A part of editing one’s life is learning to say goodbye to things, often with some moments spent in reflection over the memories evoked and then letting it go, even if it is a reluctant letting go. As one friend advised, “assimilate and honour the memory but get rid of the evidence. Somethings are better tucked away in the cloud-storage of your mind!” In the era before packers and movers came onto the scene and made work so much simpler, moving house used to be a tedious affair. Packing material consisted of wooden boxes, steel trunks, hessian cloth etc. (Modern day cartons, bubble wraps and wonder tapes have made things so much easier!) Room by room you sat and sifted through stuff sorting it into boxes…some for the absolutely essential that would be needed to be accessed immediately on arrival at the new place; some for opening later when you were allotted a proper residence and were not staying in some make-shift arrangement consisting perhaps of a set of two rooms and a kitchen. In hindsight, those ’temporary’ accommodations were a great lesson in stripping to the bare minimum. You learnt that you could actually fit your basic kitchen in just a couple of boxes as you realised that even six pieces of a dinner set instead of four different full dinner sets was sufficient enough for life!
The most gargantuan stripping and editing of course happens at the time of superannuation. That is the time most of us are empty nesters, the children having flown the coop and settled in their own professions and domesticity. Many among our friends and peers then choose to move from the sprawling official residences one is used to, into smaller but more comfortable apartments (i have known even our own parents and others from their generation doing the same). Therein lies the real test. Imagine dismantling and getting rid of those rich memories of a lifetime spent living in different parts of the country (even abroad at times) and all the memorabilia that goes with it. Over the years of travelling around one collects so much– mementos, curios, artefacts, paintings…every piece with its own message from the past. A part of the editing is to look at this stuff and decide what can be taken along in the reduced space of your new habitat. It is a process that can be best described as ‘bittersweet’ as you struggle one shelf at a time, a cupboard a day, sometimes one room a week…a seemingly insurmountable task with occasional thoughts of just giving up in despair! Then you pause and ask yourself which of them would you really like to see everyday and thus begins the first of many rounds of elimination. Slowly but surely you manage an abridged version keeping only what is most meaningful, even as you learn that life is “eternally editable” ~ it is your masterpiece after all!!