life in stacks

Your life is stacked around you, collections of the past, anchors of memory. All the things and collections- will any of it make of us stronger, better, kinder people? When it’s all stripped away, what is the space we keep? Who are we without the accouterments of the life we have so carefully, carelessly curated?

It’s all simple hubris, the making of the image we want to display to the world. The art on our walls, the books- read & unread- on bookshelves, the pictures of the best moments of our lives. Moments captured in smiles, but the fight five minutes before always floating around the captured moment. Half dozen teas stashed away- all expired a year ago because you are really a coffee drinker. Clothes found in the bottom of a closet that you don’t recall buying. CDs in a binder covered in dust that you listened to in high school. All of it is a shadow of the past. All of it tiny hooks that keep you from moving beyond what was and into a future of what could be.

Without the shackles of the stacks of yesterday, would your daily eye have fresh canvas to fill with ideas and actions not influenced by constant reminders of what was and what could have been? The term “starting fresh,” implies the blank slate, the freedom to create and grow, yet each time we move, we simply carry our past into the next phase. We hang the same art on the walls, the same memories smile back at us, the same comfortable cookbooks wait for our reference, and the same books we haven’t read, remain unread.

I am embarking on a new phase, the markers of the end of a decade and six years divorced, loaded the starting gun, but more so that I am nearing 45 and want the next 45 years to simple yet adventurous, creative, and mindful. We are moving into a house share that will allow me to save for more travel and create some emotional support by living with similarly minded people. With that, it’s time to shed. On this year’s winter solstice, as the capstone to weeks of letting go of all the excess, much will be symbolically released. I am letting go of chairs that sit unused, a couch that requires more space than we need, extra clothes, dressers, mirrors, boxes with forgotten mementos and piles of mortgage papers for a home bought when first married. Our art will come down and be stored, some books will be carefully stashed, and dozens of journals set aside for safekeeping. Otherwise, it will all be shed to make space for a new canvas.

Letting go of so much is a scary undertaking. There is no danger in letting go of unused, dried out art supplies or an excessive number of mugs, yet it feels hard to let them go. The fear resides in the elimination of the familiar.

In truth, our every moment of experience resides within us. We have it all- good and bad- stored within our skin, seen through the filters of our experience, beliefs and reflections. When we constantly live with what we know- in a cocoon of the past- we become comfortable in our apathy. Growth and new experiences are not always comfortable so systematically breaking down your surroundings to create change is painful, but it is a safe pain. No one will die in this shedding of stuff, but something new is sure to rise.