Today I was standing knee deep in stuff I cleared out of a closet in my granddaughter’s bedroom. As I stood there amid the broken toys, cast off clothing, and miscellaneous pieces of discarded rubbish, I saw it as a sort of metaphor for my life.
Once, like all those toys and clothes, my life was shiny and new. I was excited about the future and everything looked and felt right. The toys were going to bring me ultimate satisfaction and fulfil their roll forever, and I was never going to change so all my clothes would always fit. I never, not once, thought about the fact that life is always changing. I didn’t plan on out growing anything, nor did I plan on finding the toys boring as I changed and grew within.
At sixteen, newly married, in the middle of the hippie era in San Francisco, I was free to experiment and play with all sorts of new ideas and life style choices. And boy did I play hard. Like a child let loose in a toy store, I had to try everything new. But, like a spoiled child, I soon threw aside each new thing because I became bored, or saw something brighter, bigger, and more exciting to try. Eventually, like all children needing boundaries, I got bored with all of it and started looking for something to give meaning to my life.
At nineteen, I was a mother, and everything changed. All the toys of my childhood were useless and soon gathered dust in a closet that would, in time, become filled with cast off and forgotten things. By twenty-one, I had two young children and a husband who was obsessed with his career. We moved from place to place as he changed jobs and worked his way up the ladder of success. Each move caused me to place more and more of my discarded life into that closet. Soon the floor was covered, and I was working my way up the walls. No matter how much I reorganized, I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the harmful toys, the unflattering clothes, or the old mouldy feelings of worthlessness.
Things moved along from day to day. Life went on, my children grew, and one day I found myself looking at that closet with loathing. I had changed so much that a lot of that stuff in there didn’t apply to me any longer. Broken pieces of rubbish, hateful feelings, anger, sorrow, and all the old things that no longer fit were wearing me down. I had found a new purpose in my spiritual self. I had found a place to settle, even if it meant my husband was away all the time.
Life got busier as the years rolled on, and more of my life traumas found their way into the closet, to be closed off so as not to effect my life. Why deal with anything when there was still room to stuff everything in the closet and close the door? I got older, my children got older, and my husband drifted further away. But that didn’t stop me from looking for new toys to replace the losses in my life. One of the best toys I found was food. Lots of lovely food, and all of it found a permanent place on my body. So, instead of dealing with my emotional needs, I fed them, and stuffed the extra feelings in the closet, even if it was getting harder and harder to close the door.
Then, one day, the door burst open and would never close again. My son died. There was no more room in the closet, and I couldn’t shove my hurt and broken heart in there. When I tried, the door fell down. All those old toys, past mistakes, broken pieces of my heart and soul, old clothes of my former self, and every single miserable hurt flooded out, knee deep, into the middle of my life.
I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start cleaning things up. Finally, after a long, fruitless struggle, I started by picking up one thing at a time. I would examine it, carefully, see if it had any possible value, if it could be repaired, or if it simply needed to be loved. I would then place it in a stack. I had three stacks; one for giving away, one for sharing with my friends and family, and one for the rubbish man. As each stack grew, I began to feel lighter, free, and most of all, I felt my spirituality come back. My heart began to find all it’s lost pieces, and the old clothes that were mouldy and no longer fit my new perspective on life, were easily thrown away.
Soon, I had three towering stacks of emotional toys and clothes to share, give away, or throw out. Sometimes the recipient of the items appreciated them, sometimes they passed them on and recycle them, but the things I threw away no longer hurt or annoy anyone. They are buried deep in some landfill that will become an eternal garden in time. There are some things I have kept because I just can’t get rid of them. Mostly they are memories of important moments that have changed and redirected my life. They are often painful memories, but memories I need to keep around so I will continue to be motivated to clean out my closet.
As I have gone through those stacks over the years, I occasionally add to them. The closet floor is pretty clean, although I do get lazy and just toss things in there from time to time. There is a new door on it too, but made of glass and it is very easy to see when I need to clean my emotional and spiritual closet. There is no hiding from myself now. It’s a good thing I am no longer searching for perfect things to fulfil me, because I have discovered that I am really just a plain, old-fashioned woman who enjoys the simple things in life. Eventually, with a bit of elbow grease and determination my closet will not only be empty, it will be clean and I will be free of greed, fear, and pain. I guess I’d best get back to cleaning my granddaughter’s closet. Metaphor or not, there is still work to be done.