Thursday, November 7, 2019

Memory mining at the bottom of a drawer

When I began 2019 with a renewed daily writing practice, I didn't have a particular outcome in mind. I simply wanted to show up to write every day. The daily practice has ebbed and flowed this year, but I feel good about what has come forth. The next few months will be chaotic at best, so to ease the stress of posting a blog per week, I'm working ahead. I've re-read through the 72 pages of writing I have amassed this year, and am mining a few pieces as stand alone essays to post when my schedule or energy levels don't allow something brand new. Today's piece was my daily writing on January 21.

Mighty Girl and I watched our first episode of the new Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a reality show on Netflix that highlights the Japanese woman's approach to decluttering and sparking joy in one's life. I liked that she comes into the home, talks to homeowners about her approach, and offers them a vision for how to process through the mess without doing the work for them. Unlike most other shows, there is not a team who swoops in, cleans it up, and reveals the Tada! moment. This show documents the family doing the work, and I am convinced this show has the building blocks of making lasting change because the people have to do the hard work of digging themselves out of the mess of stuff they made. In both episodes I've watched, the couples say something to the effect of, I don't want to live the way I did anymore. I'm not going to make these same mistakes and messes again.

After the first episode, I was inspired to tackle one of the drawers in my kitchen that is often hard to open because it's holding too many things. I was pretty sure that I had a few things in there that I am not using and could let go of. In true KonMari style, I emptied out the entire drawer and started sifting through it. A few things went straight in the trash, and then I started a pile of other things I was sure I could let go of.

I also removed the organizers, washed them, and washed out the crumbs in the drawer. I have two ice cream scoops. We don't eat enough ice cream to necessitate two scoops. As I stood at the sink and washed the organizers I had a flash of dejà vu. I thought back to the early days of living in this house as a young newlywed and homeowner. I would come home, turn on the TV and watch reality shows on BBCAmerica. I remember how bright the living room looked at that time of day when the sun poured in the front windows. They had not yet been covered with a film to block the sun because the tree in the front yard hadn't yet been struck by lightning. I used to scoop strawberry ice cream onto a cone with the older of the two ice cream scoops now on my kitchen island waiting to be decluttered.

This memory was almost visceral. It's been so long since I've thought of that time of life. I had a momentary sense of grief. Such a long time ago, and so much pain had yet to occur. I was no longer living in an apartment. I was married and in a house. Ticking my way through a list that connoted adulthood.

The early pains of my particular marriage hadn't registered as the problem it already was or how difficult it was to become. I still lived in the hopes that these things were changeable. That I had not actually made a major mistake. It was remarkable that all of this memory and emotion could be ushered in by simply deciding to declutter a drawer in my kitchen.

I am living proof why this exercise can be so difficult for people. I have had a lot of practice, so I'm undaunted by the memory resurfacing. I am grateful for it. Those strawberry ice cream cones and watching BBC America alone after work are happy memories for me. They felt indulgent and self-caring in a way that was still very new and foreign to me. They were the stepping stones of what I would need a whole lot more of in the years to come.

I feel grateful that my mess is contained in a drawer here and there, not in a pile of clothes stacked higher than I am tall in my spare bedroom as was the case for one couple on the show. I am grateful that some memories surfacing no longer shut me down or impede my progress. I am grateful for the opportunity to test the waters of minimalism and know that for me, it is the best way to live. Lighter, unencumbered with arms and heart and head wide open to experience the world without having to gather the stuff along with it. When something new comes in, I find it so helpful to look for something to let go of as a natural part of the stuff equation.

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