Stick Man

“Beneath each pile of rubble is a foundation. Clean it off and begin again.” JSM

-One Big Mess-

Last weekend, I engaged in an activity which caused discomfort.

The reason for my discomfort, was so much time was initially spent building it up and molding it into everything I wanted it to be over the years. It’s terrifying to decimate something you love, or change it in some way.

The task was overwhelming, intimidating, a bit scary, and way too much thought was invested before hand. Do I really want to do this? What will I miss? Will I miss anything important? Oh no. What if you miss something… IMPORTANT?

I gave it some thought, shrugged and smiled, pressed the button, and initiated Operation Clean Sweep. Those involved in my past who happen to be reading this, will understand the comical personal reference.

I accessed the pages within my social media that shows liked and followed sites, and I spent a chunk of a day pondering their elimination(s); then following through. I believe within the first thirty minutes I ditched over forty followed sites.

The rest of the time spent was balancing the pros and cons of all the remaining options. Do you really need sixteen space and universe related sites? How many movie trailer venues do you  follow anyway? Nine ? You’re not involved in real estate, get rid of that. These humor sites do nothing for you.

At the end of the assignment, I felt relieved. My social media was customized to a better personal fit, and now when I happen to scroll and breeze through my time line, it’s less convoluted and seemingly endless. In the long run, a time saver. I’m not quite done yet, but getting close.

I go through spurts like that around the homestead. I call them Life Purges. Gutting out aspects of my existence that don’t appear to fit me anymore and cleaning house. Changing things up. A soul cleansing every few months. Out with the old and in with the new.

I do this because I undergo varying changes in my likes and dislikes, what I pay attention to, and what I look forward to. The transition happens fast, and at times I don’t even notice it until something triggers it to memory.

One week I may be engaged in a popular TV show, then the following week ignore it completely and eventually forget about it altogether. I don’t watch Game of Thrones anymore (perhaps someday I’ll climb back aboard the bandwagon), so what’s the point of seeing it on my news feed in seven different spots? It’s not that I don’t enjoy the show, far from it. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore and the last thing I need to read up on, or see on my feed, is what’s happening in a current season when I’m so far behind.

I’ll be watching Westworld, therefore I added a couple of new sites centered around this new show, but my interests have hit a wall in the realm of television watching. I’ve stripped my interests down to bare bones.

I am excited for Designated Survivor and plan on giving that one a shot to completion. Cause, ya know… Keifer Sutherland.

I’ve also dabbled in social media silence. Another wonderful life purge. Ignoring all social media for days at a time. The obvious exceptions being personal messages, tags, notifications and invites.

It’s freeing.

I know it’s freeing because when I return to my media news feed, after a time of absence, it becomes an information and sensory overload. Over-the-top, in your face exposure to everything and everyone all at once. Headache inducing. Dizzying. I’m forced to turn it off and walk away.

If anything important happens, the good folks in my circle will fill me in if needed.

Life purges are vital to who I am. Because I’m accustomed to adaptation, I feel the pull to ditch facets of my ever changing life, now and again. Either through donations to charity or gifts to the folks around the circle.

Since my childhood home I’ve lived in eighteen different houses and apartments. From the age of seventeen to almost forty one. The math will break down to a little over a year in each location. From a family’s cold damp basement, to a loft above a garage. From paying a mortgage, to carrying boxes across the street, from one front door to another, less than one hundred feet away. Living with friends, to living alone. Crashing on a couch to being comfortable in my man cave.

The house, where I once paid a mortgage, was shy of five years in residence and November of this year will be five in my current. Taking all that into consideration, the math gets weird. Sometimes three apartment moves in a year and a half.

A chaotic roller coaster ride.

My experiences through that time instituted a preparedness mentality. Nothing surprises me anymore and my philosophies are geared towards, “Anything can happen, anytime, anywhere, so might as well be ready for it.”

Living in fear? I don’t believe so. Being guarded? Sure, let’s go with that. I’m guarded.

I can say with conviction, that my life has been one big mess. Good times? Yup. Bad times? I couldn’t fully explain the bad times without entering realms I dare not cross into. Does the lifetime of good outweigh the bad? For the time being, we’ll call it a draw. When I’ve always lived someone else’s life, how I can I say with confidence it was any good?

It wasn’t mine.

However, it’s the best it’s ever been in a short time, so I currently lean towards good. I’m seeking the light and pushing away the dark. Over the rough and testing years I’ve accomplished the clean slate. Tabula Rasa. A full reboot. A transformation into a life that suits me on a personal level. A life I anticipate when I wake from slumber and I no longer dread the upcoming day. Instead, I relish in the fact I can continue on and participate in some minor fashion.

I had to wade through the mess to get there though. I’ve never felt like I fit in. I have friends who share likes and interests, but fitting into society has always been a challenge. I don’t participate in the same social conventions as others. What may be fun for one is uncomfortable for me. What’s exciting for a group, may be a complete bore from my point of view.

I don’t know who’s popular in music, who holds what spot on the charts, or who won an award at whatever ceremony. I’m unfamiliar with the newest stand-out actor or actress. I don’t watch sports. The radio is silent in my car. The news is nauseating. Politics is confusing and scary as all Hell. I’m out of touch with new technology. I hear questions about an upcoming movie and at the time of the questioning, I’ve never heard of the flick before.

I look it up, watch the trailer and read into it, so I can relate and participate in the conversation.

It may be safe to say that some life purges have put me out of touch with reality. Yet, the necessity to clean up takes hold, and I continue my routine.

With a noticeable mess around me, comes my urge to clean. I can overlook clutter, but the big mess demands attention.

I was comfortable at the Island being myself, but all around me, the result of cleaning out the filing cabinet, was one big heaping mess.


She removed the small box from the hand railing encircling the porch, and entered my home with a graceful stride. Only the table lamp in the far corner illuminated the space, and my living area was shrouded in darkness. Shelby circled the stranger, anxious, and ready to pounce.

“I’m so sorry for the mess.” I stammered, tripping over a book on the floor, while she placed the box on the kitchen counter in the dark. “Please don’t mind the clutter. Incense doesn’t bother you, does it? Hang on, the light switch is to your left. I’m sorry it’s so dark in here. Shelby won’t hurt you, I promise. We don’t get many visitors.” Rambling on like a nervous high school teen, I pulled a pair of sweatpants from the back of my chair and tossed it around the corner while her back was turned. Looking between my feet, a crumpled piece of paper sat on the floor and I kicked it under the couch with a tap of my toe, side arm tossed a pen onto my work desk while she glanced around the dimly lit room.

“This is nice.”

“Not bad,” I replied. “My oldest has a bedroom upstairs, my youngest is in a back room down the hall and I keep everything I own right here. I still have stuff in boxes I haven’t unpacked yet.”

“Simple.” She nodded her agreement and turned her attention to the kitchen. “Cake?”

“Sounds great.”

Her presence allowed me a moment to relax. Accompanied with a little slice of Heaven I felt my body slumping low in my chair, melting into the fabric, as opposed to sitting rigid and back straightened. I may have even allowed an “mmmmm” and a smile to escape my lips.

She gently removed the plate from my grip, rinsed all the dishes, and approached my filing cabinet. I leaned forward and watched with a careful eye.

“What’s going on over here?” She dropped to her haunches and opened a notebook sitting at the top of a pile.

“Just pieces of an old life. Nothing special. Drawings. Poems. Doodles.”

She wiped a thin film of dust with a forefinger and smiled at me, “Nothing special? You’ve had this long enough to gather dust. It must be important to you.”

“To be honest, Nancy, I just cleaned everything out tonight. Slowly going through it all. Finding homes for all that crap. I’d forgotten about most of it. I was looking for something specific, but I don’t think I have it anymore. I may just be lighting a fire in that fireplace tonight and getting rid of most of it.”

“What’s this?” She asked thumbing through a three ring binder.

“More of the same. Nothing special. Feel free to toss it in the fireplace if you want.”

“Can’t burn the plastic. Lets get the papers out first. I love a good fire.” She snapped open the book, pulled the pages out in stacks and set the binder to the side. “You sure you want to do this?”

I half shrugged my reply and waved her on. Just more of a cluttered past I had no desire to relive or revisit. Time to focus on an unknown scary future and not glimpse into a lifetime of old hoarded memories.

“Go for it.”

She tossed the stacks into the ashes like a Frisbee and from the center of one pile, a faded yellow manila folder slid away from the hearth and flopped onto the wooden floor spilling out it’s contents around her knees.

No way… Ice Storm of 98. No! Don’t throw that in.

“Nancy, can I see that please?” She handed me the folder and I tapped the pile back together.

She snatched up another thin stack and regarded the top page with a curious stare. I set the folder down on my work desk and she mouthed a series of silent words.

She pulled the papers away from her eyes and reread.

“What is that?” I asked leaning close and rolling my chair towards her.

She turned the pile around for me to visualize and at the lower left corner was a standard drawing of a stick figure and at the top of the page a sentence of faded words.

I squinted to read and she blurted it out, “Her name is Saara and she’s the queen of Havea.”

Holy shit. You found it.

“Not Havea… Heaven.”

She scrunched up her face and read it again. “Oh yeah. Heaven. Must have had a dyslexic moment. I like Havea. What is this anyway?”

“Something I wrote years ago after a dream.” A single tear welled to the surface and I blinked it away.

“Who’s this?” She pointed to the stick man.

I smiled my response and said, “For the moment, I’ll call him, Joe.”


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