02 July 2009

On Throwing Away Bad Memories and Keeping the Good Ones

Artwork: I Found My Aura - Shana Robbins, 2005

One of the things I'm currently trying to do to keep myself from going completely bonkers is to throw out practically everything that gets me down, to purge myself - and my personal space - of just about everything related to the worst times in my life.

I've already done this several times in the past and it has involved the burning of old diaries filled with painful memories of a wretched adolescence, the banishment of old yearbooks to the storage room below stairs, writing off exes as good as dead whilst all of them are very much alive.

As much as I can, I try not to join my family whenever they go to Pandacan on Sundays. My paternal grandmother and the rest of the motley crew in the old house can bicker and backstab each other for all I care, but I refuse to be dragged into their dramas.

I've tossed out retreat letters that were written for the sake of saying "Oh, I sent EVERYONE in class a retreat letter." I've ditched snapshots of faux friends - the snakes and vipers all burned.

A few memoirs, however, have been kept.

One such item is the very last handwritten letter I received from the best friend who died; it's dated sixteen years ago, October in our freshman year in college. She was at UP-Diliman whilst I was at PWU-Manila. The letter was a response to one I wrote to her a couple months before. I told her that I was enjoying myself at my school, that I could breathe easier and feel freer; quite a change, I said, from the stuffy environment we had at Benedictine Abbey. I asked for her advice on what languages to study; at the time, I was learning to read Greek and Japanese on my own and was planning to cross-enroll somewhere to learn either French or Italian. She, on the other hand, spoke glowingly of the UP campus in Quezon City and how she, too, was enjoying her new-found freedom. She wrote of her then-boyfriend and how they were getting along quite swimmingly. She told me she'd opted to go for psychology as a course and that it was going to be her pre-med (turned out to be pre-LAW, instead). We missed each other, of course; how were we supposed to know that we would only see each other again after seven years and that - alas! - would also be the very last time?

There are the postcards I sent to my parents while on that long-ago tour of Europe and North America with my maternal grandparents and one of my aunts. I have to laugh at the innocence of my words, my child's scrawl declaring my first taste of steak (it was in KL, well-done, and I didn't like it at all), my wonder at being in Disneyland for Donald Duck's 50th birthday, how excited I was at having seen Pope John Paul II in person in Rome. I read them and remember being in the pilgrimage town of Lourdes on my mother's birthday and how my grandfather told me to tell the Blessed Mother to send blessings to my Mom. My postcards are mixed with the ones my elders wrote to my parents and I see how much they all loved me despite the fact that I was quite the brat at times.

"We bought chocolates in Belgium," says the missive from Brussels, "and Ritzie [my home nickname] is really enjoying herself. She has saved some for the babies. [my younger brother and two cousins]"

The hourglass that was given away as a souvenir when I graduated from high school still sits on my desk at home. I suppose I could have smashed it in one of my fits of temper, but I guess I kept it with the old adage "This, too, shall pass" in mind.

The anime stuff accumulated during my fangirl phase was gradually given away to friends with an artistic bent. Magazines, comic compilations - I've passed them on to my sister and some of my former students at Mapua. What I HAVE kept, however, are the ones that matter: first editions of Mamoru Nagano's "Five Star Stories" manga compilations in both English and Japanese, and signed prints given to me by manga artist Yuu Watase when she came to Manila in 2000. And no: I have no intention of giving THOSE away.

I have kept no pictures of any of my exes or long-ago crushes. Seriously: what would be the point of keeping a rogues' gallery? It'll only give me a headache! (I have pictures of the current apple-of-my-eye, though; but that's another story...)

I make it a point to give away things sent to me by the cousin I hate the most. For one thing, she just forces things on me to make herself look magnanimous. For another, I'm actually allergic to all the stuff she gives me.

I know I can't get rid of all the emotional baggage overnight and I have also realized that removing the PHYSICAL - the tangible - part of my worst memories has been helping me cope with my bipolar disorder.

To everyone who commented on this post, thank you; your encouragement REALLY means a lot to me and I'm sorry if I've been getting everyone worried. I'm taking small steps to finding my place in this world; maybe I will find that place - that specific PERSON - someday.

In the meantime, I need to clear my spaces - and, yes, bake another huge batch of cookies whilst I'm at it.

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