It will come as no surprise that I love books. I have books I have had since my childhood in our apartment, I think the oldest one being a wordless book called A Sleepless Day by John Hamberger, a gift from my beloved Aunt Helen on my 2nd birthday. I have a bit of OCD (undiagnosed, but it’s definitely there) which manifests in the organization of my spaces. My books are organized in a way that makes sense only to me (and downright befuddles Adam) and–even in this age of easy access to texts–I have a hard time throwing books out.
I came across this article in New York Magazine on the Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo. Being a professional organizer is one of my back up plans if this whole professor gig doesn’t pan out, so I was super interested in reading about her. She has a pretty easy philosophy: If an item in your house doesn’t bring you JOY, it goes. An interesting lens through which to look at your belongings. At the bookstore her book was there as soon as I walked in, and I took that as a sign that I should read more.
Always up for an organizational challenge/purge, I went through our apartment the last few days and looked at our stuff through the lens of JOY. We moved just two months ago, and before the move I purged, purged, and purged again. But right now I have a trunk filled with three gigantic garbage bags of clothes and two boxes of books to donate to Housing Works. I had a lot of stuff that didn’t bring me joy–vases given to us as wedding presents that I have kept out of obligation for almost 12 years (that’s 4 different moves, too), clothes that don’t fit right and make me feel fat, books that I hated and/or have been meaning to read for years but it never happens. All those things are now in the trunk.
But, as Marie Kondo says, you need to hold each item in your hand, feel it, and determine its worth to you. Books need this, especially because I store things in my books and write my thoughts in the back and front covers a lot on the train. I have one book that I loathe: Eat, Pray, Love my Elizabeth Gilbert. I freakin’ hated this book, although I am a fan of her talks, I’ll admit. Why was it still on my shelf? I picked it up, held it in my hands, ruffled it’s pages to see if anything inside stimulated a feeling in me, et voila, I found this:
This is a list of memories I made of my friend Eric right after he died in 2007. He was 34 and died of a heart attack; it was a complete and devastating surprise that left all of us with a gaping hole in our beings where his smile, silliness, and friendship had been. I don’t remember what day after his death that I complied this list, but it was within a week and I remember I was on a train that emerged from the tunnel onto the Manhattan Bridge as I was writing and I started to cry thinking Eric wouldn’t see the skyline of the City again, and I was embarrassed that I was crying on the train, but I was also 37 weeks pregnant with Alexandra so I figured people just thought I was an emotional pregnant woman.
When I read this list, I recalled memories I had already forgotten about Eric and they made me laugh. That’s what Eric did: He made us all laugh, all the time.
[Oh, and yes, if you read closely one of the items if when Eric climbed the fire escape and started to clean off the roof of his apartment’s sunroom–located right next to our bedroom window–while Adam and I were, ahem, intimately engaged.]
So although I did not like Eat, Pray, Love at all as a book, it still rests cozily on my shelf tucked into the memoir section not because of the text itself, but because of when I read it and words I needed to write right then and right there in the back of that book, words that bring me joy when remembering a dear friend.