My parents have decided to move to an independent living facility. This is basically apartment living, without a kitchen. They have a big, beautiful dining hall, where they are served decent & nutritious food, an activities director that never wants anyone to ever sit down, and a happy hour that rivals any bar in downtown S.F. at 5pm.
In the process of this move, my parents need to downsize all their ‘stuff’ from a 2200 square foot home, including a basement and garage, into a 900 square foot apartment with no storage whatsoever. I’ve moved around so much that I’ve kept many of my younger day possessions in the basement of their home.
Now it’s time to clean it all out. Which I started to do this past weekend.
I went through books. Lots of books. I donated those.
I went through countless cassettes. Those I threw away. I figured if I REALLY want to listen to them, I’ll get an mp3. It would be easier than finding a cassette player at this point.
And then I came across a box that held all my journals.
From about age eight to my late 30’s I wrote in journals. There must have been more than a dozen colorfully decorated books that I had written my experiences, which were my perceived accounts of how my life was going.
Now, I need to back up a bit here for a moment. Recently, I cleaned out the home of my mom, after her death from ALS. She had books and books of ‘morning pages’ (see Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way for more on the morning pages). I went through most of them, hoping to catch a glimpse into my mom’s genius. What she thought about, hoped for, dreamed about, etc.
Most of what I read about was sadness. Her fears, her inner critic telling her what a failure she was, how she had brought such shame to her family of origin, how she desperately wanted the deep love of a partner, how she felt her friends had let her down and only wanted money from her and nothing more, and so on. It was heartbreaking. HEARTBREAKING.
It was with that insight that I dove into my own journals. And I found the same exact perceptions in my own journals. Fear, victim behavior, feeling powerless, hoping for so much but achieving very little, chasing dreams and not enjoying the actual journey, being disappointed in others and, mostly, in myself, and so on.
Part of me wanted to hang on to my journals so my kids could see who I was after I’m gone from this physical realm. And at the same time, I thought of how my heart broke about my mom after reading her journals because it wasn’t who I ‘thought’ she was.
Do I want my children to have that experience, or do I want them to remember their personal experience of me?
More importantly, I thought of the sad, angry, and lost girl and young woman who wrote those journals. She desperately kept looking outside for the answers, kept looking for others to make her happy and fulfilled. She allowed others to tell her how to live her life, according to their own. She was convinced everything was happening to her. She felt her life was out of her control, and she was sure this was how life happened.
Why was I hanging on to such sadness?
Why did I ever want to go through those journals again? I didn’t need to read through them to remind myself of how I approached life, how far I’ve come since, and so on. I have that in me.
So why was I hanging on to them? I pondered it for a while, read through a few of them for a few nights wondering what to do with them.
In the end, I threw most of them away. I hung onto a few, some from when I traveled the world, some from when I was a wee tot.
Along with them, I also threw away letters written from men who had broken my heart. I know I had been hanging on to them for what I originally considered bittersweet memories, a standard part of growing up. Now I looked at them for what they were. Heartbreaking. I don’t want to go back to that energy. I’ve read them in the past, over and over, and all it did was get me down and sad. It was like picking at a wound, reopening the boo-boo and then feeling the pain all over again as the wound once again attempted to heal up.
Our brains are brilliant in that sense. All I had to do was read the letter and it would, emotionally, take me right back to that time. In that sense, it was cementing in the belief that I am still unworthy, unlovable, and unloved.
That is a victim’s life and I am no longer a victim. The letters are gone. The journals are gone. It was a purging, a cleansing of sorts to do this work.
I thanked them for their lessons. Now I approach life differently, and no longer need to carry them around with me, like a sentence handed down for my past actions, beliefs and thoughts. I can let them go as I reinvent myself and my story.
It was a bit sad at first, I wondered who was I if I don’t have those books, those letters. I am who I choose and decide to be. And I’m no one. So I’m not that person anymore. I don’t want my kids to know that person. I want my kids to know this person. The person who finds life exciting and adventurous. I want my kids to know the best me.
We don’t have to hang on to our past. It only exists in thought once the moment is gone.
I’ve given myself permission to release the sadness, the doubts, the feelings of unworthiness, of being scared, of being unlovable and unloved.
And in this, I release my past.
I get to make that decision at any time in my life. We all do. We are not doomed to be tied to our past forever.
We are all free to release the hurt, the pain, the disillusionment of the past.
And with as much freedom to release the past, we are all free to step into who we choose to be in the now.