Photo credit: antemortemarts.com
On a recent trip back home, I decided to put myself to use and help my mother de-clutter her home - and in particular, a certain room dividing unit - a la Oprah.
You see, mother, bless her heart, loves to keep all sorts of objects as souvenirs and mementoes of bygone years. In this piece of furniture, I found all sorts of things I had no idea she had - class registers from when she run a pre-school, circulars, baby shower and engagement party favors and so much more. As I carefully wrapped and boxed away the fragile objects it seemed like there had been more that I boxed than this cabinet was capable of holding. When it came to the things in the 'throw away' pile, my heart went out to this cabinet!
The cabinet, along with the furniture in the house, holds a very dear place in the story of my family. They were a symbol of overcoming. After my father lost his job as a diplomat, our fortunes changed rather dramatically and we lived a very frugal lifestyle until my father got another job many years later. Changing the furniture, for us, was a new start for us. We were Ponce again able to buy furniture, albeit cheap, but it was very symbolic. As I unloaded this piece of family history, all of this was not lost on me. I remembered how we proudly picked out objects to put in it. It also had a lot of storage, so it was very useful for tucking away the not-so-nice stuff we didn't want guests seeing.
With everything emptied out of it, the cabinet seemed like a ghost of itself: sagging shelves, peeling veneer, doors that fell off their hinges and joints coming apart. I asked some strapping young men to come help me take it out of the house, but that was unnecessary - the cabinet collapsed with one push. Emptied of all its baggage, the cabinet gave up the ghost like a house of cards. It was a very sad and poignant moment.
It made me think of the parallels in our own lives. We accumulate a lot of baggage over the years and struggle under their weight, but we keep chugging along like the little engine that could. We hold on to a lot of emotions, experiences, and perceptions both negative and positive. Sometimes, this spills over into our physical lives in the form of clutter. We jealously guard them, straining under their pressures, but refusing to let go.
Sometimes it helps to remove ourselves from our attachments and objectively purging ourselves of everything and keeping only that which we need for the way forward. It is always feels good to know we can go back to some object or the memory of an event for comfort, but we should pick wisely. We need to occasionally take inventory of our lives and run an audit to make us leaner and lighter for the journey of life. This may mean changing our attitudes, correcting self-defeating behaviors or forgiveness - forgiving others who may have offended us, but also, believe it or not, forgiving ourselves. We can only love ourselves unconditionally after we forgive ourselves for whatever it is we blame ourselves for. And we can't love another person without loving ourselves first. And we are surprised when our human relationships are painful.
Carrying around our heavy baggage affects not just us as individuals, but also everyone else who shares our life in some way. Without realizing it, and by default, we force others to carry our baggage just as we carry others' baggage whether we realize it or not. That is why sometimes when we feel our loads are too heavy, it's because of the other people's loads we share.
Whatever your clean out is - whether it is forgiveness, changing your attitude to someone or a situation - renewing your spirit makes room for newness and positivity in your life. Much as it hurts to let go of things that have, in some twisted way, provided comfort in the past, it is necessary for our growth and forward movement. Unclench your fists. Let go. Release. Submit to the now.
This is what I learnt in the moment that cabinet folded up with almost no help in my mother's living room. It no longer had to be strong and keep it together. But it had to go to make room for new furniture. Look into your life and find those things you're holding on to that do not serve any real purpose. Release them so you can embrace your new life. Remember, it's a good life!