Breaking Up With Stalin

09 Jun 2013

I'm beginning to understand why this is so hard.

Unpacking after moving house forces you to have contact with every single item you own, considering each one, one at a time. Objects have stories - where you got that t-shirt, what you were doing when you broke that watch, how you earned that medal. And stories have people; we're social animals, and one of the first things we recall about any event is who we were with.

If you've just moved out from living with someone, then all those stories are about them. The temptation is to sort the stories at the same time as the objects, filing them away in a sealed box marked "2010-2013", not to be seen again.

The mind is enthusiastic but tires quickly. This re-analysis, re-sorting of information exhausts it as quickly as a day of moving archive boxes would the body. Any kind of final ending seems to trigger it; when my grandfather died, I spent weeks reduced to 80% of capacity and not understanding why.

But here it's not necessary. All of these things still happened. All of these people still exist. It comes as a relief to accept that this personal revisionism isn't necessary. I'm not breaking up with Stalin, and I don't need to erase the past.

These stories are still alive.