Charlotte Phillips

Clearing the Way for the Roses – by Charlotte Phillips

While doing a bit of computer maintenance today, it occurred to me that I have saved, quite by accident, a few unrelated things in my DIVORCE folder. Upon reflection, I’m thinking it could actually be a testament to what a life becomes after a major event, or maybe it might be a subconscious act of self-preservation.

I am a fairly organized person and despite my tears and a few years of low self-esteem, I have kept my Type A personality intact. I have managed to save important documents in that tidy folder with the fitting yet depressing title of DIVORCE. It contains correspondence from lawyers, notes from my therapist, financial papers, real estate transactions, all kinds of logistical pieces of the strange puzzle known as marital breakdown. These items were swiftly dragged into that little blue folder to protect my heart, yet still easily accessed for future retrieval. That puzzle, by the way, when finished, is more like a curiously blank slate than a complete and beautiful scene.

As is human, I would sometimes forget to change the directory path on my routine file saving activities. Consequently, many unrelated things over the past couple of years slipped into that DIVORCE folder: recipes for veggie burgers, dining room table pendant light ideas from Pinterest, receipts from online travel bookings, scans of family photos I had meant to save as jpegs to the iPhoto thing but ended up sending as pdfs to the DIVORCE file; your typical middle-aged Mac mistakes.

Today, I was messing around with a program called Washing Machine – a common rainy day virtual activity while baking a batch of real muffins – and I found myself opening that DIVORCE folder on my desktop. It was like that moment in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when Russell Crowe’s character sees patterns in what was seemingly a chaotic collection of numbers and symbols. I could see my life as a series of happy and sad things; ups and downs, peaks and valleys, arranged in a vertical cascade of file titles.

The way I had named the steps and hurdles in divorce proceedings and the things I wanted to save for future use in what is now my different life, quite frankly astounded me. The titles stood out like trail markers on an un-planned trek filled with exhausting twists and turns. It was a retrospective travel blog I didn’t even know I was writing or in fact, living. “Schedule of Assets and Liabilities”, “10 Mid-Century Modern Living Rooms for Life Right Now”, “Spousal Support Calculator”, “Delightful Crab Macaroni and Cheese”, “Real Estate Completion Dates”, “Mom’s Christmas Calendar Project”….., the file names trickled on.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that filing emails and other electronic documents in easily identifiable folders can help manage your activities and free your mind. Okay, maybe it’s a bit of rocket science on account of the internet and cloud based file storage, etc., but just like keeping your socks in one drawer and underwear in another, arranging things in designated places makes for easy retrieval and a sense of control over one’s time. It can also free up space for better things. And that’s where the moving forward through life concept happens.

When I look at that desktop folder with the fairly blunt title of DIVORCE, I feel angst, fear and sadness. If it were a trail sign on that journey through life, it would be Caution: Difficult Terrain Ahead.  It sits on the right side of my screen when I open my computer in the morning, a little blue icon of an old-fashioned file folder. It floats over my screen background, which incidentally, is a lakeside scene from a Gulf Island get-away. It is a bucolic vista with my Mom sitting in her wheelchair looking out at the sun sparkled water. The DIVORCE folder hovers over a wild rose bush obscuring most of its pink blossoms. It lingers there beside a few other orphaned files.

I need to move them all into other places pretty soon – my income tax project, a movie of my son’s graduation, a few random photos I scanned in and forgot about. I am thinking it’s time to just move the DIVORCE folder off the desktop altogether so I can see more of that rose bush. I need to put it up in the attic of my Mac – in the Documents zone. Move it and move on. Break that puzzle apart and put it back in its box for another day, or perhaps never look at it again.

But before I store that folder in another place, I’m going to retrieve its accidental occupants and take them forward with me. I’m going to move them into a more hopeful and positively named place. Back in the old days when I was a young writer in a radio station, I kept a folder I called the Tickle File. It was an actual light yellow cardboard file folder that hung on metal rails in the clunky bottom drawer of my office desk.  I would fill it with brilliant notes for clever characters, creative seeds for commercials, catchphrases that popped into my head, promotion concepts, contest ideas, etc. That folder was built on moments my mind was flourishing for days when it might be less fertile and I’d need a quick creative fix. The name came from an old CBC TV show I watched as a child. Mr. Dressup. He had a Tickle Trunk he would open to find props that spurred creative projects to dazzle his TV friends. It was full of possibilities and uplifting new things to do.

I think I’ll make a new folder on my desktop and call it the Tickle File. In it I’ll put only positive things like recipes, places I’d like to visit, art and writing projects to start, and a few photos of people that bring me joy in this life. It will be where I can quickly access my own inspiration and make new things from the props I put in there. I’ll start a new puzzle of the next adventure in this, my new life.

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  • Reply fourfigs January 28, 2018 at 11:46 am

    This is a wonderful reminder that I need to remove the DIVORCE file from my filing cabinet, which I pass by regularly enough to disturb the reverie of my new life. I haven’t looked in it for years and no longer deserves to disrupt my serenity. It was a LONG time ago, and not as charged, but I have reinvented myself quite nicely. Also nice to feel that! So thanks for the prompt, and the funeral service.

  • Reply Shari January 28, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Great read. Jody you are such a talented writer

    • Reply Jody Vance February 11, 2018 at 10:12 am

      This was written by Charlotte Phillips. You are right, she is a great writer.

      thanks for reading,


  • Reply tangotv January 29, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    A great piece of writing, Charlotte.

  • Reply Jenny February 1, 2018 at 6:43 am

    A pleasure to read and very well said. Everyone should have a tickle file!!! Embrace and enjoy this life we are given! Best of wishes to you!!

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