Who specifically I’m referring to in this post isn’t the issue. No one will ever know unless the people involved decide that I’m talking about them. Anyone reading this might as well assume it is a work of fiction, especially since I’m often accused of living in a fantasy world, or of egregious exaggeration. 🙂
I recently practiced sentimental minimalism and it was much more difficult. This time, I was trying to eradicate vestiges of archived anger. This archive contained recorded voicemails, texts, and emails from people whose intention was to seed anger in my mind. Sadly, much of the intent was successful. Some of the effort came close to dragging me into seemingly infinite pits of negativity. There were a couple of points last year that got the best of me.
To listen once again to some of the insanity and read some of the written poison was worse than I expected. It reminded me again of how vicious people can be, especially when their pride is at stake, or when someone insists that another person treat them with respect or stay out of their lives. It was quite the task to recall being accused of some of the stupidity I had been accused of. I don’t blame some of the behavior, though, as I wouldn’t have wanted to accept responsibility for some of those words, both written and spoken, had I authored them. It was easier for them to vilify me than to simply stop bothering me. I get that. It’s the stalker’s mentality of being righteously right – and of getting the last word.
Most of the threats and profanity weren’t even interesting; rather, it was the garden variety stupidity that life tends to dole out with much greater frequency than the interesting type of hate that I find more interesting. (Most of it, too, falls into the category of: “You horrible person! I’m a great person, though. I am going to kill you because of how you acted or what you said. Meanwhile, please allow me to poison your eyes and ears with foul words and language.” The people spouting this nonsense rarely stop to think of just how stupid and crazy they sound when they talk like this!)
If you are more or less normal and reading this, I know you don’t understand how abnormal of a thing I’m describing. I’m not talking about someone you know or love being upset with you for your views on politics or for being late to Thanksgiving dinner. No, I’m describing situations where someone close to you calls or writes and vividly describes how you are going to be killed, or your house set on fire, and how your life is going to be ruined, including all the well-planned details to accompany the threat. Over and over. Normal people rarely need to contend with this level of idiocy and anger.
Since this blog should at least hint at my life, I have to admit that some of it was leftover from someone close. Especially with the audio content, some of the things that were said gave me chills. The anger in that stuff was beyond normal behavior. Some of it lingered in my digital life because I just couldn’t quite get past the idea that I might need to preserve some evidence of how mean they could be. As always, I’m not writing here to ruin anyone’s legacy. Like anyone else, they did good in the world. But the cloud of the misbehavior is more indicative of her true legacy, at least in terms of me. Nothing good comes of me being needlessly harsh toward another person – but it is also true that no good comes from trying to maintain a falsehood of someone’s life, or one not tortured by alcohol.While I haven’t deleted all of the craziness, I rid myself of 95%. In the years to come, it won’t be my opinion which determines someone’s legacy. It will be the collective anecdotes of everyone who knew them, both good and bad. My opinion weighs very little in the balance.
For the very few who have read and listened to some of the things that I had archived and just couldn’t get rid of, the sheer shock and surprise was apparent. I wanted them to see this person with my eyes and ears and a get a glimpse based on evidence, rather than just my word, of the level of evil that could come from people.
I try to delete this stuff with the idea that if I die without notice, the people I love won’t have to weed through the craziness and need to focus on it. It tends to stain everyone it touches, regardless of who is “right.” Those who are close to me know well what was said and done and what my motivations were. Everyone else can and will freely be revisionists to history.I know that if I were to die unexpectedly, there would be a lot of anger from some people about their inability to change history, or at least to change the minds of people who experienced some of that toxic stupidity with me.
The same is true of another family member. Reading some of the anger sent to me in the past was an error on my part. It should have been deleted almost immediately. Unfortunately, some of it had to be kept in case of legal action, which sounds crazy when I write it out like that. I can’t quite get my mind to accept that someone can be so angry that they would actually send some of that anger to another person. But I’m not surprised, given that the vitriol was over years and not limited to single outbursts. That’s a pattern and such long-term anger needs to be met with caution.
As for the last paragraph, it was difficult to let go of the attempt to control how this person had infected people’s opinions of me. The angry person had no choice except to reframe the problem and get attention away from their own life. I was acting in good faith and had attempted to calmly get the person to stop spewing anger – at least toward me. I failed. And at the end of the ordeal, at least in some people’s eyes, I was the villain.That’s the way life is and probably always will be. It’s up to time and friends to watch everyone’s life and to use what they say and do as a litmus to determine who has been lying and spreading dissent and hatred.
Ridding oneself of sentimental baggage is still one of the hardest minimalism challenges for many of us. It’s one thing to get rid of our four extra George Foreman grills or Reader’s Digest condensed books, quite another to trash powerful emotional residue. I have looked at a couple of my archives over the last year and was simply unable to delete them entirely- even though just looking at it added misery to my life. Digital stuff can be just as depleting as piles of old hangers in one’s closet. It doesn’t enhance your life or make you happier – and it crowds out the “new”in one’s life. One thing I could do was to minimize the volume by writing a synopsis and having it notarized. Some day soon I will discard that, too.
I love photos, but hate photography. Another digital leftover were hundreds of pictures of an old friendship. I was close to someone who lashed out in anger and told me to go fly a kite. While I kept a very few pictures of our shared times, I finally was able to delete almost all of the pictures from that time. It wasn’t easy, but I felt better about it after all the photos and backups were gone.I was hoarding my past, or trying to. It’s difficult enough to keep one’s mind trained and focused without veering off into neurosis without adding constant reminders in the form of pictures, emails, texts or voicemails.