I have this small maple pedestal desk – well, had this desk, until about an hour ago – since childhood. I wrote stories on it, drew pictures on it, typed on it with my then-beloved electric typewriter. It originally belonged to my great-grandfather. Once I outgrew it, and it proved unusable for computer use, I used it as a TV/stereo stand and as extra storage space. Its varnish was badly damaged, both from long use and from being taped shut (and then the tape being ripped off) during a move many years ago. But still I hung onto it, thoughtlessly.
But recently I decided that no, I was never going to make good on my self-promise to refinish the thing, and even if I did, I had no use for it. Ilana already has a matching desk and dresser, an adult friend’s from childhood. So I realized that, if I am to remain consistent with my organizing belief system, the desk had to go.
I tried to exercise control over the desk’s fate. I felt like I had to make sure it went to “a good home.” I think I felt like in a way, it was so old that it had a soul, and I’d be letting it down – insulting it, maybe? – if I offered it up to just anyone. First, I offered it to my ex; did he want it for Ilana over there, or for their other two kids? Nope; they didn’t want to do the refinishing work. Then I tried to sell it, thinking that if I got some money for it, it’d be easier to part with. No luck; my auctioneer friend told me it was worthless in its current state. I posted it to my personal LJ account: Did any of my friends want it? One friend was interested, then realized that its proportions were too small for her. Not another peep. Finally, I posted to my local reuse list, and someone I didn’t know said he would take it for his son (age three months, but he’ll grow into it). I was irrationally relieved that I didn’t have to make the next step to Craig’s List.
The guy was an hour and a half late. As I watched my little desk travel out the front door, as I helped bring the drawers out to the guy’s car, I was filled with a sense of loss, even greater than the time when I lost original and unduplicated poetry in a backpack theft. So, I’m trying to dissect exactly why it was so hard. First, I think the desk symbolized my love of art and writing (things you do at a desk). Also, in part it was simply a matter of vintage: That desk is one of very few items that I’ve owned for my entire life, to the point where it didn’t even occur to me that I could get rid of it until quite recently.
My office looks much prettier without the desk here. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. But I feel a hole in me, a bit like I did when my cat died in November. Maybe it’s a reminder of our own mortality, this sense of permanent loss, and that’s why so many people hang on to their things against all reason. I don’t feel like the desk was a piece of me or my identity, like many clients say, but it was certainly an old friend. I hope I did right by it. I hope the new owner will really refinish it and give it to his kid. But the desk is never, ever, ever coming back and what happens to it now is Not My Problem. Still working on that bit.
So anyway, I just wanted to let my clients know that I’m taking part in the same process I ask them to go through, and I don’t take it lightly.
Now perhaps I’ll go and do some yoga stretches in the newly created space in my office. 🙂