the detritus of a life

i went through my old rolodex today. just saying that makes me obsolete, a dinosaur. using a paper form of recordkeeping is so outdated.

everyone now uses their smartphone to store information. (except me.) whatever happened to the old rolodex?

i admit it......i have a hard time throwing things away.

so i took my time, pulling out each card. but going through these little pieces of paper, one by one, packed a big wallop that i didn't see coming --- 

flipping through, reading the names recorded on them made me feel as though my life was flashing before my eyes. 

flip, flip, flip.

i saw names of people who have died. 
people who are now divorced. 
people who used to babysit my kids. 
remodel my house. 
tune my children's old friends. names i have long forgotten.

stores that have long since closed. gone out of business.

airlines that have gone out of business (see the twa logo?) sigh.


people i thought i'd contact. befriend. people i no longer speak to, bringing back the sadness of the passage of life.

memories of parties, braces on the kids. memories of old loves, of trying to learn another language. a train store where my son used to love to be taken when he was 3.


my son's violin teacher. first fencing coach. my daughter's ballet school. i forgot that phase of my life. when i was busy with those things. when those things filled my head.

tennis coach. psychic. picture framer. 
flip, flip, flip. 

people who have moved in and out of my life. 
people i'm no longer in touch with. 

people i wish i was.

the rolodex weighs a lot less now.
how much does a life weigh?

i just helped my dad move from an assisted living facility. he's moved 3 times in the past 5 months. over time, he has pared down his personal effects to only a few boxes. letting things go. letting go. in life, it's hard. 

so whenever i'm having trouble throwing things away i no longer need, making changes i do need and letting go of situations i've outgrown, i console myself with this thought. a quote worth remembering, from one of my favorite authors, the late, great mythologist joseph campbell: 

we must be willing to let go of the life we planned 
 as to have the life that is waiting for us. 

amen joseph....

as i get more used to this letting go thing, i will try to keep that in mind♡


  1. Yes! The late great Joseph Campbell! So true.

    But there's another quote from someone, can't remember who, that I like: We save things so we'll remember who we were.

    I've been getting rid of a lot of papers lately. It isn't easy to let it go. I keep the papers/photos I want. If these are stored on gadgets, everything would be lost if they crashed. Of course, a fire could destroy the papers, but still, they're something we can usually hold onto. We just have to decide what, if anything, we NEED to hold onto.

    Excellent thought-provoking post. Thanks!!
    Ann Best, Long Journey Home

  2. I have a hard time letting go to. I hang on to so many bits and pieces of useless things. You can say I collect memories and store them in boxes and sometimes, I open up the boxes and remember - moments of joy, moments of sorrow, so many moments that make up a life. Your post spoke to me Amanda :)

  3. i have an exact model on my desk right this moment. I am afraid to clean it out,,, humm maybe,,,

  4. So true! People define themselves by what they possess. Getting rid of possessions changes us; we get to reinvent ourselves again.

    Love J.Campbell's quote a lot!

  5. I've never had a rolodex, but I do keep an old-fashioned address book -- and even when I update it, I can't bear to throw out the old ones. They are stuffed, too, with pictures and postcards and directions and all of the other flotsam and jetsam of a life.

    And yet -- it also seems rather nice to just have a few boxes of stuff! (But perhaps that is because I am gearing up for a house move and feeling quite overwhelmed by everything that we OWN. Goodness, all that stuff does weigh a person down.)

  6. When I lost my job, I eveb brought my rolodex home with me! Silly girl. I finally tossed it last year. I still keep an "old-fashioned" address book - because it is lovely to look at....sterling silver and blue leather.... no I-phone can surpass it is aesthetic beauty.

    As my Father (now gone for 18 years) aged, his friends died and I remember his deleting people from his address book. It was so sad....

    But, there's some wisdom in not clinging to material possessions.....what counts is in our heads and our hearts.

    Sending you love and strength, dear "Twin",


    ♥ Robin ♥

  7. I love the journeys we take together, Amanda... I can feel your guiding words so beautifully expressed.

    I have too many "things" and struggle to rid myself of them... I am getting better. Your message inspires and I pat myself on the back because I got rid of my old Rolodex about 10 years ago (hehe).

    Merci, mon amie!


  8. mmmm, somber and sobering, with lots to celebrate too. lots of that stuff weighs a tonne. a couple boxes, not so much. it's not the stuff, is it, but what the stuff represents. we get to choose what we put into our boxes.

    my best to your dad.

    (i've a drawer of index cards, loose, lint in between. whole lifetimes in between as well. it's daunting.)


  9. What a powerful quote. We must be kindred spirits as my rolodex looks much the same as yours.

  10. I have my old rolodex somewhere. To me it's like a memory photo album. Instead of pictures I see the names and all sorts of memories come back. Small price to pay for a movie of the past. But one can get obsessive about keeping things just to trigger a memory.

  11. Interesting, Amanda, that we are both going through the process of "editing" our lives.

    I have no Rolodex. I have boxes upon boxes, full of paper that I'm throwing out, now that I'm basically finished my working life. Amazing all the data once can collect for possible use in stories or other projects. And the stories that come out of the data. The life of a writer.

  12. P.S.: Does an old Bear, ready to be turned into a Bear rug, constitute detritus?

  13. This was very moving, sometimes I also have such sad reflections. It doesn't matter whether you keep such information in a written form or whether it is a list of contacts in your mobile (do most of those people really remember who I am or I was:)

  14. I have an A-Z teledex and a pocket size address book. It must be a tactile thing, I like to flick over pages. I haven't embraced technology beyond email and blogs and my idea of speed dialing on my land line phone is to refer to the list pinned to the notice board ;)

  15. I'm a die-hard romantic. I love the texture of paper and ink. I just bought myself a new Moleskine address book for Christmas and need to transfer all the addresses over. It's a ritual I do every ten years, or so. I keep the old ones as souvenirs.

  16. ann -i'm totally with you on this debate of needing a hard copy of things -- i'm always afraid my electronic stuff will crash so i'm a bit manic about backing things up.

    i like that quote - we save things so we remember who we were. no worries there - even tho i'm ditching a lot of the rolodex i'm still a packrat with lots of stuff needing purging ;-)

    loree - i still do that too. boxes that sit in the basement for years, untouched. then one day i sift through one of them and feel like i've entered a time warp.

    glenn - ah - glad to know i'm not the only one with an overweight rolodex!

    rosaria - yes, i really like that concept of reinventing oneself. thank you for that♡

  17. bee - i can only imagine what you are going through with a house move. i moved a lot as a kid and as much as i disliked it those periods offer a unique opportunity to lighten one's load. i make 3 piles and everything goes into one of them, either donate, toss or keep.

    robin - that's such a sad image of your dad deleting friends who had passed from his address book...

    hey, i don't think keeping your work contacts was silly - you never know if they might come in handy one day! but that address book sounds exquisite -- my colors, sterling silver and blue leather, oh my. love your sense of taste my twin! xoxo

    genie - if you tossed your old rolodex 10 years ago then you are way ahead of me!!

    erin - it is what the stuff represents, no doubt. i get that whole lifetimes between those index cards, lint included.

    lint and lifetimes. ah. i love your way with words, erin♡

  18. farmchick - you, me and glenn, kindred spirits all!

    mim - oh, i don't know about that mim - it's not obsessive if it brings you joy. maybe your rolodex is the keeping kind ♡

    miss sadie - i guess editing one's life is an important part of the writerly life -- just about everything can become material for a story.

    and the answer to your question: does a bear rug constitute detritus, is an emphatic 'no'. as exotic as a bear rug can be, i prefer bears to remain in their very alive and growling state as long as possible♡

  19. ola - do most of those people remember who we are? what a provocative question, and one i didn't consider. we are always the ones doing the remembering -- but do those whose names are printed on the discarded pieces of paper remember us?

    annie - i'm a paper person as well. love that tactile sense. even tho my rolodex is skinner now, it's not going anywhere soon ;-)

    tess - what a lovely ritual. i might adopt it, if you don't mind. and i love moleskine -- just purchased one of those little notebooks to take with me when i travel. makes me feel a little cooler to know that bruce chatwin used such a thing on his exotic forays far and wide.......

  20. WELL SAID.

    There is such beauty in your post, and deep wisdom in the final words.

    As Historian for the pre-professional ballet company where my daughter received her first training, I insisted on keeping the rolodex that the Artistic Director was going to throw out. It's like discarding a large piece of history!

    Some of us need to let go of that "life we planned," and yet others need to let go of the life that "just happened."

    The important thing to me is to begin to add intent to each moment of our lives.

    Great post, Amanda. ♥

  21. Good advice! I enjoyed the simplicity of my sabbatical year abroad without so much stuff. The problem is finding the time to sort through all the junk.

    I hope your father's transition goes smoothly. So many of my friends are going through this with their parents. My parents are visiting this weekend and are still very active and spry in their mid 70s. My dad is still working.

  22. jo -- yes, i like this very much. to begin to add intent to each moment of our lives. what a simple yet profound statement. to truly add intent takes focus and dedication.

    thank you for this, jo♡

    sarah - i guess a sabbatical could be compared to taking a long journey, when you travel with only those things you can carry. there is such freedom in that.

    thanks for your kind wishes for my dad - actually he is doing really well and settling into his new home. we are keeping fingers crossed he continues to like it.

    what a blessing for you to have your parents so active and still working. enjoy your weekend with them.

  23. So sad, beautiful and poignant. It makes me think of the big round Rolodex my mother had in her office when I was a little girl. I used to love flipping through it and putting it in order for her. If she still had that same rolodex today, I wonder who would be left in it if I clean it out

  24. Amanda ~ how brave to throw out the old pieces of paper and business cards of a life long past.

    They really are good reminders to live in the moment and not wait for something later - because later rarely happens.

    What did John Lennon say? "Life is what happens between appointments."

    I've finally been able to read your last few blogs - waiting for a good Internet connection and got one here in Napflion. Loved them....Please send the SUN!

  25. Wonderful post. Every so often, I get an urge to purge my drawers, cupboards and closets of things I no longer need; I don't get rid of everything. But, I toss or pass along a few things. It seems always to coincide with a mental purging of old ideas, no longer needed fears and crutches. I guess I get rid of enough to allow me to move onward with the life, as Joseph Campbell says.

    A friend asked what I will do when there isn't anything left to throw out. I smiled ruefully. Hopefully I'll have got rid of all my mental baggage by then, too.

  26. The quote by Joseph Campbell it's seems to me half true!! "We must be willing to let go of the life we planned" (Very true) and "as to have the life that is waiting for us" (none of us know for sure, besides that Joseph Campbell was a great mythologist...

  27. how thoughtful and introspective you are, amanda. i go through my old roladex like this too. now i pull out the cards that still matter to me and i staple them into my nifty address book. i don't think i'll ever rely on my iphone (which i LOVE) to store my addresses.

    i like that tess kincaid is a moleskine girl. i think there is a special club for moleskine lovers. i will have one nearby for all of my life.


  28. oh dear me amanda, you have a way with words and beautiful images. what is so unique about the things you write is how they relate to all of us.

    i like your messy rolodex and your new lightened version too. metaphors for life are in the most unexpected places aren't they?

    such a lovely post my friend.

    xo lori

  29. A lovely post. I am learning to let go of certain things in my life. It is hard, but necessary so I can move forward.

    I am a paper person, so you are not alone.


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