Self

Flowers and Change

Tulip pink and yellow I’ve had tulips for as long as I’ve owned this house (18 years and counting). There was an abundance of them in the front flowerbed the first spring after I moved in. The thing with tulips is that most varieties of them will only come back for a few years before dying out. There are a few exceptions, mostly in bright yellow and solid red. Over the years I’ve dug up beds, redistributed tulip bulbs, bought new bulbs, and generally been a disturber of the earth. Some years I tend my flowers. Other years only the fittest will survive the incursion of weeds and neglect. Yet I’ve always had yellow tulips because they persistently grow and spread. One patch will die out, but another will thrive. In my backyard, yellow tulips are the only ones I have because I’ve not taken time to re-plant other colors. Except this spring I looked out my back window and saw a surprise. Pink tulips in my backyard flower beds. There are three of them in three different places and I don’t know how they got there. I’ve never seen pink in the back garden before. I know I didn’t do any planting last fall.

My mind spins on the puzzle as I stand at the window. I ruminate on spontaneous hybridization (happening identically in three locations) or an accidental scattering of seeds. I assume that tulips can grow from seeds though bulbs work much better. Then I stop myself. This is not a problem that needs a solution. I don’t need to know how they got there, I can just enjoy the fact that they are. tulip apricot and sky This is one of the things I love about seeing my garden year after year. It always changes. There is always some surprise or a new manifestation. This trio of apricot-colored tulips used to be giant and in classic tulip shape. Yet this year they are small and airy. It probably means that in another year or so they’ll vanish as tulip varieties so often do. Then I’ll plant some other tulip in that spot, or perhaps the lilies will take over. Each spring my flowerbeds change. They are different than the year before.

In fact the beds change not just year to year, but day to day. I’ve been noticing this as I spend five or ten minutes wandering outside with my camera in hand. I’m looking for things to photograph for my April photo a day that I’m posting on twitter. Some of the flowers I photographed only a week ago have lost their petals and are done for the year. Others have shown up where I didn’t expect a flower at all. And then there is the slow watching of plants and flowers developing. This peony won’t bloom until late May or June, but the buds are beginning to grow now. They’ve grow in just the past week.
Peony comparison 1 web

I’m always a little sad when I see the flowers begin to lose their petals. The tulips drop theirs fairly dramatically. One day flower, next day just a stem. For today the palm-sized petals are still lovely even on the ground. I know the tulips will be back again next year and they need to make way for the summer flowers which are just beginning to shoot up. Fallen petal 1 I wish that the serendipity of unexpected beauty were as easy to see as in my garden. I wish that emotional growth and development in my children were as simple to spot and photograph as the buds of my flowers. I wish that life made it easier to see that sad things sometimes have to happen because without them future happiness can’t be. I wish these things, but for now I’ll walk my flower beds and feel that the sorts of things I see there are happening in other parts of my life as well. Life is full of beautiful growth, but I won’t see it unless I stop and pay attention.

The Beginning of April

TulipIn April the fact of spring becomes obvious. This makes my heart happy. Yet I have a habit of being tangled up inside my own head and failing to notice the world around me. This is particularly true since I don’t have to leave my house to go to work. There was one year where I looked up at the beginning of May and realized that I had completely missed daffodil and tulip season. This year I plan to pay attention. The world is full of small beautiful things that exist whether or not I take time to see them, but my life is enriched when I take time to notice. And some of them do get more beautiful for my attention. The flowers in my gardens grow stronger, bigger, more beautiful when I take time to pull weeds and scatter fertilizer.

02 Forget-me-not
I took some time to do that yesterday. I also planted some summer bulbs that are a gift to myself in June when they bloom. I also uncovered small gifts that I planted for myself some months prior, like this little forget-me-not. I love forget-me-nots. They remind me of playing with a childhood friend. We weren’t allowed to touch his mother’s roses, but we could pick as many of the tiny blue flowers as we wanted. Each plant only lives for about two years. Once the plant expends all its energy into flowers, the plant itself dies, but from among the hundreds of seeds, new plants will sprout, spreading tiny blue loveliness for next year.

03 Apricot blossom
The arrival of April reminds me that I was supposed to prune trees and grape vines in early March. Hopefully I’ll get out there during this next week while my kids are on Spring Break. I may even declare a yard work day and get the kids to help me. The abundance of blossoms on my apricot tree are a testament to the value of pruning. Two years ago the tree was weak and straggly. It had over-produced fruit for two years in a row. I pruned it back vigorously last spring, cutting off all the branches which might have borne fruit. This forced the tree to focus on leaves, which feed the tree, rather than on fruit, which takes energy from the tree and gives it to the possibility of future trees rather than feeding the tree it came from. The tree grew strong again, and this spring it is covered in blossoms, which are beautiful to see. As soon as the blooms fade, I’ll trim the tree again. I’ll not trim off all the fruit, but I’ll thin it out so that the tree can supply some fruit, but still have energy for more leaves. There is probably a lesson for me in self management as I consider managing this tree.

This April, in an effort to nourish myself and to share beauty, I plan to be posting a photo a day over on my twitter feed. They may all be plants and flowers from my garden. Or they may be something else that catches my eye. The only rules I’m attempting to abide by, are post at least one per day, and only post pictures that bring me happiness. You’re welcome to follow along.

Saying No

It is time for me to start saying no a lot. My calendar for the next few weeks has large blocks of daytime work hours. There are no morning or mid-day appointments to disrupt the flow of my work. Afternoons are littered with many places to be, but they’re all regular events: lessons, tutoring, therapy. My only responsibility is to deliver children to their thing and then bring them home again. While I wait, I can be working on anything that I brought with me. I’m going to need every minute of those work hours. Deadlines have begun to loom close instead of distant.

I hit despair last Friday. The projects I have in front of me —work, household, parenting— all seemed like tangled and impossible messes. The only thing I could clearly see was that my available hours were insufficient for the amount of work I had assigned myself. “How can I help?” a friend asked me. He saw the front edge of my despair and wanted to take some of the business load. I couldn’t answer him, not in that moment. One of my weaknesses is that when I am under stress I hold tighter to all my tasks, expecting myself to just work harder. The more stressed I am, the less I can see what I should delegate and who I should give it to. Fortunately I have friends and Howard who have a better perspective. They pointed out a few things to me. It started my mind thinking about how to spread out the work more evenly and which things I can let lie fallow while I concentrate on other things.

I still spent Friday evening very sad. I didn’t like being that sad, but the sadness functioned as a shield which held off the blinding terror which howled around the edges of my mind. If I was grieving everything as a failure, then I didn’t have to be panicked about how doomed all my efforts were. I spent the evening hiding from sad thoughts. Around 1am I got out of bed and began to do the dishes. I hadn’t been sleeping anyway, and dishes were a simple thing that I could see how to do. I was inevitably doomed to failure, but at least I wouldn’t fail in the midst of dirty dishes. Then I began to fold laundry. By 4am I’d put enough things in order that my mind would let me sleep. Fortunately it was Saturday so I slept late. Then I put in eight hours on work projects, one small task at a time. Panic showed up periodically, usually when I was contemplating the project as a whole. Any time anxiety threatened to overwhelm me, I just reminded myself that it was obvious that I would miss my deadline, so there was no point in panicking about it. Instead I would just keep doing tasks one after the other. Then when failure inevitably arrived, at least I would know that I had done everything I could.

On one level, I’m aware that I’ve performed some weird hack on my brain. Doing one task after another is how deadlines get met. There is a part of my brain that has done the math and thinks that piles of hard work might still allow us to meet our deadlines. I’m trying not to think about that too much, because believing success is possible means I have to panic, stress, and push to get things done. The anxiety of pushing will cause me to freeze up and avoid the work. This has been an (unfortunately) frequent pattern in the past few months. But if I think I’m doomed to miss the deadline, I can work steadily and calmly. Shh, don’t tell my anxiety that I’m tricking it.

I made some lists today. One is the list of regrets I have for time wasted in the past few months. Pinning those regrets to the page pulled them out of my head where they were spilling sadness on everything. Another is the list of things that I should hand off to other people. The third list is discrete tasks that I can be doing next. I will follow my lists bit by bit, day by day. In order to do that, I have to vigorously defend the spaces in my days. I have to not let other people put things on my lists. I have to say no to opportunities. I have to say no to social appointments. I have to say no to teachers who want slices of my time in service of my children’s education. All these things can have my attention again once the deadline has been met or been passed. Right now I have to dive deep, ignore the internet, let calls go to voicemail, and work on the task in front of me.

Perseverance and Adversity

Yesterday at church we had a lesson on adversity. The major theme of the lesson was that we need adversity in our lives because overcoming it makes us better people. I believe this is true. The most self absorbed and least empathetic people I’ve known are those who have never had a hard thing happen to them. The older I get, the fewer of those people I know. We all get knocked flat eventually, hence the need to address this fact in a spiritual context. People of faith have to reconcile belief in a loving, all-powerful God with the fact that life is terrifyingly unfair. The lesson kept returning to the message everything happens for a reason. Many of the women around me seemed to find that very comforting. I sat there and thought how I don’t believe that God deliberately smites people with problems to make them grow, but that I do think he allows natural processes and choices of others to bring pain. I’m sometimes angry with Him about that. I also thought of dear friends who I knew were hurting right that moment and how hurtful it would be if I were to say such a thing to them. In fact just the day before I’d given one friend this card which reads “Please let me be the first to punch the next person who tells you everything happens for a reason.” (You should check out all the empathy cards at that link. They are the cards that cover the cases which are not covered by all the other cards. Brilliant.)

The thing is that when people are hit with something breathtakingly hard, they have to grieve. Part of that is being angry, really angry, often angry at God if they believe in one. Those of us who are bystanders to that pain want to be able to fix it. We want our loved ones to be at peace emotionally even if the hard thing continues. We say we want it for them, and we do, but we also want it for ourselves because watching pain reminds us that someday pain will come for us. And we have little control over what it will be or when it arrives. So we try to take the person who is in pain and jump them ahead to acceptance. We want to give them an answer. But that doesn’t work. Particularly if they are in the part of grieving where they need to be angry.

I don’t think I understood the value of anger in adversity until I read Rachel Naomi Remen’s My Grandfather’s Blessings. The book is a hundred small stories from her experiences counseling the dying, the recovering, the doctors who help the dying, and all those in the blast radius of cancer cases. In one of the stories, Ms. Remen says she is always glad when she sees anger in a patient. Anger comes from a vital will to live, to demand that the world be different and better. Angry sufferers are more likely to fight and to recover. Anger bestows strength and forward momentum. The gifts of anger can obviously be used in destructive ways as well as constructive, but the vital energy of it is critical to surviving hard things. I’ve recommended Ms. Remen’s book before, I do it again here. It is worth reading.

After listening for a time to the church lesson, I raised my hand and expressed the thoughts in the prior two paragraphs. I added that when we are close to someone who is wounded, stricken, injured, our job is to mourn with them, be angry with them, and walk along in their journey toward acceptance whatever peace is right for them. We can’t give them our answers, they must find their own. I’m pleased that many of the women who were saying everything happens for a reason, nodded along to this as well.

This morning a friend (who is mid-chemo therapy) posted a link to an article about Death and The Prosperity Gospel. My church is not the only one where “everything happens for a reason” is the party line. The article does a fantastic job of taking a look at the harmfulness of assuming that blessings and prosperity are rewards for good behavior. That doctrine is comforting because it provides the illusion of control. If we are good, then our lives will be blessed. I even think there is some truth to that. Our choices definitely affect our outcomes. This is an important lesson for people to understand: choosing well makes life better. Yet we also have to acknowledge that life is hideously unfair. We do not start on even ground. We are bequeathed unfair loads of challenges, economic status, and family situation at birth. This is compounded by societal unfairness that smooths the path for some people and smashes others. Our choices can make our lives better, but prosperity is not an accurate measure of goodness.

The paragraph in that article which hit me most was this one about grieving:

One of the most endearing and saddest things about being sick is watching people’s attempts to make sense of your problem. My academic friends did what researchers do and Googled the hell out of it. When did you start noticing pain? What exactly were the symptoms, again? Is it hereditary? I can out-know my cancer using the Mayo Clinic website. Buried in all their concern is the unspoken question: Do I have any control?

I’ve actually seen this happen. Years ago I was present when a friend of mine informed people that he had five years to live. I watched him bear the brunt of their reactions, person after person. He ended up comforting his friends about his impending death. I think of that, and I think of the article about How Not to Say the Wrong Thing. It can be so hard when a friend gives you bad news to not try to make it better. It is hard to not attempt to exert control over the situation. Yet what sufferers need is for us to meet them where they are and just be with them in acknowledging that what they’re going through sucks.

I wish I had better answers than this, but I don’t and that is the point. I would dearly love to be able to fix it when Howard has a depressed day or when my son is so lonely and isolated that he lays in bed crying. Instead I just have to be willing to stay in the pain with them and remind them that the pain will subside, that there are choices we can make which may help, that they are loved by me and by God, both of whom hurt for their hurting. And that if they listen carefully, God will help them turn this experience into future strength and usefulness. If they need to be mad at God for not fixing it, I stay with them for that too. So does He. It doesn’t feel like enough, but over and again it is what is needed. Mourn with those who mourn. Comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

Starfish Story

I’ve been thinking about starfish. The thoughts started when I read this article
about how to keep writing when no one cares
. Halfway through reading the article, after a litany of evidence that people don’t care (for which I had all too much sympathy), before she got to the part where she explains why she writes anyway, I began to think of that story about starfish.

You know the one. A quick google search brings up a hundred versions. The beach covered in starfish and a single person throwing them back into the ocean one by one. When someone asks why the person bothers, what difference does it make? The person throws one more starfish and says “I made a difference to that one.”

I wish I knew who first wrote that starfish story. I wonder if that writer was in a place of pain, trying to convince herself to keep going when the effort seemed futile. It seems likely to me that she was. Only a person who has struggled with futility could understand why helping even one matters. I’ve heard this story since I was very young. It has been around forever, attributed to everyone and no one. It is likely that the original writer is long gone. Did she have any idea how far her words would go, carried on the currents of an internet she probably never imagined? Perhaps this starfish story also seemed like a futile cry into the void.

That gives me hope. It is not only when I’m alive and chucking starfish that my actions or words can make a difference. The good things I put out into the world can spread out far beyond my reach. They can last longer than my life. They can change and transform so that no one will every be able to trace them back to me. I may never get full credit for them, but credit is not the point. It never was, even though our egos want it to be. We don’t expect the starfish to come back and say thank you. It is the throwing that matters, the attempt to use action to help another.

Time for me to get to work putting good things out into the world. That is how the world becomes better.

Grieving for Grandma

Writing about grief is hard because grief is never singular. It comes as a flood, a single mass that breaks and flows filling up spaces. Yet the mass is made up of a hundred million parts that all must be managed. It is also not singular in that rarely is only one person affected.

My Grandma died on Monday. The fact of her death is an impact crater with those closest most affected, first my Father, then my mother, Grandma’s brothers and sisters, me and my siblings, then further out to my children and their cousins. So many people with so many raw feelings. My head is full of thoughts, yet my writing of them is constrained by the need to not add hurt. When feelings are all on the surface it is best to tread lightly.

Death brings with it a list of chores a mile long. My parents are having to dismantle the care systems that they had in place for Grandma. All of us are scrambling and rearranging our schedules so we can gather for a funeral. There is legal paperwork, flowers, an obituary, rides from the airport, housing for extended family, and a program to plan. Decision after decision is to be made, all while rational functions are impaired by grief. I don’t know a way to do it better, all of it feels necessary. And there is some comfort in the list of chores. They provide a focus, a way to move forward and rearrange life without Grandma in it. Though I worry about the space after, when chores are complete and all that is left is an absence.

I’ll admit that I dove into the chores. I tried to involve myself and make myself useful. I’d hoped to alleviate burden by managing some communications for my parents. But it is possible that my attempts only increased the number of phone calls and confusion. I know I wore out by the end of today. I have my itinerary. I know when I leave, where to pick up my rental car, and the hotel where I will stay. Tomorrow I have to dive into work and prepare things so that Howard will be able to manage school and work while I am gone.

I have crying to do. I haven’t done most of it yet. I’ve been too busy arranging things. But there is space for it this weekend. I will go be in that space and see what feelings join me there.

For now I reread Grandma on her 90th Birthday which I wrote five years ago.

Thinking on Crimson Peak

Perhaps it is because this is the month of October. Maybe the rain and falling leaves have affected my mood. Or it could be that I soon expect a phone call which will tell me that I need to fly out for my Grandma’s funeral, thus I needed a distraction. For whatever reason, the movie Crimson Peak drew my attention and I found myself wanting to go see it even though I generally don’t like horror films. Or rather, I don’t enjoy gore-fest, jump-scare movies that are about murder and death. I do enjoy spooky thriller movies with mysteries to solve. Crimson Peak does have blood, death, and other dark things, but it is more a gothic love story than a horror movie. Gothic heroines do not get happy endings, but they do have beautiful scenery and mysteries to unravel. Crimson Peak has all the dark mystery of Wuthering Heights and matches it for mood. The opening lines say that it is not a ghost story, but rather a story with ghosts in it. I found that to be true and I liked that about it. I liked that the supernatural world entwined with the material and affected it, but the plot did not revolve around the existence of ghosts. The movie was beautiful and dark. I enjoyed it for what it was though it is not a happy story.

Far away my Grandma lays in a hospital bed, tiny and weak. The latest report is that she is eighty four pounds and has forgotten how to swallow or speak intelligibly. There are not many days left. Her room is antiseptic and hallowed, a place where she is getting ready to leave the body she’s inhabited for ninety five years. That room is about love and letting go.

I suppose it makes sense that I’m attracted to a story about loss just now. I’m able to follow the emotion, but all the images are romanticized, beautiful, and clearly fiction. So I sit here in the evening and think of the movie I just saw. I imagine the hospital room where my parents are sitting lovingly nearby so Grandma won’t be alone. And I am glad to live in my world that is more prosaic and less vivid than the one on the screen. I’ll take death as a granter of peace and passage over howling ghosts and crumbling mansions. I’ll take my warm bright home full of video games and laughing. My life is a good place and sometimes I can best see that when I have something for contrast.

Doing Fine

Each week during church I open my mind and heart, seeking for inspiration and direction about the things I have been doing and the things I should be doing. Some weeks I get clear answers, others I don’t. This week I got a very clear “You’re doing fine” as I was contemplating my job as a parent.

I thought about that answer after it came. It definitely wasn’t an indication that I can rest and be done now. It wasn’t telling me I’ve done enough. It was more like the encouragement from a personal trainer during the middle of some difficult exercise.

“You’re doing fine. Now adjust your arm a little bit and shift your stance. That won’t make it any easier right now, but it will make this effort more effective in accomplishing what we hope to accomplish in the long run. Oh, and stop trying to carry that extra weight on your shoulder, it isn’t helping anything.”

I’d love to hear “That’s enough. You can rest.” Instead I get told not to spend energy worrying how I’m doing. I’m doing fine. Which is actually good news, because I was spending energy worrying that I was getting everything wrong. Maybe if I can stop worrying, I can use that energy on something that makes life better.

Walking the Spiral

My breath came ragged through my open mouth as I walked quickly up the slope. Dirt and rocks crunched under my feet as they walked along the narrow trail in the grass. Many other people had walked this path before me, as is to be expected when one goes walking inside a state park. None of those people were visible now. The parking lot had been empty when I pulled up. I’d intended to tweet a cheerful photo. “Look how beautiful Fremont Indian State Park is.” I’d taken the picture, written the words, hit send. No service. The park was in a canyon, hidden from cell towers. It was a dead zone. No one knew where I was. Howard knew I’d headed to southern Utah to pick up our daughter from college, but I hadn’t mentioned my intention to stop at the park. It had only been half an idea, something I was mulling over. I’d intended the tweet as a digital bread crumb, a quick note to let people know where I was. Instead I stood on the asphalt, wanting to seek out a place where I’d been before, wondering if I really should go hiking solo, knowing the trail was an easy ten minute walk, and finally deciding the park was a safe enough place. “This is how people go missing.” I thought as I took the first steps on the trail, but I walked up anyway. I was drawn there by a desire I didn’t fully understand. I promised myself I would turn back if I didn’t find the place in ten minutes of walking.

My children and I had stopped at Fremont Indian State Park on a whim in the fall of 2012. We were on our way back from a college visit where my daughter got to walk the campus and realize that she really did want to attend that school. All four kids were with me on the trip. I hauled all of them out of the car and made them walk trails with me. None of them were particularly thrilled about it at first. Slowly they began to enjoy themselves and we all rejoiced when we found the spiral built in a meadow. The kids ran their way to the center. I have a photo of the four of them standing there, triumphant. Even as we walked away, I knew I wanted to visit it again. The memory stayed with me. I thought about stopping each time I drove past the freeway exit as I traveled on trips to fetch my daughter or drop her off. “I really need to go back there.” The thought bounced around in my head. Each trip had a dozen reasons why I didn’t have time. Two and half years of driving past and I didn’t go back. Until I did, because on that day the pull was stronger. I’d had a rough few months. I was mired in depression, grief, and other emotions I couldn’t quite sort. I didn’t know what I needed, but I knew I really wanted to see the spiral again. So I stopped and I hiked. Solo.

The trail was clear and did not branch. There was no risk of getting lost. As I walked, I measured the land with my eyes. Did I remember this place correctly? I thought I was on the right trail. It seemed that I was traveling ground I’d been over before, but two and a half years had passed. I didn’t remember clearly. I wondered if the spiral would still be there or if it had been neglected. I was nearing the end of my ten minutes time limit and ahead of me was a rise. I told myself that if I couldn’t see the spiral from the top, I had to turn back. I didn’t want to, but every step took me further from where I was expected to be. I could feel responsibility calling me back to my car. My daughter needed me to help her load her things into my car and to help her finish cleaning. After that I was needed at home. I had responsibilities and they tugged on me as I walked upward.
Spiral
There it was. My breath caught in my throat and I realized I’d been worried that I wouldn’t find it, that it hadn’t been real, that it had vanished like some modern day Brigadoon. I half wouldn’t have been surprised at that. It felt like a place that could just vanish. Or perhaps a place that could only be found by serendipity or need. On that day I found it. My eyes began to water as I walked the distance to the open end of the spiral.

2012 was before. It was before all the transitions that our family made stepping all the kids up, one to college, one into high school, one into junior high. It was before my younger daughter had panic attacks. It was before my older son began his long slide into depression. It was before we recovered from that. It was before I discovered that our recovery was a limited one. It was before my younger son also had panic attacks. It was before all the appointments, therapists, doctors, medicine, and meetings. It was before something in me broke, or gave up, or grew too tired. The person who visited the spiral in 2012 could honestly look her depressed son in the eyes and promise him it would get better. The person I was when I returned wondered if that was true. I wondered if I had been lying to him. I knew I had to keep going, taking the right steps, but somehow I’d lost touch with the belief that we could pull out of the emotional mire which kept reclaiming us. We’d seem to be out, but then the troubles would come again. My feet stood at the opening to the spiral. The last time I’d been here was before. I didn’t know why I needed to come again, nor why I wanted to cry at being there. I stepped forward and began to walk.

I once read about a meditation path in the center of a garden. It was a twisting walkway leading toward a center point. A person was meant to walk the winding path and examine whatever thoughts surfaced during the walk. I took a deep breath and as my feet walked, I opened my thoughts. “What do I need here?” I asked.
Center
Walking a spiral feels like going nowhere. I passed the same scenery over and over. As I got closer to the center this was amplified, I saw the same things, but they went by faster. At the end I felt as though I were spinning in a circle even though the speed of my walking had not changed. Then there was the center. And I stopped. I sat on the log and waited. I took deep breaths. Birds chirped unseen. The wind blew past my face and lifted tendrils of hair. I wanted to cry again, but in the center the tears were happy instead of grieved. I sat there, feeling happy, feeling connected to the person I was before. It was the first moment in a long time where I could see that yes, we kept getting mired in the same emotions. We were seeing the same troubles again and again, but somewhere there was a center where the trip might begin to make sense. I just had to find the center. Then I had to work my way out from there. I sat for long minutes. I did not want to leave. I could feel my obligations and responsibilities waiting for me beyond the edge of the spiral.

After a time, I stood and walked my way out along the spiral. I saw the same things over again, but this time the more I walked, the more the sights slowed down. Then I was at the open end and stepped free.

Finding and walking the spiral seemed such a silly thing. I still don’t understand how so much meaning got attached to it. Yet in that step out from the open end of the spiral I felt like I’d left some grief behind and took something hope-like with me in its place. The spiral helped me remember that there was a before, and the existence of a before heavily implies that somewhere ahead of me there is an after. I just need to keep wending my way along the path until I get there.

Letting Go of Who I Was

There are boxes in my office waiting for me to sort them. The presence of boxes awaiting my attention is not that unusual. Things stack up when I get busy, but the contents of these boxes make them unusual. They are things that were dragged out of the back recesses of a storage closet that had to be emptied so that my sons could have it as a closet for their new room. This process of moving them has unearthed many an object which we’d forgotten existed. I’ve found partially finished projects and things I acquired because of something I intended to make. We found toys that had been long outgrown. Load after load has been hauled off to be given to a thrift store. The same fate awaits much of what is in the boxes waiting for me.

I used to sew. I made costumes for kids, Sunday dresses, and other pretty things. I enjoyed sewing and I acquired many fabrics because of their potential. Some of those fabrics became beautiful things. Others sat in boxes waiting. I am not sewing very much right now. When I pulled out those boxes of fabric, I remembered the things I intended to make. It was quite nostalgic, but none of those projects interest me anymore. If I were to make time in my life for sewing, I would pick different projects. So I gave away most of my fabric. I retained the tools and books, but the projects in potentia are all gone. This means that my sewing supplies fit into two boxes. I have more space for the things than interest me right now. At some point in the future I may sew again. If I do, then the sewing supplies will expand. In the meantime, I have more space and that is good.

The sewing things are only one example. This process of clearing out keeps bringing me in contact with who I used to be. I find remnants of old dreams and I remember them being important. Part of me wants to hold on for memory’s sake. Yet if I want to fully become who I am now, I have to let go of who I used to be. This is the process of life at all stages. We don’t stop growing and changing just because we hit adulthood. Realizing this is one of the reasons that I cut eight inches off my hair. For ten years I was a person who truly enjoyed having long hair. I liked the interesting things I could do with it. Lately all that hair started to feel more like a burden than anything else. So I let it go. Now I can discover who I am with shorter hair.

I sorted my closet and got rid of used-to-be-favorite clothes. I culled the bookshelves of books that no one in our family loves. I dug into the electronics bin and got rid of things which have no real purpose for us anymore. We packed beloved family toys for young children into boxes and put them into storage to await grandchildren. I am making space in my house. It is time to clear all of this away because I want space to grow. I want space for my children to discover who they are as teenagers and fledgling adults. I want our surroundings to reflect who we are now. Reminders of who we used to be are fine and good. We keep the the things we still love, but we don’t want to be burdened with caring for and storing the past.

It feels like a good process.