One of my favorite movies, ever, is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It came out during what I call the Year of the Cyclone–2004. The hardest year of my life. At the time, my mother had just been diagnosed with CHF, and we were waiting for her to be stable enough to undergo open heart surgery. My heart was literally breaking, too. My then fiance had moved across the country for a job–without me–and he was miserable. Then, he came back for a short period of time for a work project–with the intention of moving home permanently. We had been through Hell & back–but I believed that him actually being here would fix it. And, honestly, more than anything–I just needed him to be sane. I needed him to be my rock. I needed him to get through this awful thing that was engulfing my life.
Only he wasn’t. I started noticing all the cracks in our relationship–how we didn’t quite fit anymore. I started noticing how he didn’t really care about what was happening in my life–not in the way someone who loves you more than anyone should. I just knew it wasn’t going to work. But I clung on to it–because I remembered that guy who wrote me poems every day–who helped me carry the burden of my childhood–who got me through the grief that fell on me when I finally chose to be myself.
I wasn’t going to give up on that. So, I tried–and tried–and sacrificed time with my ailing mother. I made choices for myself that I can now only regret. Mostly because he wasn’t who I thought he was. Or maybe we weren’t. Or maybe I changed. Or maybe he did. But–that thing we became? It wasn’t worth one minute of holding my mother’s hand when she was scared.
I remember watching that movie right after all of that–and just bawling. Uncontrollably. Because I just wanted to pretend it didn’t exist…that my heart wasn’t shattered. That I didn’t care.
Sometimes, I still do.
A few weeks ago, I started the massive task of getting my digital shit together. I decided that I would put all my music in one place. All my pictures in one place. All my movies in one place. And then, I’d back up everything.
While I’m normally pretty responsible about things, I’ve been slacking on backing up these items–simply because of the volume. I probably have more music than any sane human being. I have an incredible collection of photos. Like ridiculous amounts. And in my rush to collect all of these things, I just put them where I had room. No logic or rhyme. It made it hard to manage and organize. So, this was a good plan.
It was fine in the beginning–though so incredibly time consuming. And then, one of my hard drives–the one that I was clearing off to use as a back-up–which had most of my movies–started being a bit combative with Windows. To the point that my trusty laptop seemed to be failing. So, I bought another laptop and decided to get everything off this drive as soon as possible. I work from home, from this laptop, so I wanted to make sure I’d have a back-up plan just in case.
In the process of clearing that drive, it started causing a whole host of problems. Since it was on the same USB hub as my other hard drives, this was bad. The other hard drives were also crashing and restarting randomly. I did error checks, and everything was fine until yesterday. I knew I was losing that one drive. That was okay. Nothing too important. But this other drive was brand new and contained at least 3/4 of my music collection plus a good 1/4 of my photos. Yesterday, while transferring data onto it, this drive suddenly stopped being recognized by my computer. I tried everything. I even tried the other laptop. It wasn’t working. Desperate, I finally emailed tech support for the device. And then, I unplugged it in sheer defeat and took one more chance and plugged it back in. It started running, and there was the drive. It was 3 am. I immediately signed up for a cloud back-up service.
When all of this was happening, I found myself grieving. I had no idea what was on the drive. I just knew that even one lost photo was a loss. And it could take me years to figure out what I lost, music-wise. It made me sad to know I was losing something and I couldn’t replace it–either because it was irreplaceable (in the case of pictures of my mother) or it was simply unknown.
Both things made me think about some things. In an odd way, I started to feel like those photos–while irreplaceable–could never actually be lost. Mostly because I was there when they were taken. I lived that life–and while I didn’t have a photo to print out or share–I could hold it forever in my heart. And then–is it really lost if you don’t know it’s there? Isn’t it always there in your memory?
When I was 26, I was in love with a guy who wrote me sappy poems. I was naive enough to think that the way that we met–that who we were–was somehow meant to be and could weather any storm. I lived with rose-colored, romantic sap glasses stuck to my face…mostly because the reality of my life was hard–and I needed to escape it.
Lately, I find myself kind of annoyed by that perspective on life. When friends I know who are like I was post things on Facebook that hearken back to those times, I find that–instead of being enthralled–I’m kind of sickened. I’m just not that girl anymore. Because that girl needed to hide. That girl needed the pretend. She needed the photos and the music to know who she was and where she’d been.
Now, I just want a life that works for me. I want real–the real that comes with trying and failing. The ugly mess of cleaning it up and somehow getting the pieces to fit when they look like they never will. It’s fine to hold onto things, but to know that those things don’t matter so much as what they represent. All things change. All people change. And eventually, we all go kablooey.
The things we lose? Those things aren’t meant for us. They’re distractions from what really is ours. And the faster we realize that, the faster we can start living the lives we need to live.