Selling The Books

Yesterday evening I completed and submitted my Expression Of Interest for New Zealand residency. This afternoon I started bagging up all the books I will be selling, in an attempt to get rid of many of my possessions here in the States. Five minutes ago I had to stop bagging and decide that I won’t be going to today after all and have a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate to calm myself down.

I’ve already done one or two passes through my books–I have no idea how many I have, by the way: enough to fill, if I stack books on top of books, three of those tall thin IKEA bookshelves–and have made some keeper piles: one of which is going to be sent back to Miami and one of which will be, eventually, sent to me in New Zealand whenever I get back there. But that still leaves a couple hundred books that need to go: to friends, to the secondhand book shop, to the library. Out to the world, away from me.

An old book of poems I referred to back when my idea of home decor was to write stuff in fake calligraphy and stick it on the wall, along with dried rose petals. The “New Milennium” copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves that I bought ten years ago in my very first apartment back in Claremont. An old high school copy of the Canterbury Tales. Random books I got from Gael in book club and wrote about back when I was keeping track of everything I read. An Italian cookbook a friend brought back from Tuscany when I cat-sat for her eight years ago. Books I’ve read on the plane, on the bus, in bed, on the beach, at school, on the couch, in the bath, my whole life. Some of them I brought to California with me when I went away to college. Some of those books, the ones I will be giving away, survived the hurricane.

And the joke is, of course, that just because I’ve submitted (the very beginning of) my application for NZ residency doesn’t mean that I will get NZ residency. It’s not like the first time, or even last time I tried to do this: there’s absolutely no guarantee, now. I mean, yeah, thank goodness, there’s a good chance, but let’s just say I don’t have a plane ticket back yet. I don’t have a time line. I don’t know when I will go back; I don’t know (and I can barely type the words, here) if I will go back.

So it feels a little wild to be giving away all my stuff when there is a chance that I will need my stuff for a while longer, even though I know that it’s just stuff; stuff is gettable wherever I am in the world, I have noticed It doesn’t matter that I’m letting some of it go because I still have too much of it as it is and let’s not even think about baggage allowances and shipping costs or how I’m going to get an antique lamp and a set of original Fiestaware to the other side of the country without breaking something or completely losing my mind in the process. And anyway, once it’s all packed up and done away with I won’t miss it anymore, I won’t regret it.

That doesn’t explain why I had to stop in the middle of emptying the shelves, though, and go and lie down for a while, thinking of how bare and desolate and empty they look, how completely devastated, wondering if I have made the right choices and if I am doing the right thing. Thinking about how getting rid of these books really means that I am committing to going back to New Zealand, somehow, sometime, that I am putting the process into motion again and that it isn’t just going to be a year away adventure-type thing, this time. I’m not hedging my bets, this time. I’m not looking for a new apartment and job and car in Seattle–I’m looking for those things in Wellington, which means I can’t have all the old familiar things. That’s the deal, I guess. I’ll be getting a one-way ticket, when I go.

When I go. That’s what this is all about–trying to convince myself that what I want so badly in my heart is what’s going to happen. If the books and their bookshelves go, if I cut the bonds, that means I will get to go, right? That means I’ll have to go.


  1. Whoa! You’re trying to emigrate!

    I am not sure how I failed to understand that was your goal from all your previous posts, but somehow I did. WOW.

    (Stuff is replaceable, especially bookshelves, but books are friends. You can legitimately take a fair amount of trouble to arrange to be reunited with them. Especially in countries where books cost twice or thrice what they do here.)

  2. the other Tracy

    I lit a candle for you.

  3. As I’m moving to my new place I’m having almost the opposite reaction. As my stuff disappears from my old place, it looks better and better. More spacious, less cluttered. Then again, I know that my stuff isn’t gone, just out of sight.

  4. We love books. If there’s anything you think E or I would be interested in, let us know. We’ll give them a good home. And we’ll even come pick them up and compensate you for them with food, conversation, and a dose of baby.

  5. I don’t know why books are such psychically heavy objects, but they really are. Good luck!

  6. For some of the special-but-not-going-with-you books, it might be really fun to do some bookcrossing with them ( Then you can send them out into the world to be loved by someone else and make someone else’s day by unexpectedly finding a treasure too (and even a chance you might get to reconnect with their futures on the site). That might ease some of the separation anxiety.

    I’ve been eyeing my bookshelves and cd collections the same way as I need to pare them down before a move, too. Books! Music! How are we supposed to let go of these amazing things?

  7. Oh lady. I am reading and writing this instead of packing, but also to thank you for being so kind to me when I called you all freaking out (in part because of packing and psychic weight and blah blah blah) not so many weeks ago.

  8. back when my idea of home decor was to write stuff in fake calligraphy and stick it on the wall, along with dried rose petals.

    Hell yeah. I remember typing out stanzas from Robert Graves’ Counting the Beats and artfully ripping them out of the A4 page and sticking them up there with tiny dried roses in my insomniac summer after my first year of university.

    Which is making me think, maybe I should draw a picture next time I can’t sleep.

  9. I found a good local NGO cafe that will trade me two books for one… so now I have the idea to share… but it is still hard.