Sunday, April 15, 2012

Purging and Finding

There are treasures and minefields lurking behind every closed cabinet door. When I was young, I would have found this process an adventure.  I would have snuck to Narnia beyond the panel in my linen closet.  I would have run far and free in snowy fields never wondering if I was going to make it back.  Maybe, however, there is some part of me that still thinks this is going to happen as I slowly empty the contents of armoires and night stands that I will sell at next weekend's garage sale.

There is always, in this moment of purging belongings, a moment of nostalgia (stumbling upon something you haven't seen in a while; associating memories with it; deciding whether or not to discard it).  Whatever the said item is, it does take a moment, even if it's only a split second, to determine whether it comes along with you on the next stage of the journey, or if it can be left behind.

And I will say that this process of letting go of the material existence that fills my home is a strange mixture of melancholy, a desire for it to simply be done, and a disbelief that years of living can be discarded so simply.  I am a natural purger.  Growing up, we moved every couple of years, and hanging on to lots and lots of "things" never made sense to me.  As an adult I've followed the same pattern.  When I move, I move in my car.  Yes, I know, there are many adults who would choose to rent a moving van, put all of their things in it, and when they reach their new destination, they take them all back again and put them in order.  I can't quite understand the logic of this.  This could be simply because my "large" possessions?  Were once someone else's...and I like the ecology of passing them on again to someone else.

So, as I work through this process of culling and purging...there are moments that stop me short.  A note written tucked in a file that I'm sifting through...a photo of a time I hadn't thought of in a while...a tiny bowl from Italy that I will snuggle in the box of linens I'm mailing to my new destination...and will find there, tucked in flannel sheets, with the same sense of surprise I had when I first found it in a shop in Tuscany.

And there are things I'd prefer not to see again...because they are associated with another time and another belief system that I no longer adhere to.  And that's the beauty.  Someone else can pick these things up, find them beautiful, and walk away with a gift.  It is this fluidity of "stuff" that I appreciate.  I'm pretty sure there's more out there.  We pass it around, those of us who don't insist on buying everything retail.

And there's vulnerability that surfaces when you purge.  There's vulnerability in saying, "Well, I kinda thought this was a forever kind of deal, but look at that, it wasn't."  And there's vulnerability in saying that sometimes, truly, letting go of expectations is a tough thing to do.  And there's vulnerability in saying  that despite the fact that the end result is feeling more than okay, the means of getting to this place didn't.  And sometimes, "stuff" is just "stuff"--and the stories we associate with it are just stories.  And the narrative continues whether we acknowledge it or not.  So we may as well acknowledge the stories, laugh and cry at the appropriate (or highly inappropriate) times, smile, cry, and purge.

And there's vulnerability in acknowledging that this is not exactly what I had anticipated.  I wouldn't trade my current life trajectory, but that doesn't mean that the past two years have been one's I'd like to re-live.  I would love it if the stories of time weren't carved so completely within me.  I would love to be able to place some of them out for sale at my garage sale:  "Would you like to buy a portion of that workaholic phase that didn't serve me at all?"
"Maybe you could go ahead and take that infidelity, resentment, and hostility story-line out of my mind--five dollars and it's yours.  Go ahead, keep it. "  And then these "things" would be gone and not tossing around in me.

I know these lived experiences are not "things" that can be bought and sold.  And, on some level I am grateful for this.  On some level I know they are the foundation from which I operate.  And, on some level, I'm hoping that some of them will leave on their own accord.  Allowing me to find, once again, who I am, after the purge.

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