My first great achievement this past weekend: moving the piano. YES, PEOPLE. I MOVED THE PIANO. ALL BY MYSELF. I figured that shit out, friends! True, it wasn’t a concert grand or anything, just a snappy Japanese upright. But it was A PIANO. And I MOVED IT. All the way from the back room of the house into the dining room — through three whole doors! That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back while yelping sadly in pain. My muscles aren’t what they used to be. But still. They managed.
My second great achievement this weekend: shredding the old bills and crap larding up my file cabinets in the aforementioned back room of the house. This I had been avoiding assiduously and, dare I say, passionately in the four years since my husband died.
At first, my logic in avoiding it was: Well, I’ll need those old bills and crap at some point, because Chris just died, and you never know. A year later the logic had morphed to: Well, those old bills and crap can wait, and anyway, Chris just died, and you still never know. Two years later the logic had morphed to: Well, Chris just died, and the old bills and crap are taking up all the room in the file cabinet, but they can wait, and I’ll just put the new bills and crap in crazy stacks and drawers all over the house. Three years later the logic had morphed to: I have no time for this shit, but I’d better buy a shredder, anyway. Finally, four years into it, with the shredder waiting patiently in a box beside the file cabinet, the logic had morphed to: BLOODY HELL! I HAVE NO ROOM LEFT ANYWHERE FOR ALL THE NEW BILLS AND CRAP COMING INTO THE HOUSE! PASS THE SHREDDER!
And so, dear friends, I found myself shredding ALL sorts of nifty-keen utility bills and telephone bills and bank statements and health-insurance receipts and ancient orthodontic reports and flimsy yellow repair records — for cars I no longer own — and similar such ephemera, some of it dating back to the mid-2000s. I shredded and shredded and shredded. I felt like I was cleaning out not just the files but my own psychic space.
And as I did, I found myself in the grip of all sorts of competing emotions: relief that I’d finally gotten around to this onerous, long-delayed task; amazement at the fettuccine-like ribbons of paper amassing in box after box; exhaustion, and a touch of fear, at the thought of ever letting the files get this bad again; sadness at the realization that I was shredding little pieces of my years with Chris, no matter how mundane; hope for the future; and happiness at the room I was making in the files, my house, my life.
With all of these emotions whirring and grinding around (really, they made more noise than the shredder), I began to cry. Just a bit. Not mucus and saline everywhere, just a few easily expunged dribbles. But grief is weird. Even when you know full well that you aren’t over it, that you’ll never be over it, that the whole IDEA of being over it is a total crock, that all you can ever manage is to keep living, keep loving, stay grateful and shred as necessary — even then, it’ll catch you by surprise.
I didn’t know I had it in me to weep over office equipment. But I did know enough to know that pain and hope can co-exist in the same heart at the same time, and that the holy mess of our little human undertakings can lead to a kind of awe. What a shredded tangle I am half the time! And yet I’m still here. That’s not nothing. That, AND I MOVED THE PIANO. ALL BY MYSELF.