I’ve been thinking about the many times I’ve moved in my life. Each time, I made a conscious effort to purge – everything I owned was subject to the packing game of ‘keep or toss’. It’s funny how difficult it can be to let some things go, how sentimentality always goes for the win when I’ve tried to decide on an object’s fate (apparently my old wooden spoon means just as much to me as my childhood photos.)
As I think about my most recent move, the biggest and most emotional of all, I recall wanting to walk away from everything – my memories included. That mindset actually made things a lot easier. Nothing was sacred. It was time to let go of attachments, and the more I got rid of, the bolder I got. Eventually, aside from the absolute necessities, everything was gone. Well, almost everything.
There were photos – how do you just throw moments of your life away? There were CDs – music that took me back to a specific time and place. There was also a painting – a birthday gift to me, with a hand-written note on the back. There were a few little mementos that I couldn’t rationalize why I was keeping at the time, but I just knew I needed to put them in a box for…later.
And so, after 15 years in one life, I settled into another. I began to enjoy this new way of living – it was lighter and less cluttered, both physically and mentally. I knew it was important to begin making new memories and to enjoy the moments of this new life I was creating, but I couldn’t help but walk down memory lane every once in awhile. I needed to browse through the photos, play the CDs and stop and look at the painting now and then. It’s not that I longed for my old life, but there was a feeling of loss that I still wrestled with. And I started to realize that, along with that feeling of loss, there was something more – there was a need to acknowledge that I had lived. No matter how much I wanted to forget, I still needed to remember. I was feeling like I had turned my back on the past so completely that I was actually denying my existence during those years. In my effort to forget and move forward, I was creating feelings of aloneness, emptiness and uprootedness. I needed to remember – at least to an extent that had me feeling that I had a life before now.
I felt like I needed to make room for a little sentimentality. I needed to feel the comfort of the familiar while I embraced the new. I realize now, I couldn’t have made every decision I needed to make during that tumultuous time of change. And I’m beginning to understand why I kept certain things. Some decisions were meant to come later, and when they did, they came with more ease. Eventually, I was able to strike a balance between forgetting and remembering. I could honor my place in history without getting stuck there and without any denial. I just needed to dismantle my old life in stages and build my new one piece by piece. Time was the key.
Speaking of time, I think it’s time to replace my old wooden spoon. No tug at the heart, no tears – just an honest need to replace a spoon that is past its prime. My childhood photos, on the other hand, aren’t going anywhere. Neither are a chosen few from the last 15 years. Because I was there.
Photo by Carol Good – all rights reserved