I admit that there is something wrong with me. When I was a friendless child, in order to give my life structure and also in order to have a relationship to something that was outside myself, I would come home from school and with a hit of joyful brain chemicals, grab the local paper, The Journal News, and read Ann Landers and the Comics, every day. For a period of about six months, because I had very little else to do and wanted to declare my allegiance to the only consistent friend I had, I would cut out the Peanuts cartoon, the short weekly black and white one. Then, I would put a small hole at the most left panel and string it onto a piece of black yarn. I was collecting them. Like ducks on a string. Some people had stuffed animals. Or imaginary friends. I had a compulsion.
But then, after I had a pretty thick pile of these cartoons, my better sense took over, my sentiment waned and I thought, “Why the hell am I saving these? And why didn’t I cut this piece of yarn longer? This is never going to work. And even if this does work, what? Then I’m going to have these piles of cut out cartoon strips on black pieces of yarn? What am I going to do with them all? People will think I’m crazy. And what about the big colorful Sunday one? It won’t fit on this string. What a mess.” And I threw them out and never collected anything else again. Except for those buttons/pins like “Help Make Hillcrest Cleaner and Greener” and “Nixon” But about fifteen years ago, I gave all those to my nephew. I saved a few cool ones. I am definitely not a collector.
And though there is not really a collecting strain in me, or it was basically willed out of me, there is something even worse. A kind of efficiency mixed with cheapness that is, ultimately, something a little out of my control. If I buy something it must be used or I feel guilty I committed to the purchase. Not because I do not deserve the thing, but more because I have a cellular revulsion against waste. Plus, facing all truths, I am obsessive. So if there is something around that must be done, I feel compelled to do it. Age is lessening this urge since I am tiring out and already have committed to too many things. But I do face what so many others endure for so many different reasons. The scourge of the arriving New Yorkers.
I subscribe to the The New Yorker and the bitches pile up and the rule I made early on was, “When they get to more than five deep, I can throw out the whole lot.” And I do.
Though when I lived in Los Angeles, they would end up in our personal recycling can and I would feel guilty--so maybe an hour later, okay ten minutes later, or three, I would go back to the blue can, pull them out and leaf through them and think, “Yeah, I really want to read these.” And sometimes I would keep them, hoping I’d be on a long plane ride soon so I would have time to finish them up. But more often, I would toss them back in the can. A relief. So I am able to compulsively keep the sharp rule of recycling unread piles of five that cuts through the murkier large compulsion of committing to a magazine subscription. But still, I do let them build up to at least that layer of five taunters. And they plague me. Stare at me. Dare me. The monsters. The life suckers. The all important beasts.
But today I realized something. Why wait until they build up to five? In fact, if the next one comes and I haven’t finished the one from the week before, why not SIMPLY TOSS THAT HORRIBLE TYRRANICAL OVERLY LONG ARTICLED BRAIN CONTROLLER into the DUMPER right at that moment, and treat it like the periodical that it is?
And so I am committing to that. Enough. I’m exhausted. Otherwise, how will I ever have the time to read any important books? Like Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants? It is going to be such a better life from this day forward.