To redo, not undo

I’ve had the same Day-Timer planner for more than 20 years — a gift from my brother that has to be the most-useful/used gift I’ve ever received. When I started the job that launched my writing career, most everyone in the company was using a similar planner, and I found out after I was hired that the fact I brought mine to the interview was something they noticed.

On my to-do list for years now (literally) has been to redo the address pages in the back of the planner. Written in pencil (but rarely erased) are 20+ years of people, phone numbers, addresses, passwords, URLs, security codes, login instructions…anything I deemed important to remember and have quick access to.

Of course, it’s hopelessly outdated, and I bought a new set of pages years ago, meaning to redo them. That task has been on my to-do list ever since. When a friend gifted me at Christmas with a nifty desktop chalkboard, it was the first thing I thought to write on it.

I think it’s finally time to tackle the project. But as I start with the As, it’s not so easy. It feels like erasing a scrapbook. The number for the old cable company makes me remember launching my business and my first attempts at getting online. My dad’s doctor’s number make me think of my dad. The address of a friend/colleague I haven’t seen in years but still exchange Christmas cards with — I have the address in my Outlook address book — do I need it here too? Another old friend/colleague I don’t correspond with at all. Should I erase him completely (I have his e-mail)? And the Bs…here’s the number of my old next door neighbors — lovely people, but haven’t seen them in years. Oh…the painter who worked on the first house we built. And the loan number for the car I got rid of years ago.

As I page through, nearly every entry triggers some memory…some easy to let go, some I’m not so sure. Does it hurt to keep my ex’s sisters’ info? The cleaning lady we used for a brief time? The fact that mileage was 32.5 cents/mile in 1998? (It’s now 51 cents/mile in 2011.) Or the nursery on Rt. 8 I used to love to visit that might not even be there anymore? A tile installer someone recommended but I never used? Oh look, I had a tetanus shot on 10/27/04…I’ll need another in 2014.

I’m already afraid that even when I do redo the pages, I’ll feel the need to squirrel these away somewhere too. So much for decluttering and fresh starts.

But I’m not a scrapbooker. Not good with photo albums or collages. I tried to make a wedding scrapbook and lost interest after the first page (that’s another project living in a plastic bin, taking up space). More and more, as I try to recall a name, fact, tidbit, my once-agile memory fails me.

Something tells me I’ll need these pages one day, not to call an old colleague or business, but simply to recall they existed at all.

It’s appropriate, now that I think about it. I’m a word person, not a picture person. I need these words to trigger the images. I’d be foolish to throw them away.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself today.

So, yes, I’ll tackle the to-do…finally. The fresh pages won’t include the name of the tax collector for the borough I lived in 8 years ago, or the phone number of the people who bought one of my previous houses and later moved back to Arizona. I’ll redo everything neatly and make room for what’s to come. But I won’t completely undo what’s gone before — those old pages have a lot of life in them.

To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it,
and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward.
~Margaret Fairless Barber