Monday, June 11, 2012

A Packrat's journey.....

I'm a packrat. I admit it. I'm one of those people who will save a 2' long piece of wood for decades...just because I might need it *someday*. I know this about myself, so I do make an effort to throw out the "junk" from time to time, and recently, I decided to do a major housecleaning.

I have an extra bedroom that has served as a storage room for 3 years that I now find I want to use for something else. The problem is, it's stacked floor to ceiling with rubbermaid totes full of who-knows-what. So a few days ago I started opening those totes and throwing away the junk and setting aside the useful bits for a rummage sale. So far I've managed to empty 4 totes and two boxes and set aside 5 totes and one box for resale, as well as fill 3 totes with odds and ends for my children (there comes a time when you really just have to GIVE them the kindergarten art projects you've been saving for them....My children are 27 and 22....It's time.)

As I sifted through boxes that contain things like the clothes iron I bought at a rummage sale for $2 before my eldest daughter was born, and diskettes for a word processor I threw out at least 15 years ago, I found myself strolling down memory lane and laughing alone here in my livingroom.

Last night I decided to tackle the tote full of old tax returns and legal documents. Returns dating from 1990 to 2008 were overdue to be thrown out. Since I've been self-employed most of my adult life, my returns are more than just the actual tax forms. There's also receipts....lots of them...and account book pages...and appointment books....and notebooks. It took over 10 hours to feed all that paper through the paper shredder...and the task was a journey.....

Each manilla envelope was like opening a diary, a record of one year of my life. It's surprising the memories that can be triggered by something as simple as a receipt. I found myself reliving the years of my life, recalling the places I've been, the things I've done, the people I've known....and the things people have done to me.

As I fed each piece of paper into the shredder it was like I was shredding my past. At times it felt like I was shredding myself. Sometimes I found myself hesitating....wanting to keep those little bits of evidence, as if I somehow need to be able to prove whatever event it represented. But I persevered and shredded all but the most important legal documents I may actually need someday; like divorce papers and birth certificates.

In the end, I stuffed 4 large garbage bags with shredded paper and hauled them out to the curb. As the garbage truck picked up those bags today, I felt a moment of sadness...and yet an odd sense of cleansing. It's as if by shredding all that paper I had somehow wiped out my past and put it all behind me in a way I never had before. I can no longer prove that I was once the proud owner of a 2 bedroom house on the Salmon River in Idaho. There are no more documents illustrating the success of some of my business endeavors....or the failure of others. I have cast out all evidence of the abuses I survived, and the legal battles I have fought. I even shredded the glowing "letters of recommendation" I have received from clients over the years. I threw it all out. And in doing so, I am surprised to discover a feeling of I have somehow freed myself from my own past.

Perhaps it's a coincidence this project came at a time when I have also been processing my way through some emotional difficulties that have been affecting my overall well-being for quite some time. But it doesn't feel like a coincidence. It just feels "right" in a way I can't explain. Like an unexpected labyrinth I must find my way through before I can move forward again....this time without the weight of the past dragging me down.

As I write these words there's a box sitting in front of my chair in the livingroom....waiting for me to journey through it's contents. I already know the box is full of old photographs, so I suppose I am procrastinating a bit....because I know those photos are going to trigger another trip down memory lane, and I'm not sure I'm ready for the feelings those pictures are sure to trigger......but I also know it's time and will get to it shortly.

I started this project with intent to turn a storage room into a workshop. I never expected it to become a cleansing....a step toward closing the door on my past so I can move forward into the future without baggage. It's time to let go of the person I once was and embrace the person I am becoming now.

I feel like I am about to step into a new life......and a new me.