I feel gross.
Have you ever had the moment - the rainy Saturday morning, perhaps - when you decided it was time to clean out the attic or the guest room closet? You put your hair up, start some uplifting, motivating music, and set to work?
It goes well for a few minutes - maybe a good hour - as you assemble a pile of things that no longer serve you, toss mismatched socks and the things that never fit, or will never fit again, because you're not the person you used to be?
(In so many ways)
Then you get to things like ticket stubs or photos you forgot to frame, the dress you wore That One Time, and you get a little wistful and teary.
(The good old days.)
And then... the shirt that belonged to That Guy, and the jewelry your grandmother gave you that is relatively hideous and unwearable, but still smells vaguely like her or her memory, and the painting supplies that you bought for the class you never took, the things you hid and denied from the world, and so on?
Pretty soon, you are in tears, with your life strewn haphazardly around you. All the things you thought you were and hoped you might be, along with some of your deplorable patterns and adorable coping mechanisms.
This is where I am in this moment. The un-packed-ness of the feelings and behaviors, anticipating the resentments that are somewhere on the shelf I won't get to until next month (at this rate). Wondering why I didn't open a good book, or start sharpening my knives, or some other meaningful and useful possibility.
The temptation to shove it all back into the closet is overwhelming. The Joy Lady says to take it all out, put it all on the floor, and I think that perhaps she is in cahoots with the Recovery People and my nemesis Bob Villa, who all seem to have the very, "You've got this!" sort of attitude.
(I'm not feeling very 'got this' surrounded by the fallout).
This is the part they don't picture in the brochures, the work that they do at the commercial breaks, the awkward adolescence of the process.
I want to bypass the sweaty and rageful yelling phase, where I Tell The Closet Who Is Boss, and swear to Never Buy Craft Supplies Again. It is a prayerful, tearful process this time as I get to the roots of why I hang onto horrible jewelry, and how the life I had planned will not be the life that I live.
I have found some solidarity recently, which is good. Because my closet has more than forgotten socks and iPhone Chargers of Yore... there are bones. Feelings. Half-drunk bottles of poison I ingested while hoping the other person would die. Which they didn't, mind you, because that isn't how poison works.
Shame, blame, and their sister despair, toe to toe with me and my Wild Ideas.
It is ugly, and feels bottomless, as each artifact lends another nuanced flavor of emotion. I have been afraid of all of them, shame in particular, who I had hoped would evaporate during the years of entombment.
The relief I felt when his things were carted off by the angels of Two Men and a Truck was palpable. It served as a distraction from the emptiness that remained, the things that have gathered dust in the name of place-holding. My house is filled with Things that have no meaning or significance to me, they are simply things that serve a purpose or disguise this dwelling as a home.
And this closet? This closet, and that one, and the one in my psyche? The 12 Steppers seem to know a thing or two about them that the yogis missed – that within them are the relics that will explain the emptiness, the worthlessness that I've been trying to address with Other People's Problems and work and selective focus.
And this time? I've done the Magical Thing, where I've asked for help, and accepted it. Which seems to be the secret tool to skillful unpacking – the off camera doulas who have Seen This Shit Before. Help says, keep going. Even if you feel gross. Even if shame had birthed kittens or gremlins in the interim. Even if anger and rage are buried landmines from battles won and lost, whose venom has rotted and intensified in the ensuing years.
So I am, and so are you. Because this is the work. If we don't, we'll be pulled under into the basement, rolled by some other crocodile, or burn the whole thing down and start again only to find the ghosts and the work have followed us.
I'm grateful for the gift of solidarity, the example of what life can look like when you Follow the Instructions, which, if you're assembling something from Ikea always start with “Find a man with a pencil behind his ear.”
Ask for Help.
(And accept it).
Let the Good Old Days rise again.