My mother used to say to me that I should go to my room and imagine I could take myself apart – and do an inventory of my parts. I always was a bit confused as a child concerning this admonition and as an adult I think I have probably changed it in my mind in some ways. I remember her saying to get rid of those parts you don’t like. It is not that easy.
Yet the idea of inventory is not foreign to any of us who have ever worked in retail and as an artist with a body of work there is time to inventory what I have and where paintings are in galleries and shops. I can’t say I enjoy either effort. I remember staying late at Montgomery Ward years ago as a clerk and counting and counting and counting.
Yet a personal inventory is not a bad thing to do every now and then. To write out on paper the things you have, the things you don’t need. Perhaps in doing so you winnow out the things you have allowed a prominent place that do not deserve that place.
Priorities become known.
I know that after the death of a loved one – father, mother, sister, brother, beloved aunt or uncle, friend or even acquaintance it tends to make even the most jaded and unattached pause for a moment. We gather up our mortal self and blink at the specter of death. It is coming. When we do not know for sure but it is coming. We might think of the things we wish we could change about ourself and make a promise to try.
We probably think about the person who is gone. Depending on the relationship the memories range from funny to annoyance. They are a part of what we have collected in our personal memory inventory. If we want we can choose to learn from them, emulate them or try our best not to duplicate them. It is our choice – they belong to us.
The first Christmas I spent with my son was carrying him inside me. He was born in February so the December my husband and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary I was great with child. I don’t remember that Christmas much. I do remember going out to eat with my husband and sitting in front of a fire at the Fearrington House. http://www.fearrington.com/fearrington-house-restaurant/ For hormonal me it was the warmest winter I had ever experienced, though the cold had frozen the ponds on Mann’s Chapel Road. This year we celebrated thirty eight years.
I reach back to drag out memories because I realize that that is all that is left of many many things, not just my son. I made friends with people that I have not seen in years and don’t even remember their face but I remember things that happened with them. Most of them are funny instances . So I guess when making my inventory the one thing I like and want to keep about myself is a sense of humor.
I do not mind the fact that I have a tender heart either. It causes me pain at times but I have learned to tolerate pain. Being tender of heart has allowed me to let a variety of people into my life and with them we have created memories. I don’t know that the other person held on to the memories the way I do, but that doesn’t matter. I have them.
I am a creative person. I like creative problem solving and I love learning. I love seeing things we take for granted used in a new way and I love seeing people have an “aha” moment. I feel an instant connection when that happens.
I share these traits with my husband, my son and my daughter. I share these traits with my sisters too and with their children and I remember seeing them in my mother and dad. It is a connection that cannot be broken like emotional DNA.
An internet friend was having great emotional pain the other day. It is easy to become very negative about life when you loose a child, more than any other loss you experience. If that were the only difficult thing happening in our life perhaps we might manage differently. Life has the audacity to keep going on while we are being torn apart from the inside. It is almost impossible to regain your footing standing in the pounding surf of life. I mentioned the idea of inventory to her and I realized I needed to do one myself. There is no shoulder on our road of grief and we drive off in to the ditch a lot if we are not very diligent.
For me there has been an ongoing concern and then suddenly a recent tragedy in my extended family that has brought a lot of emotions to the surface. Premature birth of twins and the loss of one of the babies has brought great sadness. Yet there is hope beyond hope for the surviving twin. And there is hope for the ongoing concern because the person involved
has pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and is marching forward.
In my inventory list I have humor, tenderness, creativity. It is just the beginning and if I add no more I can if nothing else pass each incoming thing through the test of these three and see if what is coming fits or not. I don’t need to leave them strewn out on the bed behind that closed door and refuse to use them at all. There is a point where we gather them back in and put them back into use. We do this because of the connection we have to our children and family – regardless of where they are, how they behave or even if they are no longer with us.