Collage the Crap Out of It

For the longest time, buying a new calendar at the start of a new year was one of my greatest joys. Colored pens, holiday-themed stickers, highlighting family birthdays – I did it all. But over the last five years or so, it was just too hard to keep my calendar, his calendar, and our family calendar in sync. So I gave up my pretty paper version and began recording everything on my Google Calendar, where I only had to enter things once for everyone to see.

Despite being members of the digital generation, my boys never look at the Google calendar (although I still keep it updated). Since I no longer have another adult to share my comings and going with, I decided I’d return to my favorite way of organizing my time and spent an afternoon browsing the calendar section at Barnes & Noble. Because it was mid-January, everything was on clearance, but that didn’t diminish my options, it just increased the number of calendars I could afford to take home: one for each boy’s room, a huge desk calendar I’m using on a wall in my kitchen, and a personal planner that is both sturdy enough and pretty enough to accompany me everywhere.

As soon as I got home, I settled in to decorate my new calendars, while binge-watching something British. But I couldn’t pick up a single pen until I figured out what to do with the last four months of 2017. Yes, my planner’s designer thought she was doing me a favor by including September – December of 2017. Not the mini versions some calendars include, all on one page, with no room to write on the days, just a grid for reference; no, these were as prominent as my shiny new year – the one I was ready to start, with no traces of 2017 anywhere to trigger me.

I immediately started to rip those pages out of my planner, then froze when I realized I’d be permanently weakening the binding. I was honestly taken aback by how agitated I was, just seeing those months in print. Nothing written on them, not familiar in any other way, except my memories of trudging through them, clawing past some days, wishing away others. I cursed those four months and thought about gluing their pages together, covering them with Sharpie, or just being relentlessly intentional about turning past them every time I opened my planner (none of which was practical).

Then I noticed again the heavy, high quality paper in this planner and realized these pages will withstand a lot of wear and tear. So I collaged the crap out of them.

I wasn’t very intentional in the beginning, using large scraps of paper, just to get the job done. I wanted no trace, no reminder of anything I left behind in 2017. But now I’m going back through and collaging on top of my collage – scraps of paper where I tested water colors, leftovers from favorite projects – using images I will enjoy stumbling onto every time I use my planner.

I know the triggers are still under there, but I feel a little more powerful knowing I smothered them this way. It’s akin to taking a glass that was broken in anger and using the shards to create a mosaic. I’ll never be able to completely avoid some things, but I can use them as a base for another project, layering and trimming, adding and amending, until it’s something I can live with, if not outright enjoy.

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