Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gleaning the Library: Empty Space in Life

This summer, I've been working on a big project: I'm gleaning my work and personal libraries.  

I always thought I wanted to be the person who had the walls and walls of books in her house, and my dream house as a kid always included a library with a skylight and a fireplace, which would open onto the solarium.  (Preservation was less important than possession, I guess!)  

As I've worked through grad school and gotten more established in my career, I hung onto all my books.  This last move totaled more than 37 boxes of books, between the two of us.  

Yet as I watched the movers huffing up three flights of stairs, and as I later squirreled away the books in my new place, my anxiety just spiraled up.  Quite aside from my fear that one of movers was going to drop dead of a heart attack mid-job, I realized that my philosophy of holding onto ALL THE BOOKS wasn't consistent with the way I was living my life now.   

Ironically, every single book has been opened, and at least parts of it read.  So none of these were books that I bought and didn't read.  It's just that, for many of them, I felt I had gotten my fill out of them.  

My rule for the rest of my house is that if I haven't touched or used it in a year, it goes out.  If I really truly love it or if it's an heirloom, it may stay.  It helps me keep my stuff pared down and easier to pack for my many moves.  More importantly, it gives me breathing space.  I love the feeling of being able to come in and just do something in the house because the space is clear.  I like seeing open space on top of a table.  Or just a single item on the mantle.  I am far from a minimalist... but I am finding that I am resonating with the need to own less STUFF in order to have more room, mentally and spiritually.  

I began the project thinking I'd sell all the books to Amazon.  Until I learned that Amazon won't take most of them, and of those they will take, I'd get pennies on the dollar.  Yes, there are thousands of dollars invested in the books over the years.  But I realized that I was happier to get the weight of the books out of my life via a nearby book donation program than I was waiting for any money to come from them.  The open, breathing feeling I am getting with every shelf I glean down from double packed to single rows is worth its weight in gold.  

I've been scanning my old notebooks and making an annotated bibliography of books that I am "on the fence" about.  That way, I guess I can feel confident that I can find the resource again if I need it, and in the meantime, it is taking up just organized electronic space.  I can let go of the physical weight.  ANd far from making me more anxious that I'm losing a resource, I am finding it is like magic: releasing my long-held anxiety with each book I let go of.  

We got rid of an extra car this year, because we wanted to live lighter on the earth.  We live in a flat instead of renting a house because we like smaller spaces.  I guess my childhood dream of the solarium-library has changed.  Somewhere in the last few years, it faded away and was replaced by small, open spaces.  

How does this relate to triathlon?  Well, it's not very sporty.  I wonder if, perhaps, in this year of recovery after having e.coli, if maybe the e.coli did more than just destroy my ability to digest dairy.  Maybe it also changed my perception of what I had to have around me in life in order to feel like I had enough, and was happy.  

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