Brooks and Grotowski, the untouched Chompsky — ah. Sometimes I have read books that I purchased years ago, and loved them. Kondo is not 100% correct that the I’ll read it one day! is never realized. However, most do go unread. There’s so much disposal of hope that goes into disposal of books.
Part of me wants to get rid of all my books. Start from scratch. Who am I? My bookshelf will answer this. I ultimately feel a desire to get rid of all my possessions. Of my life at large. But that’s the easy way out. The discernment of choosing what stays and what goes is what makes the process meaningful.
Not just books. People, experiences, memories.
It is a shock to think one has changed so much, that things which were once fundamental are now mere ornament. But to remember what is dear, what was once dear, is this wrong? Can it not transform? Theatre. Something I dedicated my life to is now something barely spoken about. But thought of everyday. Dreamt of everyday. It hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just become internalized, the metamorphosis of years occurring as we speak.
Politics. I want to read everything. I want to know every idea about how the world is shaped, who shaped it, why, and the consequences. When I push myself, I finish books. When I cultivate the time. Perhaps I if I create a specific project of reading my books, a dedicated goal… but somethings are just over.
I believe in Mari Kondo. I believe in processing the past and accepting that the time to read a book is when you receive it or purchase it.
…if you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it. There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway.
In other areas of my life, when I silence my mind and ask for an answer, I hear the chant of let it go, let it go, let it go. I resist in all forms. We always have the answers, but generally ignore them. I want to listen to the little voice, to make it the big voice, the only voice. Beyond logic, beyond emotion, there is the complete and true knowing that lives inside. The value of articulation is in how much we can clear the blockages and reveal the real.
To get rid of books feels like killing friends. Why? Why do I have to say goodbye? We barely had a chance.
Each book a marker of what could be achieved. Of dreams torn from the womb too soon.
To live in the present, is this the cost? Eradication of any fingerprints of yearning. Wipe it all clean.
let it go, let it go, let it go…
… Some hours later. I tried to bargain with myself, maybe I could make a challenge, read all my unread books in a month, six months, something. Anything to keep them. A variety of such tactics presented themselves. Denial, anger, bargaining, sound familiar?
I don’t remember the turning point, but I thanked a book outloud for what it gave and put it in the no pile. And then another, and I kissed the cover, an official goodbye. And another and another. And eventually I stopped kissing them but kept putting them in the no pile. It was enough to know I had loved them. It was enough to know what they meant to me, and in this deep knowing I could say goodbye to everything each book promised, without feeling that I had lost anything.
I said goodbye to even my favourite books, ones I’ve had for almost two decades, filled with post-it notes and scrawls. It became clear that I already held what I needed from them. I kept the newest books, including some unread, as they represent the person I would like to become. I realized this is not a betrayal of the old books, of the person I was, but simply making room for my unfolding, my own expansion.
Less than a dozen books remain.