Thursday, May 23, 2013

the things we clean out of our closets

We don’t think of cleaning out our closets as a particularly spiritual endeavor. At least I didn’t. But a strange thing happened to me while meditating: I got the message – “clean out your closets.”

At first, I laughed, dismissing it as something I must have conjured or unconsciously thought about doing. Surely it could not be any sort of higher power urging me to fill up bags for Good Will. I mean, that would be a nice thing to do and all, but it didn’t seem like higher power stuff to me.

But every day I kept meditating, and every day I kept getting the same message – “clean out your closets.” It was obstinate and felt urgent, like nothing else could happen unless I cleaned out my dang closets. But I’m a doubter, so instead of immediately setting about the designated task, I questioned why.

Nothing revealed itself to me, nor did the message subside. So finally, I began heeding it. It seemed overwhelming, at first. Where to start? This used to be home to five people. Now there are two. And I had lived away for so many years, I had my own household worth of stuff to figure out how to store or incorporate back into this dwelling. Plus, there was the emotional component of my mother and grandfather being gone.

I decided to start with my own closets, a shelf a day, and to be merciless. Hmm, interesting choice of word. When it came to clothing, if it hadn’t been worn in three years, or if there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of me ever fitting in it again, out it went. As for other items, if I hadn’t used them, remembered them, or still loved them, out they went.

At first, it felt liberating. Liberating, but not spiritual. An idea whose time had come, but I couldn’t really glean any deeper meaning beyond the idea, on a literal level, that getting rid of the old makes room for the new.

Sure, it would be nice to have more space, be organized, know what I own, blah, blah, blah. But ten Hefty bags into it, I still couldn’t tell you why this was so friggin’ important to do now or what I was supposed to learn.

Then it happened. Little by little, I looked at the things I kept for “someday.” First, they were my own things. And those were relatively easy to let go of. But then there were my mother’s things, things I had kept “in case,” or because they fit – sort of, or because you never know. And I felt her presence as powerfully as if she was sitting next to me.

The more things of hers I put in the pile to go out, the greater my sense of fear became. Not sadness, not longing, but fear. What if I need this someday? What if there isn’t enough? What if I am completely unprepared for life and this is the one thing I could use, but I got rid of it?

It was completely irrational. I looked like Bea Arthur from Golden Girls in her clothes. They were swimming on me. This wasn’t about how getting rid of her stuff was somehow a betrayal of her memory. This was about my own fear. This was about seeing life as potentially treacherous. This was about coming from a place of lack versus abundance. And the kicker is I thought I had already dealt with all of that.

I thought I had chosen to see the universe as friendly and abundant. I thought I believed in always enough. But there I stood, realizing quite the contrary, and knowing that this moment was a chance to clear out more than my closets; this moment was beckoning me to clean out old belief systems that no longer serve me. And that, indeed, was the spiritual, and emotional, and psychological task at hand, the real reason I could receive no other message until I had done this.

As I felt my mother’s presence surrounding me, I became clear that these beliefs weren’t my own. Sure, I had adopted them as my own. We’re all served up all kinds of things from the time we come into the world, and we dutifully accept them all as the clean slate we are that’s being written upon. We copy exactly what we’ve seen or been told. But sooner or later, the decision as to what to believe and how to operate in the world is our own. Of course, by that time, our beliefs are so unconscious and ingrained in us, that we often don’t see them as a choice at all, but simply as how things are. That goes for relationships, jobs, money, everything. I would never have suspected that getting rid of an outfit that wasn’t even mine could stir up so much inner turmoil.

But that’s just it. These things didn’t belong to me. They weren’t mine. It was as if my mother was saying, “I lived my life. And these were the things of that life. Now go live yours.” From that moment on, I felt free of the fear, the what ifs, the need to hang on, as if hanging on actually made me any more or less safe in the world. It was more than purging. It was reclaiming a piece of myself I didn’t even remember. So step by step, I am releasing what isn’t mine and making room for a life of my choosing instead of the one by default.

And there’s plenty that remains just as it was when my mother was alive. The house is my father’s, after all, and I respect his wishes to leave it much the same as my mother had it. That is his choice to make, and if it brings him some measure of comfort, then so be it. Those who visit the house, who didn’t know my mother, will fast be made aware of her pervasive love of the color blue, among other things. It is my hope that they will also fast be made aware that they are welcomed, and that, though small in size, this is a place with ample room for love and laughter. And of course, food…cause you gotta eat.

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please tell your friends. And might I suggest cleaning out a closet or two of your own. You never know what you'll find when you do.

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