Monday, April 20, 2015

The Past-Clinger

I just got out of the shower and began getting dressed, starting to put on the same pants I wore yesterday—the pants my friend Gary had pointed out to me as having developed a hole above my right knee; the pants that are also badly pilled from Spirits’ claws having frequently gotten caught in them while laying on my lap. 

I bought those pants, and four others just like them, when I was still living in Pence, in Northern Wisconsin. I bought five pair partly because whenever I go clothes shopping I can never find anything I like, and when I do…as with these pants…l stock up. 

I moved from Pence nine years ago, and I’m still wearing the pants, alternating among the five pair. They are all showing their age. I’ve had to give up wearing one pair other than around the apartment because the pockets have frayed to the point where I can’t put anything in them without its dropping immediately down my leg and onto the floor. They each are in different stages of being frayed and pilled, and I should just pitch them all. But I simply cannot bring myself to doing it. Why?

Partly…an totally illogically…because of my strange sense of, well, loyalty. If something has served me well, I find it next to impossible to simply throw away as though it had never mattered. I’ve worn those pants while walking on the beach in Cannes, and wandering the streets of Pompeii. To throw them away is to throw away a tangible link I have to those places, those times.

Throwing away is ending. It is closing the door on the past, and I have always, always clung to the past for security. I truly do understand…and agree…that this is neither normal nor healthy from a mental standpoint, but I am powerless (or utterly unwilling) to change.

I’ve talked before of my attachment to…things. The little art-deco store-display statue of a lady with a real bakelite necklace. I’m sure I would never have bought it for myself, but Ray bought it for me, and each time I look at it, I think of him. It is, again, a tangible link to him. He touched it, I can touch it, and by the strange workings of my mind, touching it is touching him.

So many things are similar connections to my past; to parents and others who are no longer actually in my life. But tangible memories of them provide me with a hard-to-explain sense comfort. 

I’ve often said, and take pride in the fact, that I never really feel lonely…and I realize that this is largely because I have surrounded myself with the tangible memories of so many things and people I don’t really need more. 

The future is unseeable and therefore a source of uncertainty—we hope for the best from it, but have no assurances. The present is merely the vehicle which carries us from past to future. But the past is known. It cannot be changed. It is filled with a lot of unhappiness and sorrow, of course…all lives are. But we have the freedom of picking and choosing which parts of it we wish to deal with, and which to ignore.

And this entire blog has been written between the time I realized I could not wear that particular pair of pants, and this moment, when, pantless, I must decide what pair of pants I will wear. 

(Have I mentioned that I am not wild about decision making, either?)

And after all this is done, I must decide what to do with the pants that prompted this all. Maybe I can just wash them, fold them, and put them in a box somewhere. At least it will spare me the trauma of throwing them away.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (, which is also available as an audiobook (


Kage Alan said...

You've mentioned before you believe there is nothing after this life, that we return to a state of nothingness. Or did I goof?

The reason I bring it up is I've convinced myself over the years that the afterlife I hope is there is a place where all these memories still exist and can be revisited. All the things that meant something to us over the years that have gotten lost or discarded all find their way there.

And once we arrive, they will be with us again for as long as we want them.

Dorien Grey said...

A nice philosophy, Kage, and not in conflict with my conviction that there is nothing (with a capital N) beyond death....and I do not find that concept at all frightening or negative. So I cling to my past while I'm still here.