Why Spring Cleaning Can Be Heartbreaking

I meant to finish a second prompt last night, but I ran out of steam and just couldn’t manage it. As of this writing, it’s still a saved draft, but I imagine I’ll knock it out by tomorrow. My plan was to be outside writing all day until about 4pm, but things sort of got away from me and I ended up being productive in a different direction. We finished our taxes, got groceries and medicine ordered to pick up tomorrow, and I decided that before I wrote anything, I’d tidy up a couple of boxes I found. They’ve now moved with me at least three times without being organized or even examined.

Well, it turns out that in addition to my high school diploma and a few copies of the literary magazines I wrote for, I found a gigantic stash of old letters, cards, and a few other things from around 2003-2005. That was really surprising, because I’m not sentimental by nature and had no clue they were hanging around. Naturally I sat down and started going through them, and was surprised about the journey I went on.

To understand what I went through, you have to understand that I have epilepsy, and I was diagnosed in 2003. I might have been having seizures before that, but the confirmation came in December of my senior year. There’s a few posts of stories relating to that and maybe I’ll write them all one day, but suffice to say that epilepsy and other neurological disorders come with a grab bag of side effects. In my case, I lost the ability to read music, and got a case of amnesia. Sort of.

When I returned to school in January 2004, I was struggling with remembering pretty much anyone who hadn’t come to visit me in the hospital or over the break, and that made for a lot of awkward moments in the classroom. I went from being very outgoing and having a lot of friends (or at least a lot of fun), to basically being alone most of the time, with only a handful of friends (one of whom soon became my girlfriend and future wife). With the side effects of the medicine basically making me a vegetable for a long time, I decided not to use my scholarship to college and just sort of drifted for a while, taking community colleges just so I wouldn’t fall so behind.

To this day, I really don’t remember much about high school, and I’m sure most people prefer it that way, but it’s hard to have a gap of so much time in your memory. There are entire relationships I’ll never get back because I’d forgotten I had them in the first place, and I saw quite a lot of evidence of that when I looked through those old letters.

I won’t go into too much detail on here, but I did take a few minutes and dropped a couple of people a line on Facebook just to say hello and thank them for their kind words in the past. By now I’m sure that’s all ancient history to them, but having that connection to my past even for a moment touched my heart, and I thought it was worth reaching out if only for that.

I threw about 99% of it out, of course, as I didn’t remember most of the people who wrote the cards, and anyway who keeps birthday cards for 13 years? I kept all of the letters my wife wrote me, of course, and reading through them all was an interesting look at our relationship in its first months. She loved me so much then (as she does now), but it broke my heart to see how optimistic she was. She’d believed we would achieve so much together, but here we are now, and I still can’t keep myself out of the hospital let alone achieve anything with my life.

Part of me wonders if that 18-year-old version of her would change her mind about me if she could see how things look when she’s 30. Would she look at the cute kids and be satisfied, or would she be too disappointed in how I turned out to go through the relationship? My rational self knows that those kinds of questions are pointless,  but my heart is broken, and it’s hard to be rational right now.

I hope that in a few years, I’ll look back on this entry with the same nostalgia as I did when I read those letters this afternoon, but maybe then I’ll get to say, “Man, I’m so glad that’s over. I wish I could show him what’s coming up.” I hope that’s what happens. I owe it to myself and that past hopeful version of my wife not to give up on making something amazing out of my time here on Earth.

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