The Troll Diary (and a bit about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo)

Some trips down Memory Lane are not so good.
I had just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Inspired and beyond sick of the clutter that surrounds me, and mourning the neatnik I was before motherhood and decades of constantly picking up after others wore me down, I dove in. School is out for winter break and I’ve got time. Like the author recommended, clothes first.
I was happily purging belongings, feeling virtuous and efficient, until my words and my wounds from 20 years ago ambushed me. The journal was hiding at the bottom of a dresser drawer. How it had hidden itself so well is beyond me; I last wrote in it 17 years ago and have moved house four times since then. My mood plummeted. It chronicled my last 18 months or so in a horrid marriage to a miserable and abusive man I call The Troll. (I originally called him The Toad, until I realized that was dissing toads big time, and I couldn’t think of anything good about trolls and renamed him. This was before comment sections on the Internet when the word “troll” took on a whole new meaning. But the sentiment is much the same.)
My wave of accomplishment collapsed in on itself as I read my own scrawled words. I was transported back instantly, to a pit of despair and a self I hated being. By the time I forced myself to stop reading and throw the notebook in the trash bag, I felt exactly as I had whenever The Troll ambushed me with some new bit of marital devilry. Now I was angry with him all over again, and angry with the journal too. It felt like the journal had done what The Troll himself used to do, lurking and springing some new outrage on me when I was least expecting it.
But then I remembered what I had accomplished all those years ago, what that outpouring of thoughts and words had led to. I had secretly started seeing a counselor. I had fought through a Shelob-worthy web of depression and oppression to plan an escape and get myself and my children out to something better. I had cadged and hidden money for an apartment and other unforeseen expenses, and lined up a secret A-team of support I would surely need. I saved my own life.


Kreg Steppe, Flickr/Creative Commons
These last few years have been difficult ones, again, but it’s been getting better. Our rent has been raised enough that we can’t afford to stay where we are. Once again, I don’t know where I’ll be six months from now, but that is not as unsettling to me as it would have been two years ago. I’m getting to where I’m once again okay with where I am. I’m coming to terms with some loss and I’m working to accept some unacceptable facts. I’ve taken the time and effort to be kind to myself. With the love and support of the Tominator and Dream Girl, not to mention another counselor worth 100 times her hourly rate, I’m coming out the other side of another rough patch. I’m even okay with a bit of uncertainty, which is huge for someone who thrives on routine and a comfortably padded niche.
A big part of that has been examining and jettisoning many elements of my life, both emotional and physical. The premise of the cleaning-out book I was reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is not just to get rid of things that don’t fit. It’s not about clever ways to store a bunch of crap we don’t need. It’s not even about deciding what to throw out. It’s about deciding what to keep, specifically keeping things only if they “spark joy.” If it doesn’t “spark joy” when you hold it, then toss it. It is an excellent approach to dejunkifying your personal space, but it’s even more about creating an environment with purpose. It’s not just physical. It’s cerebral, and it’s spiritual. It’s a way to look at every element of life, not just tangible possessions.
Back to cleaning. I’ve already hauled two big bags out to the dumpster, have another partway full, and have two more full of things to be donated. I can see my closet floor for the first time in two and a half years. That’s joy right there. And when I look more closely at how far I’ve come from being the woman who wrote that journal, that’s some serious joy.
Sometimes you have to be reminded of how much you can do. Let Memory Lane take you there.

Out, damned Facebook!

It’s time to slow things down, Facebook. We’ve been seeing far too much of each other.
There have been a few good articles on how Facebook is bad for you, like this one and this one, but I’d like to think I figured it out on my own. Wait. Maybe that’s not such a good thing. It’s pretty bad when I have to figure it out for myself instead of reading about it on Facebook, right?

I’ve noticed it personally for a few months now. I see pictures of someone’s vacation and I feel envious. Not just that passing kind of envy, wow, how beautiful, that’s a place to keep in mind to go to someday, but something more ferocious, an anger turned inward. Why am I not good enough to be able to afford a vacation twice a year, or even once a year? People post pictures of their gardens, or the feasts they’ve prepared, and I immediately feel that I’m failing to live an acceptable life because I do not serve equally sumptuous dinners with tables graced by flawlessly arranged flowers grown in my equally exquisite garden. Never mind the fact that I live in a tiny apartment that doesn’t even have room for a proper table. Also never mind the fact that I am more of a necessity cook than a gourmet cook, and also have a pretty tight budget. Who, these days, has $39 for an ostrich egg? Hell, it’s all The Tominator and I can do to keep the place stocked with bread and tea.

I realize this is not the fault of the people who are doing fun and beautiful things in their lives. They should be doing fun and beautiful things in their lives. I am a depressive person. I’ve suffered from crippling panic attacks for 35 years, as well as the depression that goes with that. It is easy for me to find fault with myself, to weigh and find myself wanting. Why am I not that skinny? Why don’t I have 35 friends waiting to take me out on the town for my birthday? Why don’t I knit things that look that good? Why am I not a worldly and cultured traveler?  I certainly should be. I mean, just look. Everybody else is. Except, of course, that they’re not.

Yes, I know when to use which one. But I don’t own most of them.

But it’s not just that.

I don’t need the distraction. I recently participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and while the fault is ultimately my own, I still blame Facebook for the fact that I did not reach my word count goal. Hell, I’ve had to mentally slap my hand three times already, just writing this post, to keep from opening Facebook in a new window to see what new thing I’m not doing right that has come up in the last fifteen minutes. (It is interesting that I don’t have this problem when school is in session and I really do have to study, and I don’t have it at work either. Apparently my mind does have some self-discipline.) I’m still not as bad as some people though. I do not now have, and never have had and never will have, the Facebook app for my phone. But I still think that’s like justifying skin-popping smack by pointing out that it’s not as bad as mainlining. It’s still bad, Advertising irritates the living daylights out of me, clickbait destroys IQ points, and any article written about the Kardashians is a tool of Satan.
I don’t need the overstimulation. Yes, the world is full of injustices that need to be righted. But people who share a meme and apparently believe that means they’re actually doing something to fix things irritate the shit out of me. I personally don’t need to have horrifying pictures of abused animals shoved in my face. It agitates me, and the fact that you slammed me in the face with a gross-out makes for zero likelihood that I’m going to jump on your bandwagon. If this is a cause I will use my time to fight for, I will seek it out. Do you think the criminal justice system needs an overhaul, or GMO foods should be labeled? First, fact-check the meme you just read. Then, get off Facebook and write a letter to your legislator. Have a real conversation with a real person about it. Vote. I don’t know if it’s causing the insomnia that plagues me, but when I wake in the wee hours, that kind of crap is what is floating in my mind. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. But I don’t need it invading my sleeping hours as well as my waking ones.
I don’t need the negativity. I realize they are just stupid memes, and people frequently share stuff without really thinking about the implications behind them. Still, it upsets me to see that someone I like apparently harbors viewpoints I find hateful. Why, exactly, is it so horrible to have driver’s license tests available in languages other than English? Anybody who has ever learned, or tried to learn, a foreign language knows it’s damned hard, and having things available in people’s mother tongues makes rules and regulations clearly understood as well as making us just, well, classy for being so accepting of other cultures, kinda the same way other countries make things available in English. (Oops, I ranted.) And then there’s just all the generally irritating things that people do on Facebook anyway, like “vaguebooking” and proselytizing and posting quotes that aren’t even correctly attributed and the rest of these Facebook sins.

Except this one. If Abe said it, it must be true.

I’m not saying Facebook is completely evil. A year or so ago I reconnected with some cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and it’s been delightful. I enjoy knowing that people I care about are doing things that make them happy. There is some intelligent stuff out there, and I come across some interesting articles and points of view. It’s a good place to promote my blog.

But I think there’s a lot more bad than good, and it’s time for me to draw a line.

In the hour I’ve spent writing this blog post, I haven’t looked at Facebook once. Now I think I’ll go email my legislator about the asshattery and unconstitutionality of the English-only movement. Maybe I’ll finish that beautiful scarf I started knitting for Dream Girl. And who knows, I might even read War and Peace and get some sleep.
Now, Twitter. Now, that’s interesting…

Get a Life: Nate Bolt, Creative Commons
Formal table: Andreas Praefcke, Public Domain
Abe: He’s everywhere.