I sat in my garage and cried yesterday.
My social media is filled with images of graduations, weddings, and reunions being celebrated. With a vengeance. It’s my 30th high school reunion in a few weeks, and – surprise, surprise – many of those people have kids graduating from high school right now, and – surprise, surprise, surprise – those couples are celebrating 25th wedding anniversaries.
I’m crying in the garage.
I find myself purging evidence of two marriages, twenty-two years of teaching, nine houses, eight schools, and two states, a Baltic republic, and a Soviet regime.
I confess several things: 1) I had way too much crap; 2) I can now finish the basement of my condo; 3) I probably still have too much crap; 4) Son #2 has to help me evaluate my wardrobe before he leaves for Russia; 5) If you shop Goodwill, hit up the Cedar Rapids store for gently used ladies’ clothing next month; 6) Half-Price Books has some great volumes of classic literature and slightly used beach reads from the past two decades, courtesy of yours truly.
The things (translate: crap) are not the sum of life experiences or knowledge.
It’s not that I’m sad to be getting rid of things. I don’t regret the stops and starts that these things represent. I’m not sad that son #1 lives on his own. I’m not sad that son #2 is traveling and studying. I’m not sad that son #3 still has six years at home. I’m definitely happy that I’ve lived in different places among various people. I’m glad I was married; I’m even more glad that I’m not married now.
I am cleaning my slate. Getting rid of this stuff is the most cathartic undertaking in my life. In facing my past, I do not rail against it or moan and weep at love lost or dreams shattered. By getting rid of the I-might-read-that-some-day books, I lose the weight of a thousand expectations. In picking a few momentos to keep, the dusting lessens (as does any chance of being featured on a future episode of “Hoarders: Buried Alive”). With each box that goes out, I welcome in more light and air.
But this clean slate asks for new plans, innovative ideas, individualized lists. In short, I am challenging myself to truly adopt a new way of being.
A few months ago, I looked at houses because having a family means living in a house with a crippling mortgage and yard work every weekend, right? At least that what I felt obligated to – like my obligation to store way too many things that neither bring me joy nor are beautiful. I felt old looking at these houses. Weighed down. I looked at my boxes. Resigned. Embattled is not the feeling one wants when purchasing a home.
When I considered buying a condo and getting rid of stuff, I felt younger and lighter. The question is: can I get rid of my stuff without losing myself? The answer has to be yes. Because if anyone knows anything about reinvention, it is those of us who majored in Russian at the end of the Cold War. We definitely had to think on our feet – what were we going to do with our degrees?
I don’t believe my cleaning out is as spiritual as some minimalists would have me believe, but it is freeing. My son and I filled our little car and made the rounds at Goodwill and Half-Price Books again yesterday. I’m feeling lighter. I might be considering celebrating.
The universe has given me many chapters thus far, and I am grateful. I’m going to store the chapters in my heart rather than the basement.
Springtime celebrations are all about flight; happy endings; new beginnings; joyous festivities around milestones. I hope your spring celebrations fill with the gorgeous smiles of loved ones and happy memories.
I’m done crying in the garage.
Mary Oliver writes, “I think, just for the joy of it, I’ll fly.”
I think I will, too.