Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Collector's jeans

"Life's full of flaws, who knows the cause, living in the memory of a love that never was."

I'm a stockpiler. You may not know that about me.

Oh, not canned foods, bottled water, guns or greenbacks under the mattress.

I stockpile clothing. I have a small obsession with socks and undergarments. Shirts and sweaters and jeans and shoes. Nightgowns. Hand soap. Makeup, and I seldom wear makeup. Purses. Watches.

Yes, that is a bin full of socks.

It hasn't quite reached hoarding proportions, but it has reached a certain level of ridiculousness. I like what I like and I can't remember what I've got. Which explains why I have three almost identical lilac colored shirts hanging in my closet. Unworn.

I've been thinking about the difference between stockpiling and hoarding, and it comes down to this. Beyond the fact that my house isn't bursting at the seams with broken toasters and empty grocery bags and mountains of miscellany, I don't mind getting rid of things. It gives me satisfaction to fill a bag for Purple Heart, to toss out expired cans, jars, boxes, spices that have lost their spice, and all manner of useless things.

But I can't seem to go to Target without looking at underwear and buying it if I like it and it's my size. I check out socks on every trip to Ross or TJ Maxx, even if I went there for towels or baby gifts. I take my daughter to Famous Footwear to buy shoes. She finds nothing she likes, I leave with two more pairs.

It's a silly habit, stockpiling, because I forget what I have and by the time I find it, it's either totally out of fashion, doesn't fit or my tastes have changed. Sometimes all of the above. And then there's the ubiquitous "what was I thinking?!" as I hold up shorts that are too short, bright yellow T-shirts with wild red butterfly appliques, or some other inappropriate monstrosity. Some things go straight into the Purple Heart bag with the tags still on.

I like to say I don't have an addictive personality. I haven't smoked a cigarette since I was 23 and I quit drinking when I turned 40. My vices are sugar and caffeine ... and I could give up sugar. Drugs have never tempted me. And if any of my college friends are reading, I didn't inhale. Really.

What I might have is an obsessive personality and a thing about things. I collect stuff. But unlike Neil who sensibly collects things that are akin to investments and go up in value, I collect whatever I fancy at any given time. I still have more than 100 beanie babies, complete with tag protectors. When I bought them, I knew full well they'd never be worth anything, but the thrill of the chase sucked me in every time.

Years ago, my mom found a ceramic frog wearing a red bikini and displayed it on a shelf. "I like a little kitch," she said. That was the genesis of my first collection, miniature animals. They had to be small enough to fit in a printer's tray section. Eventually I had lots (and lots) of different small animals, that I lovingly dusted with a soft paintbrush. Then I went through a frog phase and a cat phase.

All of these cherished collectibles are carefully packed in plastic bins, wrapped in tissue, and have been so since I moved out of my house in Jersey Village in 2007. I never unpacked them when I moved to Sugar Land. I just started new collections. Royal Worcester spill vases. Halcyon Days boxes. Any china teacup or pitcher or sugar bowl with a Chelsea Garden pattern. And there are many. A big eBay score on a complete tea set in a Lady Claire pattern.

Glass vases. Enamel bowls. Picture frames. A gallimaufry of random knickknacks. My favorite part of any visit to a zoo or museum was a stop in the gift shop. Art objects. Stuff. Just. Stuff.

It overwhelms me now. Much of it is stored away in boxes in closets. I used to think that when I retired I'd spend my first few years selling things on eBay. It's just hard to know where to begin.

And then there is my glass, my most excessive stockpile. I don't ever want to run out of my favorite colors, and I have so many favorite colors. When I started lampworking in 2008, I bought glass by the quarter pound, sometimes even by the rod. Now I rarely buy less than a half pound and more often full pounds and multiples of full pounds. I've bought as much as 10 pounds of staples like black, white and clear.

My glass takes up more than three large shelving units in my garage studio. There are colors I have that are no longer available and I use these sparingly or not at all. I'm not sure why. The world wouldn't end if I used up a color, and there are always new colors to fall in love with. Maybe I'm waiting until I think I'm good enough, until I'm confident that I can make a bead worthy of using this or that beautiful scarce color.

I collect lampwork beads too, beads made by other artists, and these I truly enjoy owning. But I also have boxes and boxes of beads from exchanges, beads made in the classes I've taken, beads I've been given, and beads I bought before I knew enough about bead making to be discriminating.

I've also acquired quite a collection of commercially made beads, gemstone and crystal and, naturally, glass. I always think I'll make jewelry with them, but I seldom do and when I do, I just have more jewelry to maintain and care for. And speaking of jewelry, I have accumulated so many (many) pairs of earrings and necklaces and pendants and bracelets and rings. And just like makeup, I don't wear much jewelry these days.

I'm not sure where I came by my compulsion to acquire things. My parents rarely bought anything they didn't really need. Despite their austerity, when my father died three years ago and my mom moved into assisted living, my brother and I were utterly phased by the task of emptying their tidy two bedroom condo. In the end, we paid a crew to come in and carry away everything besides the few mementos we wanted badly enough to pack up and ship to Texas and New Jersey.

I want to get a handle on it, I really do. I want to weed out the collectibles that haven't seen daylight in years and the jewelry I no longer wear. I want to clear out some of the clutter. Most of all I want to be more disciplined about buying things I don't need.

But please don't think I'm ever going to stop buying socks. There are some things you just don't want to run out of.

Color me obsessed. That trait hasn't changed radically over the last decade. Still, better to be obsessed with socks than with a man who didn't love me.

As the one-year anniversary of my first date with Marty loomed, in June 2002, I succumbed once more to my inability to move on. Conflicted thoughts of provoking a meeting, of seeing him again, tormented me.

I wondered if I had been too discouraging when he asked me to call him in April. And then I'd let his last note go unanswered.

But I also thought, for someone who pushed me over and hurt me so much, he didn't try very hard at all to convince me he had been thinking about us or wanted to see me again. Maybe he realized there'd be explaining to do and he just wasn't interested in the work.
I am not able to love Marty right now, because the hurt was so huge and the anger so great, but I am sure I did once love him.

I know even if I could see him casually, the anger and hurt would eventually surface and have to be addressed. We couldn't just pretend we were starting with a fresh slate, well we could pretend but it wouldn't work if the relationship were to last. But much more likely I would just get hurt again, and what do I need that for?

Still, part of me needs to know what happens to him, if he loses his job or transfers to California or goes back to New York. I think I have to ask the question.

Why do I give a damn anyway? He isn't who I thought he was, why can't I get that through my head? Is it a competitiveness of sorts, do I want to win him back, just so I can win?
I wrote to my new friend Claire.
The more I think about it, the more I think he might be willing to see me again (for coffee at least) and the more I am not sure I want to waste the time and energy. If he were to reach out to me that would be different, but to be the one in the asking position seems to take more out of me.

I'm almost past caring, although part of me still wants to see him again, just to look in his eyes one more time and try to read what drives this man who caused me so much sorrow by facilely telling me he loved me and wanted to be with me forever and then casting me aside so heartlessly and totally.

None of it made sense. It still doesn't.

I have sat here today and written him a note asking to meet for coffee. Maybe he will agree to meet me for coffee and I will see him and feel nothing. I truly no longer believe he is a way to happiness for me.

I haven't resolved to send it, as I sit here, and yet I think, it's such a small thing, meeting for coffee, such a human thing.
On Monday June 10, I did send Marty a note, but I only asked for an update, not a meeting.

The media hype around the one-year anniversary of Allison this weekend reminded me, willy nilly, of our first meeting. It's hard to believe it's been a year.

Is there anything new with the merger and your job?

All else is well with us.

I wrote to Claire.
So I will see what he does with that, and try to have no expectations or agenda for the future. I am tired of the feelings and the thinking and wish only for some peace.
But as days passed without a reply, I felt agitated.
Why would someone who once professed to love me forever refuse to communicate with me in the spirit of friendship?

But we already know he is not a healthy person, nor a man of character and integrity.

So why does it still come as a shock and an ache?

My fantasy has been that he is secretly pining, having come to the inescapable conclusion that he will never again find anyone as good as I am, but hopeless of winning my heart again. Obviously, that is not the case.

I can no longer hold on to the belief that he is wounded but basically good beneath. He truly has a dearth of compassion and humanity, or he would write a polite answer to a polite inquiry.
With cosmic ironic timing, Mark had resurfaced with a new deluge of sad messages, via e-mail and postcards.
I have ignored his correspondence, but I think that is just fanning the flames of his obsession. So today I will try to find the right words to set it to rest.
On Friday Marty finally replied to my note. This is the pertinent excerpt.
Hi, Liz.... Thanks so much for your note! I’m glad you’re well.

No job loss, no relocation. Perhaps more travel. And more money??? Well, a boy can dream, can’t he?

I had the same memories prompted by the Allison chatter, and smiled when I thought about the two of us trying to find each other through cell phone networks that were half disabled! It is hard to believe it’s been a year.

Anyway, the memories are warm and pleasant, Liz, and thanks for your note. It’s nice to hear from you.

I wrote to Claire.
I received a message from Marty this morning.

Damn. And I was almost grateful for the silence, which would have permanently cut the cord.

The tone of the letter is friendly. But no mention of wanting to see me.

So now, I have to consider whether I want to take it forward by suggesting a meeting, or just continuing the correspondence.

I'm not sure what I will do.
I let a week pass. Then I wrote a short open-ended note, matching his tone.
Hi Marty,

Thanks for the update. I'm glad things have worked out so well for you.

Yes, that was a funny night last year, when we drove in circles for an hour and finally hooked up, against all odds.

And then you went home and wrote me that sweet note. Yes, there are some good memories.

Marty, you sound well, better than last year, when you were so homesick and blue. I hope that is true.

Thanks for being in touch.

In the meantime, Mark had gotten out of control.
I had more troubles with Mark yesterday. He called in the morning in tears, told me I had hurt him badly.

I can't imagine ever doing that to Marty or anyone I loved. I didn't react well, I became defensive and told him that I would not accept a guilt trip, that I had been honest with him all along, and that I could not be his girlfriend.

He said nothing, so I told him that I needed to let him go, and then I put the phone down. He called back but I didn't pick up.

Later he left me a message, saying he was sorry if he had offended me. Shortly after, he rang again. My friend Randy was there, and I think that helped me stay calm and allow Mark to talk.

I accepted his apology and told him he was a good person and it was nothing he did wrong that made me "break up" with him - in my mind, we never had an official relationship, we were just two people dating casually.

I told him I thought trying to stay "friends," as he suggested, would merely impede his ability to move on. I told him that nothing had changed since the day in April when I told him I did not want to be alone with him, and that his walking out the door that day was the most appropriate thing he could have done. He seemed to accept this. I had the sense that we may now really have closure.
About this time, Claire suggested that I take the initiative and write a note to Marty saying, "well, are you going to invite me out for lunch or not?"
Your advice about Marty is thought-provoking, but I have decided to leave it up to him to make the next move. He answered my question. I replied in the same tone. If he doesn't take up the gauntlet, I've determined to let it go.

For the first time this morning, I found myself asking the powers in the universe to release me, in essence, "praying" that he does not respond to my message, so I can be ultimately free of the power he still has to command my thoughts and dreams.
A month went by.

Randy showed up for a date with roses and chocolates.
I was very surprised. But my heart still does not flutter when I see him.

I told him that part of me wanted to tell him to date other women. This seemed to upset him. I said that I didn't know what I wanted and that asking him for time felt like I was promising that, in time, there would be a reward, and that that was a commitment I did not want to make.

He insisted he would be fine whichever way things went (but Mark insisted the same thing, and he wasn't fine).
Thoughts of Marty still plagued me daily. I came close to breaking my resolve not to contact him again.
God help me, Claire, he is so "present" right now. Randy and I went to the park for the fireworks, the same place I went with Marty last year, and I kept turning around and expecting to see him there.

I wanted to see him - I wanted to smile at him.
This time Marty was the one to break the silence.

"Love will abide, take things in stride
Sounds like good advice but there's no one at my side
And time washes clean love's wounds unseen
That's what someone told me but I don't know what it means

'Cause I've done everything I know
To try and make you mine
And I think I'm gonna love you
For a long, long time

Caught in my fears blinking back the tears
I can't say you hurt me when you never let me near
And I never drew, one response from you
All the while you fell all over girls you never knew

'Cause I've done everything I know
To try and make you mine
And I think it's gonna hurt me
For a long, long time

Wait for the day, you'll go away
Knowing that you warned me, of the price I'd have to pay
And life's full of flaws, who knows the cause
Living in the memory of a love that never was

'Cause I've done everything I know
To try and change your mind
And I think I'm gonna miss you
For a long, long time."

(Gary White)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz