A Good Clean-Out

pythonTV and movies started infiltrating my personal lexicon ages ago.  You know how that goes—little phrases and lines start popping out of your mouth as if you made them up.  Monty Python downloaded quite a few (“I fart in your general direction” and “It’s just a flesh wound”).  So did Star Trek (“You’re disrupting the space/time continuum” and Worf’s “I am NOT a merry man”).  Then, the odder bits, like Gena Davis in The Fly (“Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”) and the weird dinner scene in Brazil (“Salt?”).

judiAnd because I’m such an anglophile, I love vacuuming up odd bits of British lingo from the BBC shows.  One of my favorites comes from As Time Goes By, the show with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer that ran from 1992-2002.  Whenever Judi’s character, Jean, got worried or fussy, she always decided it was time to “have a good clean-out.”  This usually involved pulling everything out of the cupboard under the stairs and putting it all back again.  She never got rid of anything, but burned up all that nervous energy (and irritated Lionel to no end).

Every year during the holidays, I wrack my brain to find a better, easier way to get through the weird mix of nostalgia, brain chemistry stew, bell-ringers, too much sugar and YMCA closings.  The holidays are a big trigger for my bipolar disorder, but I had a few things in my favor this year.  happy lightAs cold as this sounds, with both parents dead and my siblings celebrating in Oklahoma, there were no expectations, no guilt, no pressure.  Also, I’d just come back from visiting my dear friend, Lily, who gets me.  And I had my new Happy Light to beam full spectrum cheer at me (judiciously, as too much can speed up the rapid cycling).  But what I really needed was a project to occupy my brain and keep me busy.

I decided on my own clean-out.

I’ve been snipping bits of magazine text for about five years now.  I look for things that might make a fun caption to one of my cards and store them in little zip-lock baggies, alphabetized and bound together with ring binders—sort of like a caption Rolodex.  I keep a master list on my computer and print it out every so often when I have a bunch of new stuff I’ve added.  My list had become 60 pages long with two columns of 7-point type.  What was all this stuff?

Clean Out

So, I started dumping out the little baggies and really looking at the bits I’d collected.  Most of the time, I do this gleaning when I can’t do anything else, when my illness is at its worst and the only thing I can do is sit with scissors and snip.  While I’m always cognizant that the gleans are for my art, I found that most of them reflected my state of mind at the time, or made me feel better.  I found a lot of gleans about suicide and mental illness, but also lots of snippets about mindfulness, hope and courage.  It was like reading a different kind of diary.

I finished my clean-out last night and printed the revised list (20 pages instead of 60) of captions that will become cards.  But I came away with a deeper respect for my gleaning process.  Without knowing it, I comforted myself when I needed comfort the most.  I let the words I needed draw me to them.  And, once in a while, I found something to put on a card.

“That’ll do, pig.  That’ll do.”

18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David Kanigan
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 07:52:20

    Smiling. Laughing. Wondering. And LOVING the close.


  2. blahpolar
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 08:04:07

    I love judi dench – esp her cross stitch 😉


  3. Michelle at The Green Study
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 08:31:34

    I have those phrases, too and from the oddest sources. From The Hunt for Red October: “One ping, one ping only.” Imagine Sean Connery with a Russian accent and it seems funnier.


  4. stuffthatneedssaying
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 08:52:53

    My latest clean-out was to dump most of the papers pertaining to my past jobs. Do I really need all the pay stubs from the job I left in April 2013? I think not.

    I get what you’re saying about the expectations for the holidays. We just took down our Christmas tree yesterday, and as I looked at the dozens and dozens of ornaments we were boxing up, I realized that if it were up to me there would be no Christmas tree at all. I don’t enjoy putting it up or taking it down, and it takes far more time to do those things than we spend actually looking at the decorated tree.


    • Sandy Sue
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 18:24:20

      Rituals and traditions for their own sake are dopey, IMHO, but if they have meaning and connect us to something (family, history, etc), then I’m all for them.


  5. Adjicio
    Jan 04, 2015 @ 11:14:38

    Oh man, I swear half of the phrases I use in my daily life are snagged from movies. Favorite sources include Mystery Men, The Fifth Element, Tommy Boy, Star Wars (duh), Lord of the Rings, Star Trek TNG, Multiplicity, Empire Records – Old favorites from growing up, mostly =)

    Ahh, and I can totally relate to the clipping collection. I use Evernote and it kinda blows my mind to scroll through all the quotes, concepts, and writing prompts I’ve stashed away over the years. Every so often I find that I’m ready to just let go of a particular collection. It’s always interesting to me how everything in each “inbox” can seem so very important at the time, but a year or two later all it elicits is a quick “Hmm!” before moving on.

    Still, I love keeping that open ear/eye/mind for new verbal “shiny things.” It would seem the process of collecting them really is the therapeutic part, even if I try to convince myself that I WILL use them someday (“It’s mine, I found it, it came to ME!” =P )


    • Sandy Sue
      Jan 04, 2015 @ 18:27:52

      Okay. You can’t list all that great quote material without sharing some. I showed you mine, now it’s only fair to show us yours.
      And, yes, it’s opening ourselves to our intuition as the shiny things grab us. They feed some hunger there, perhaps.


  6. pegoleg
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 08:31:59

    I thought of that same line this weekend after years! I was watching a travelogue on northern England and the host had stopped by a sheep-herding competition. Too funny.

    Good for you for having a clean out. I’ve had a miserable cold all weekend and did nothing but sit around. Now my bum is as sore as my nose.


  7. Barbara
    Jan 05, 2015 @ 11:56:22

    I always get that need for a good clean out when it’s time to do my taxes! I would rather do ANYTHING else. I start to think that my closet, where I keep all the things I glean for Halloween costumes, needs to be sorted and categorized. Really! Then it’s on to pots and pans…Tupperware containers…spice drawer…good grief. Then 3 days before I have to see my CPA, I have a temper tantrum and stomp my foot and FINALLY begin my creative writing and walla! it’s done. Why do I waste more energy avoiding it instead of just putting on my big girl panties and doing it? AAH, to be human….


  8. Jae
    Jan 08, 2015 @ 09:07:29

    Being an Anglophile like yourself (so much so, I married one), I can relate. I think my hubby and I have developed a secret language based on lines from Britcoms.

    We invented a travel game for long car journeys -1) quote a line from something; 2) identify the line 3) reply with a related line (can’t be from same Britcom). Passes the time beautifully, but you have to be a Brit-nutt to play.

    If you’re interested, my Friday post is on British slang.


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