I’m moving. Everyone knows it’s a brutal process and one of life’s more stressful events. Most of that focus has seemed to be on the inconvenience, life interruption, and physical exhaustion of carting all of your earthly possessions up and down flights of stairs or long hallways.
Since my last move was coupled with a divorce, the sale of a house, and a job change, I’ve been fairly positive about this move. It certainly cannot be worse than the last. I’ve already scaled down my possessions by more than half. I’m not in active grief. I’ve never owned the space I am leaving. I will see the same faces at work on Monday that I saw the week before. I have learned coping strategies for crippling anxiety. This time, I am not moving alone.
Still two cats. Oy. At least they’re still cute.
What I conveniently forgot about moving is the inescapable emotional labor in taking an inventory of your life through possessions. The unrelenting series of decisions about value, worth, and identity that show up in the form of questions like “Should I keep this journal with a list of my prayer requests from 1998?” and “Is there value in storing those hand-painted trinkets from grandma?” and “Just because I used to love this Pampered Chef chocolate/cheese grater, will I ever use this chocolate/cheese shredder again?”
That range of choices! It’s numbing to the point of paralysis. On one hand, trying to be practical about needs and wants. On the other, wrestling with identities that have stayed buried in literal and metaphorical basements for years. Those simple prayer requests remind me of the child who grappled with her dad’s unemployment and her worry for her friends by jotting them on a prayer list and believing that would take care of it. The grater reminds me that I used to host people at a home and wonder if that will be in my future. The trinkets remind me that I may not have many more years with my grandma and dear god, why don’t I visit her more often?
There’s pain in re-reading my past, seeing with hindsight the mixed messages of hope and shame. There’s confusion in seeing myself both in utter innocence and also taking on so much more than I would ever hope for a young kid. There’s guilt in seeing reminders of complicated love in family and past relationships.
There are the physical objects that represent more recent ghosts. The wedding dress that is begging for a definitive conclusion rather than a hasty stuff into a milk crate; the letters from a mother-in-law who wanted to fix something she frankly couldn’t understand; the branded swag from an organization I used to love.
What do you do with physical ghosts?
There’s something terrifying about putting them into the same bag as your egg shells from breakfast. But why would you carry the things that hurt you into a new future?
And this, my friends, is the conundrum I find myself in this morning. The battle for the box–what makes it and what doesn’t. What remains buried and what sees the daylight. What is embraced and what is rejected.
And what to do with all of the emotions in between.
“You can’t go under it, you can’t go over it. You gotta go through it.”