The Year of Radical Thinking


radicalI had fun creating a play on the book title, The Year of Magical Thinking. Did you know that search engines can deliver on queries like “ words ending in ‘cal‘ “? That just amazes me. So much to choose from here: egotistical; cynical; atypical; skeptical; logical (as if); hysterical (more like it)…

A close second was “The Year of Empirical Thinking” — empirical meaning information that is derived from the trials and errors of experience (I’m starting to sound like Niobe here!)

But I digress. I haven’t read Joan Didion’s book yet. It’s on the list. I wanted to finish writing my own before I opened hers. Random House writes that Didion “explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.” Since I was working on a similar theme, I didn’t want to be accused of stealing any ideas. (I know what you’re thinking: PJ you really should have titled this post The Year of Egotistical Thinking!)

While I’m no Joan Didion, my book also explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a life that will speak to anyone who has ever wanted to conceive a child with the one they love. Yep. I finished the third rev of it this week. When I told a friend of the latest iteration she responded immediately, “wow, you must have that thing memorized by now!” Pretty much. I can quote page numbers and conversations contained in it.

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As I look back over the year of writing, editing, rewriting and more rewriting — along with random acts of posting on this blog — it occurs to me that the act of getting my thoughts out of my head and down on paper has forced me to look at my life under the harshest of lights. And sometimes what I’ve seen has made me nauseous, surprised, angry and downright sad.

It has also allowed me to unpack some bags. I’ve always found the psychological term baggage funny and appropriate. I envisioned myself exhausted and struggling to haul around trunks and carry-ons and wheeled duffel bags. Some of the stuff contained in those bags was really important to me, but a lot of it is just not needed anymore.

Through my writing I’ve been systematically unpacking, looking through the various items and deciding what’s really needed — not for the life I thought I would be living but for my actual life. Let’s see…I don’t need the mommy mindset anymore. I can ditch the Rockwellian images of the perfect holidays and the stuff from the family camping trips where we would teach our kids to fish and collect leaves and lovely bits of quartz. I can finally get rid of that collection of stuffed animals (I have a really cool stuffed Felix the Cat with tags on it and everything — that I’ll hang on to). The plans for making a great fort out of chairs, blankets, pillows and toilet paper tubes. Gone. Do I really need those sensible shoes for chasing kids around? Hell no, bring in the kicky boots.

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And that’s when my wistfulness morphed into a new sense of expectation. Something liberating started to occur — radical thinking. Now that the bags are lighter, I can make room for new dreams.

What useless items are you carrying around that you don’t need anymore? And if that’s too much to face right now, what sort of “cal” year have you had?


17 Responses

  1. Chrissy

    November 16, 2007 4:28 pm

    wow, that is really a loaded question. I never thought about making my baggage lighter, I always assumed you just kept adding to it. This may sound like I am exaggerating but I think reading that has just opened up a whole new door for me! I can actually visualize my huge trunk of mind crap and I think every day I am going to try to open it and remove something. Thank you!

  2. Kami

    November 16, 2007 5:19 pm

    I was reading along, enjoying your post, happy for you to be lightening your load. Then you ended with that question. It stopped me short. My first reaction was, “No. Don’t make me go there. I’m not ready to let go.” The strong reaction is probably a good indicator that I need to unpack some bags. Hmmm . . .

  3. loribeth

    November 16, 2007 5:33 pm

    Have you seen “The Darjeeling Limited” yet? There’s a set of Louis Vuitton luggage that plays a prominent literal & symbolic role. ; )

    I’m still carrying around literal & figurative baggage from my years of loss & treatment. Some of it (like the few keepsakes from my pregnancy) I doubt I’ll ever get rid of. I did eventually throw out all of my temp charts, & what a liberating experience that was!! I know some women who have made a ceremony out of it & burned them!

    Funny you should mention stuffed animals; I have a huge collection of Beanie Babies, including a bunch that were sitting on the dresser in the spare bedroom (that was supposed to have been the nursery). Last weekend I got sick of looking at them (& cleaning around them) & packed them away. One of these days I’m buying new furniture & linens for that room (currently dh’s college apartment castoffs) & doing it up right. It’s never going to be a nursery, so if it’s going to be a spare bedroom, it should be a nice one.

  4. JJ

    November 16, 2007 5:51 pm

    Whew, this is going to take some thinking–but I am a pack rat of a lot of things–emotional baggage included. There are a lot of things I could “drop off”…Ill get back to you…*pondering for the weekend.

  5. Dianne

    November 16, 2007 8:41 pm

    Wow…this post puts words to my thoughts. For the last few weeks I’ve been feeling liberated, then I am reminded of some baggage and it bums me out. I’m just hoping that I am able to loose the baggage instead of having it continously finding me.

  6. Deathstar

    November 16, 2007 11:34 pm

    With our homestudy coming to a close, I was starting to feel better, lighter because I could imagine preparing a nursery and walking through the park with my baby. But now with the adoption on indefinite hold, I just seem to have picked up that old dream again, the one where my little girl is the apple of her daddy’s eye and I was a caring and doting mother, triumphant and hopeful for the future. I feel envy again, heartache and loss again. Hello bags, you’re back!

  7. Geohde

    November 17, 2007 1:40 am

    PJ, slightly off topic, but I admire the persistance and resolve it would take to write a book, let alone such a topical one,


  8. MotherOfNone

    November 17, 2007 5:58 am

    How about the year of mercurial thinking – hope interspersed with despair and then back round again.

  9. Babystep

    November 18, 2007 4:10 am

    Is “Tragical” a word? Things may be looking up, but still so much uncertainty…not ready to pack up my bags yet. However, I totally stopped entering my temps in ovusoft…THAT took some courage and will power!

  10. meghan

    November 18, 2007 5:35 pm

    Wow, I’ve been thinking about this since you first posted it on Friday. Realized I’ve got quite a nice large set of baggage, not sure which parts I’m able to get rid of just yet.

    Definitely will be thinking about this some more.

  11. Kim

    November 19, 2007 2:38 am

    There has been a lot of unpacking over the last couple of years. The biggest idea that I had to give up was thinking I really had any control over certain things.

  12. Kristen

    November 19, 2007 3:40 am

    I have so much baggage, it would take years to get through unloading all of it. But no time better than the present to start.

  13. Samantha

    November 19, 2007 1:09 pm

    Mine has been the Year of Hysterical Thinking indeed. I like your idea of baggage. I have a lot of baggage I carry around with me. I don’t even know what all of it is. I have trouble opening the suitcases, and I think I’ve added a lot of weight this past year. I’m going to have to stop at some point and see what all I’ve got, even if it’s tough to look through it.

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