Alert and Aware

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
― Marie Kondo

I’m on a mission! On my quest for organization in my home and in in my head, I’m on the next round of purging useless belongings. It started about a month ago by rearranging the furniture and moving some art around. I realized a little extra space made me feel much better. So I ruthlessly began to attack my clothing and now I’m on to the rest of my things. I admit, I’ve been inspired by Marie Kondo’s book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up.” And now that I’m in the middle, I can’t stop.

My mind feels slightly clearer, which has already brought a sense of calm into my somewhat chaotic life. But last week, I felt a surprising burden on my chest as I went through each item in my closet. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am constantly weeding out and donating things I no longer love. But I realized there were some things I’d been holding on to just because maybe I bought it in England or perhaps Vernon picked it out for me. It felt strange to give those things up, but I pushed through my feelings.

“I’m getting my house in order for now and the future,” I told myself. “I don’t need to hold onto the past.” I keep thinking if anything happens to me, I need to have things in order so I’m not a burden to anyone. A little bleak, but I believe that comes with the territory of spending too much time in a nursing home. I realize I’m not so sentimental about belongings anymore…not even books, really. One thought that helps me as I prioritize my purging is that in the moment Vernon’s head struck the pavement, he had no use for any of his things.  Not his clothes, computers, car, fancy bikes, books. And since that’s come around, he still has no use for them. In a way, its not a bad place to be…I just wish it didn’t take a brain injury.

I thought I’d already gotten rid of many of his old clothes, but there were still some hanging on in the garage—where there is a stash that Maki likes to pilfer through from time to time. (I’ll be hanging whatever he wants in his closet.) It’s like layers of an onion, this sorting process. I’m a little deeper in now, more ruthless in my throwing out. And I can sense the calm approaching. Something is working.

But it’s not without tears. I keep reminding myself all the important memories are in me. And I have lots of photos, which I won’t be throwing out, but may eventually organize better.   I have found some old journals of my own that reminded me that marriage wasn’t always plummy. My heart only remembers the good parts,  but it is humbling to look back and recognize sometimes that we weren’t without problems even when we were a normal, healthy couple. Expectations were always a pitfall. And now I don’t have any expectations for him…not even growing old together. Every day with Vernon starts at a sort of ground zero.  I’ve heard that expectations are the biggest problem in relationships and that marriage is like an old fashioned scale: when the love goes up, the expectations fall but when the love goes down, the expectations go up. There is truth to that.

I took all of Vernon’s old mini-sketchbooks in which he used to doodle typefaces. I put them all in a box so Maki can have them one day if he wants them. In the meantime, I had fun looking for little messages he might have left. Here is one on his fourth visit to California, probably before we’d started planning our move.


Among games of “squiggle” and drawing that he had done with Maki, here are some samples found in his notebooks.





(I believe this is one of Maki’s, copying his dad.)


And after we had visited the Munch museum in Oslo.

Anyway, I have to trust that these things happened to us, even though they seem so surreal and separate now. I just wanted to take a moment to honor the strange process…lest I forget. (Or throw anything important away.)


“Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.”

—Mark Twain

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Alert and Aware