Oh my word I have to read these books. Feel tragically sad that one, I don’t have any book money right now, and two, I’m supposed to be reading a bunch of stuff that…well, never mind, I won’t complain about that right now.
The point is, I am being swallowed up by moving stuff around—a peculiar kind of work that always leaves me in a morass of unsortable intellectual, emotional, and spiritual confusion. It’s like walking into the valley of the shadow of death as a confused agnostic. You hope to come out on the other side intact, but you didn’t do the little bit of thinking you meant to do ahead of time, and so all you can do is curse the darkness all around you, and yourself for your total lack of preparation. You may, at the final hour, get your act together and walk out a better and happier and more organized person, but, because you were a fool, the darkness doesn’t just threaten to overwhelm you, it actually does for a while.
But, like death, you have to do it—you have to do the work of coping with your stuff. If you don’t, you will eventually die of your stuff. Still, going through it all is a terrible kind of death—a marriage of labor and mortality with an anti-Edenic twist of sin and misery that synthesizes all the futility and hopelessness of a life without God, without human contact, and worst of all, without sufficient knowledge of yourself in your own surroundings.
Am I being too hyperbolic? I am into day three of The Great House Rearrange of 2018. And you thought the Great Clothes Swaps were bad. Those were like eating candy stolen from a chubby baby. This is the end of everything.
Because first you should clean the house, but you’re not going to because you don’t have time. Then you have to take all the books off your shelves. All of them. And every room of the house is filled with books. Which was, at its root, a moral decision. Houses without books are creepy and spiritual suspect.As we’ve watched what feels like hundreds of episodes of Grand Designs, the most appalling part is always leering at vast, empty rooms, one enormous window looking out over some sweeping view or other, the two insane home builders smiling smugly at their own private expanses of rain clad green (because its England), and then the camera pans round over their handiwork and you can see that there are No Books. None. Can’t remember a single house with books in it.
The stacks of books in my house do make me, of course, morally superior, especially as I haven’t read them all, but…well, they all have to be moved. So help me…I mean, that’s what I’ve been saying to every child who walks by, “SO HELP ME MOVE THESE BOOKS.”
And no, I’m not getting rid of any of them. Books or children.
Then there’s the furniture. Furniture seems like a good idea but it’s not. It’s all too big and too heavy. Matt has retreated to some far distant place within himself. He shoves each heavy, clunky, ridiculous object up the stairs and becomes less and less accessible in his humanity. Mercifully for me, my oldest male child is stronger than me, and taller. Suddenly, in the space of a year, Matt shouts his name instead of mine to get on the other side of the stupid hide-a-bed/dresser/enormous workout device/desk/and so the long day wears on. I stand around helplessly, shrugging, commiserating, offering helpful suggestions like, “Try to be careful,” and, “I feel like it should fit,” and, “You’re not bleeding too badly.”
And finally (not because I have no more to say but because I’m supposed to be moving books) there’s the disastrous problem of, when you’re digging through boxes, smaller children coming along behind you and finding stuff they had not remembered for years, really, but because they touched it that one time it is sacred and they must hold it and rock it and discuss with you about how it can never be thrown away, even though it is obviously broken and missing an eye, and they lived happily without it for most of their lives, since they are only seven, and only played with it for about a month and a half. Nostalgia seeps out of their little voices, their eyes watering the object with the pathos that is all human consumption. “I need this. I must have it,” they moan.
“Then you will die,” I say, putting it in the think-about-it-later-box. “You will die of all your stuff. The only thing you need is Jesus and you should find him and hang onto him now, before it’s too late.”