I have a signed Keith Haring poster from the New York Book Fair that’s been with me for 25 years now.
It’s moved with me from Brooklyn to Manhattan to Chicago, where I finally had it framed and hung it proudly on the wall of my first bona-fide “grownup” apartment (i.e., all mine, with furniture I purchased myself); it’s moved with me since to three other places and one additional city, Los Angeles.
Somewhere along the way, I fell out of love with it, but I hung onto it because it was valuable, literally, perhaps, but more personally, because I could remember the moment of signing, me, nervous and sweaty on one side of the table, Keith Haring, weary and sweaty on the other. (New York summers are the opposite of dry and temperate.)
He asked me who to make it out to, and in a fit of stupid reaching to be different, I said, “C-A-W”, my initials. Because more than anything in that moment, I wanted Keith Haring to think I was interesting and unusual. I’m sure that’s exactly what he thought, right after “Christ on a bike, they come out in the heat.”
Anyway, there it all is, in one framed, signed poster: me in my lost, twentysomething yearning, and New York City, and the closest I ever got to Keith Haring (other than the dance floor of Area a couple of times, where everyone served as background for everyone else’s ongoing New York music video.) It’s not serving to do anything but remind me of what a sad little tool I was, both for my pathetic stabs at cool and for selecting an orangey-red frame that matches nothing I’ve ever had nor will have in my home. Yet even though I am committed to letting go of what’s not working for me, I can’t give this the heave-ho. The idea of selling it hurts my heart; the idea of giving it to Goodwill is unthinkable. It needs its Next Right Home, but it’s not fit to go out into the world yet. Its Next Right Home’s owner would (rightfully) look at it and politely decline. It is ’80s in the worst of ways, bright, loathed, neglected.
It occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, the thing was not empirically awful. That it could be saved by, perhaps even made lovable by, reframing. I scouted readymade frames, Aaron Brothers coupon in hand (does anyone shop at Aaron Brothers or Bed, Bath & Beyond without one anymore?) but came up short. Which is how, a few fiscally painful exchanges later, I wound up with my same old poster looking completely awesome on my bedroom wall in its new, plain, wildly overpriced, custom black frame.
Getting rid of new stuff, stuff that you haven’t had for a while, or that hasn’t been in your family for a while, getting charged with multiple hits of emotional energy, isn’t too hard. Even the expensive new stuff is relatively easy to let go of, once you get over that first hump.
Getting rid of old stuff is much, much harder. For starters, you’re invested in it seven ways to Sunday; it becomes so much a part of you, it’s hard to see how it could serve you differently, or serve someone else better completely.
I recently unearthed a mamaluke of an old habit, not remembering, that is going to be an unholy bitch to wrangle. My shrink and I spent the better part of this month’s session unpacking it, and I just know I’m going to be a long time at turning this one around. The reframing began with me being introduced to the idea that when you come from a fucked-up home, you tend to do a lot of dissociating, and that leads to a lot of not-remembering. For a long time, it either didn’t matter (I could look things up, or ask) or the problem wasn’t that bad. But with perimenopause, things have declined precipitously, I forget names almost instantly after they’re made known, and random nouns are getting harder to grab as my rickety head-RAM spins fruitlessly. Plus, I want to live a good life, and that means addressing my demons, even the stinky, hoary ones I paved over or figured out a way to work around a long time ago.
At some point, I will let go of most everything. And at some point further down the road, I will let go of the rest of it, as we all will when the clock counts down to zero.
For now, I let go of what I can as I can, and reframe the rest, so it can continue to serve. And it warrants remembering that one can enlist a little help with the reframing, as well as help with the outright tossing. None of us got here on our own; sometimes, we can all use a little help getting to the next place…