In an effort to begin the new year with a clean slate, I have been sorting through files, both the paper and digital kind. Like so many other deluded people who frequent the plastic container aisle at the discount store, I believe an organized environment is the truest sign of a well-ordered life.
But I have a messy desk and an even messier desktop on my home computer. To my credit (and I’ll grab it where I can), I know this is absolutely fixable with a few hours of work and a certain degree of concentration, so I spent the past weekend putting things in order.
Cleaning the desk was easy, as was the organizing of paper files. If I hadn’t used it in the past year, it was gone.
(I must pause here to thank a former colleague for encouraging such ruthlessness. My first job at a newspaper had me sitting next to a man obsessed with keeping his work area neat. In a newsroom, such neatness was as rare as an eight-track Beatles cartridge, and since his desk sat cheek-to-jowl with mine, he always knew when a single paperclip, a lone notebook, a solitary pencil dropped over to his side. I learned to tidy up my desk in no time flat.)
But if cleaning my physical desk was a straightforward job, doing the same with the files on my computer was more of a daunting challenge. I realize now that much of my life — from the financial to the housekeeping, from the personal to the public — sits trapped somewhere in the circuitry of that humming motherboard. And that dependence on a technology I don’t fully understand is scary.
Scarier still is that, in the process of organizing the digital flotsam and jetsam, I learned a lot about myself, details that nobody, certainly not my parents or husband, had bothered to tell me. This self-discovery was made possible by the generous amount of unsolicited emails I receive daily.
Yes, what arrives in my inbox provides a window into a secret life I never knew I had. In that universe, I am a wealthy, worldly woman who can afford expensive shoes, exotic trips and outrageously priced furniture. I’m also a survivalist preparing for the coming apocalypse, a fisherwoman with a predilection for yachts, and a connoisseur of fine wines and even finer steaks who, in the next email, happens to need her credit score fixed.
If I click through any of these emails, I can buy an $11,000 Hermes bike. Or a $7,700 saddle. Or a balcony cabin on a cruise to Europe. Or I can fly my private jet and set sail in a luxury mini-ship.
There’s another side to me, too, apparently. One email offered me Food4Patriots survival kits because, as the author of this particular email writes, “When a crisis hits, you’ll be ready. You’ll make darn sure your family won’t go hungry or get herded into a FEMA camp.”
After reading and clearing out some of those emails, I was totally bummed out. Am I who I think I am? Those e-marketers seemed to have the virtual me all figured out. In contrast, my real life feels so humdrum, so average. I had to force myself to eat bargain-priced dark chocolate just to muster the courage and energy to forge ahead with my way-too-ordinary existence.
Maybe I should’ve left my cluttered life alone. There’s a certain comfort in the chaos of the commonplace.