When Sentimental Items Bring About Contrasting Memories + Conflicting Emotions

For those who have been following along with my simplifying journey, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to get rid of things in my life that are no longer useful and don’t evoke joy.

I’ve been stuck on a couple sentimental items. One is a whole collection of stamps that has been difficult to let go of. To someone else, it’s just hundreds of stamps smushed in between thin layers of film and yellowing pages aged by two long decades. These little squares and rectangles, with their tiny sharp edges and ink marks stamped by unfamiliar hands provokes both feelings of astounding joy as well as crushing sadness. The smell and feel of them will always remind me of an innate bond that was stripped away by someone else’s selfishness, impulsivity, and disregard for responsibility.

It was my very first collection passed onto me by my mother when I was a little girl. Together we would sit side by side on the floor of her closet, criss-cross-apple-sauce style. Surrounded by little bodies of water filled with pieces of floating envelopes, we waited patiently for the antiquated stamps to slide away from their paper conveyances. We would admire how gracefully the Queen aged through the years and be in awe of exotic landscapes we dreamt of setting foot in.

These quiet moments are some of the only good memories I have of her. I’m sure there were more but they have been tainted and washed over by feelings of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and resentment. I remember looking through my stamp collection shortly after she left, trying to understand why those simple moments together weren’t enough for her to stay. I still don’t understand now, as an adult, how a woman can carry an infant to term in her own body for over nine months, to decide nine years later that her own desires trump motherhood. It’s a strange feeling to grieve someone who is still alive. Someone who you know is still breathing, living, and walking. Someone who made a decision that their life would be better off without you in it.

I honestly wish I could see just goddamn stamps when I look at them now, but they manifest into petite windows of the past filled with a storm of conflicting emotions. So, it begs the question, does it stay or does it go? Do the fleeting memories of a once contented relationship justify keeping the collection even if it also extracts burdensome feelings? A piece of me is worried that by relinquishing the collection, I would thereby also relinquish the few pleasant memories associated with the stamps.

Do you also have sentimental items that weigh heavy on your heart and mind? Did you end up keeping it or letting it go? I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below.

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