Some trips down Memory Lane are not so good.
I had just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Inspired and beyond sick of the clutter that surrounds me, and mourning the neatnik I was before motherhood and decades of constantly picking up after others wore me down, I dove in. School is out for winter break and I've got time. Like the author recommended, clothes first.
I was happily purging belongings, feeling virtuous and efficient, until my words and my wounds from 20 years ago ambushed me. The journal was hiding at the bottom of a dresser drawer. How it had hidden itself so well is beyond me; I last wrote in it 17 years ago and have moved house four times since then. My mood plummeted. It chronicled my last 18 months or so in a horrid marriage to a miserable and abusive man I call The Troll. (I originally called him The Toad, until I realized that was dissing toads big time, and I couldn't think of anything good about trolls and renamed him. This was before comment sections on the Internet when the word "troll" took on a whole new meaning. But the sentiment is much the same.)
My wave of accomplishment collapsed in on itself as I read my own scrawled words. I was transported back instantly, to a pit of despair and a self I hated being. By the time I forced myself to stop reading and throw the notebook in the trash bag, I felt exactly as I had whenever The Troll ambushed me with some new bit of marital devilry. Now I was angry with him all over again, and angry with the journal too. It felt like the journal had done what The Troll himself used to do, lurking and springing some new outrage on me when I was least expecting it.
But then I remembered what I had accomplished all those years ago, what that outpouring of thoughts and words had led to. I had secretly started seeing a counselor. I had fought through a Shelob-worthy web of depression and oppression to plan an escape and get myself and my children out to something better. I had cadged and hidden money for an apartment and other unforeseen expenses, and lined up a secret A-team of support I would surely need. I saved my own life.
|Kreg Steppe, Flickr/Creative Commons|
These last few years have been difficult ones, again, but it's been getting better. Our rent has been raised enough that we can't afford to stay where we are. Once again, I don't know where I'll be six months from now, but that is not as unsettling to me as it would have been two years ago. I'm getting to where I'm once again okay with where I am. I'm coming to terms with some loss and I'm working to accept some unacceptable facts. I've taken the time and effort to be kind to myself. With the love and support of the Tominator and Dream Girl, not to mention another counselor worth 100 times her hourly rate, I'm coming out the other side of another rough patch. I'm even okay with a bit of uncertainty, which is huge for someone who thrives on routine and a comfortably padded niche.
A big part of that has been examining and jettisoning many elements of my life, both emotional and physical. The premise of the cleaning-out book I was reading, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is not just to get rid of things that don't fit. It's not about clever ways to store a bunch of crap we don't need. It's not even about deciding what to throw out. It's about deciding what to keep, specifically keeping things only if they "spark joy." If it doesn't "spark joy" when you hold it, then toss it. It is an excellent approach to dejunkifying your personal space, but it's even more about creating an environment with purpose. It's not just physical. It's cerebral, and it's spiritual. It's a way to look at every element of life, not just tangible possessions.
Back to cleaning. I've already hauled two big bags out to the dumpster, have another partway full, and have two more full of things to be donated. I can see my closet floor for the first time in two and a half years. That's joy right there. And when I look more closely at how far I've come from being the woman who wrote that journal, that's some serious joy.
Sometimes you have to be reminded of how much you can do. Let Memory Lane take you there.