Do you have your electricity bills from 15 years ago? You don’t? No, of course you don’t. Why would you?

The more appropriate question, though, is probably: “Why would I?” Because up until a week ago, I did.

As a matter of fact, it turns out I probably had most of my electric bills from the past 15 years. At least it seemed that way. Quite a few phone bills too. And car insurance bills. All gathering in stupid boxes over the years, for reasons which seem less clear with each day that passes.

Okay, it’s true, I’m overstating things a bit for effect here. The boxes weren’t actually stupid; boxes don’t really have a measurable intelligence that we know of. The rest, though, is the bizarre and somewhat sad truth. paperpile

I warned you all the way back in my first column that I used to border on being a hoarder right out of one of those reality TV  shows, and I wasn’t kidding. I’ve been allowing myself to be chased and haunted by what I’ve collectively labeled “my papers” since college. And while a percentage of my growing “archives” (and whatever the term for stupid boxes of old bills is) has always been meaningful and worthwhile, that portion has had to compete with the weightier and more distracting abundance of things that were being toted around simply because they weren’t being dealt with at all. (Which is the only way I can explain how I accrued a box filled with a decade-plus worth of old utility bills—and moved it to a new home, twice.)

Now the good news: I no longer have possession of any phone or electric bills from the previous century. At some point over the past while, my perspective on saving old bills apparently took a turn, because when I cracked open that box and really took a look at what was in it…let’s just say it’s been a good week for paper recycling, and the future looks good too.

My papers have been a symbol of “the undone” in my life for virtually the entire adult portion of it. And while there are some actual undones amongst the boxes and crates and files and folders that make up my mountain of “paperwork”, there was (and still is) a whole lot of just stuff, in the most empty and meaningless sense of that word. Like, it might be good for stuffing a scarecrow with, but mostly, it’s just good at being stuff. Lately, it’s been getting good at being stuffed into my woodstove and my recycle bin.

I’ve concluded that the Reign of the Papers has to end for me to seriously move forward; that’s nothing new really, it’s what I’ve been telling myself for years to discourage me from getting on with my dreams. And actually, that discouraging version of me wasn’t wrong. I do need to bust the ghosts that reside in my remaining boxes and crates, and sort the remaining wheat from the masses of chaff, so that I can get on with conquering the worlds that lay before me, rather than being stuck in the quicksand of my past.

(I’ll save you the counting: that was four metaphors in one sentence. That’s nothin’—just wait ‘til you see how many I’m able to mix once I’m freed up from all this paperwork!)

The thing that’s different now is that I’ve drawn another competing conclusion—namely, that 2011 is the year of putting up or shutting up, of walking the talk, of pooping or getting off the proverbial pot, and so on. It’s time for the future now, and if that means the past has to finally get cleaned up, then the past is getting cleaned the frick up.

So it is written, so it shall be done. If for no other reason than the fact that I’m running out of ways to make my unhealthy habits into amusing tales that enlighten and inform. Or at least the unhealthy backwards-focused habits that keep me chained unnecessarily to the past, and to dusty piles and boxes of papers that crowd my attic, my closet, my office, and most importantly, my mind. A mess can only be made interesting for so long. (Even by me.)

This column has been a big help in coaxing the reality of my self-imposed restraints and burdens out into the open, where I’m forced to see them through the eyes of cold, heartless strangers like yourself. Oops, I’m sorry, I didn’t have my glasses on. I thought you were someone else. You’re one of the nice ones.

But still…me, you, and that mean person who looks like you have all had to bear witness to the profoundly protracted procrastination, the exhaustive explanations and excuses—not to mention the wearying, wandering, almost worrisome wordplay…

Well, 2011’s when all that comes to an end.

All except for the wordplay, right? Please don’t take that away from me.

I’ll throw anything you want away, just let my wordplay stay. Okay?

What do you say?

Lance Brown can be found at Archives of his column can be found here.

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Photo credit:
papers by fsse8info