Which memories are worth the amber? (Or, Why I dread framing projects)

Work in progress. Always. Photo by Brightworks School, Flickr

I have visited Pinterest twice since the day I created my account. I wear solid-colored pants and tops so I don't have to match prints. And when it comes to framing and displaying art, I shut down completely.

As regular readers of IMS know, it took me FOUR. FRICKIN. YEARS. to hang pictures in my bedroom. I enjoyed them for a year and a half, and then I moved to the bedroom upstairs, so all the pictures came down again. Now the mish-mash of frames, tchotchkes, and mementos roams homeless once more, and I'm again overwhelmed by the prospect of piecing the decorative experience together.

Why do I, a project-oriented individual, procrastinate so badly on this particular endeavor? After all, it's just holes in walls. Nothing irreparable. Nothing irreversible. Don't like it? Move it! Get something new? Replace the old! Yet I treat it like brain surgery: Do it right the first time, or forever regret the consequences.

However, with this last wrenching move that undid the puttering of four years in an afternoon, I was able to name what bothers me about framing projects: deciding what to keep visible, and what to pack away -- or worse, discard.

Empty frames. Photo by udge, Flickr

As I sifted through box and box, I found wall hangings, bells, fabric birds, die-cut cards, vintage ads I picked up at Eastern Market, brochure covers, calendar pages, a "bird house for fleas," a Goofy figurine, cross-stitches ... the list goes on. The years unfolded before me as I went. My first love gave me this street sign. My youth group framed this pledge. I found this wind chime in the stairwell of my college apartment.

To say no to something -- to say that it no longer merited display -- felt to me like rejecting those memories. Though I hadn't looked at many of these items in upwards of 10 years, I was looking at them now, and by virtue of looking at them now I was remembering circumstances and bygones and vistas I had let slip.

"Good thing I kept these boxes!" I thought. "Otherwise, my entire past would disappear!"

"Oh, so you didn't remember any of your past until this moment?" said my subconscious.

I thought for a moment. The objects were reminding me of specific details, but not the overarching experience. My first love will forever be printed on my heart. My youth group changed the way I look at Catholicism among my peers. I could tell you how every dinner party at my college apartment played out if you dropped me there today.

My subconscious piped up again. "So what you're saying is, you don't really need the items. You already remember these things, deep down."

"Shut up, Subconscious," I snapped. "You can't ask me to kill my darlings! You can't have me promote some memories over others. I need to remember all of it. Experiencing it the first time isn't enough. I need to relive, and relive, and relive, just in case ..."

But Subconscious had made its point. I knew what I had to do. I had to -- have to -- say goodbye.

Crooked is beautiful, too. Photo by seyed mostafa zamani, Flickr

There's now a box in a corner of my room collecting said goodbyes. As I select what to frame, or think about what I might want to display in the future, I put anything that no longer has a home in this humble receptacle. The items will go to Goodwill eventually, where nice people will find them and perhaps wonder why someone gave such-and-such up.

I gave it up, gentle buyer, to teach myself a lesson: that I am allowed to change what I'm invested in, what I care to remind myself of, and what I want to reinforce about my personal history. And as I will always be changing, varying how I reflect my dynamism externally does not invalidate or diminish what I have cherished or exhibited up to this point.

What's more, shedding reminders of more painful episodes can release me from bad memories or self-recrimination, plus I'm leaving wall space for what's to come. So even at its worst, my framing project is merely annoying me, while at its best it can capture the joy and beauty of my present.

I vow today not to wait four years to have my art around me again (making this latest round practically instantaneous by comparison). I will unwrap lovely memories and display resonant moments and re-encounter the art that never loses its ability to move me. Why delay joy like that?

See? I'm learning. Just as my subconscious promised. Just as I'll remember the next time this project rolls around.

Prayer #268: True Remembering

Joy scars you. I'm quick to point out angry sores and raised marks where pain once thwarted healing, but transcendent moments are just as branded on my skin.

Every time I laugh, I bruise. Every time I love, I burn. Your presence has marked me. It covers me with reminders of passion.

I fear I'll run out of skin -- out of memory -- but You assure me that true remembering is boundless. Day by day, lump by lump, You build me, so all I ever need to do is look at myself and see the artwork You have wrought.