Today, with the help of a friend, we pulled 15 or so boxes out of the attic. I remembered when we moved into this house 5 ½ years ago, after we had unpacked everything, we “needed” a few boxes sat in the dining room for a few months before we finally said, let’s just put them in the attic. Some of the things we knew we wouldn’t need, those few boxes of the kids’ school mementos things that I have moved from house to house to house. A box of childhood mementos that belong to my husband. A few boxes of receipts and the like to support tax returns that were now well past the date required by the internal revenue service and finally several boxes of documents associated with some of my favorite projects over the years, much of them for the global initiatives I have managed along the way.
Today all of the boxes ended up in a heap in the living room, I knew I was just going to need to take it one box at a time but these boxes contain memories, memories that would take me on a journey throughout the day that I wasn’t all that sure that I was ready to take.
The kid’s mementos were first and as I went through them recalling the memories of when those paintings came home or reading the notes on report cards remembering all of the good times and the tough times of raising two children. And then the question, do I need to keep this, for whom? I knew that my daughter is nostalgic for some of that stuff and I can tend to feel like I failed motherhood if I am not ready and waiting with that perfect box all tied up with a bow for her to browse through one day. Luckily I think my daughter has come to accept that her mother isn’t that kind of a mother but she may get something, some stack of things from her youth, so I weeded the pile down further, keeping some report cards like kindergarten and first grade but letting others go. Weeding down to a pile of 20 or so pieces of homemade artwork for each child including my youngest. Finally, down to two boxes from five originally. Then I moved on to just shredding the tax stuff but even that had its own set of memories, those clients, those travels, those years and what they were for me. Travels through Europe, a new relationship, those hopes and dreams of the new being seen in everything. Twelve years later having to let some of hopes and dreams go has been incredibly hard but perhaps those expectations that I had placed on a new relationship may just have weighed it down too much and perhaps weighed me down too.
Then the projects, boxes and boxes of presentations created, supporting materials for system launches, names on pages triggering their own special set of memories, some colleagues and friends still in my life, some on the edges of my life and some that seem to have faded away. The sheer number of hours, effort and work that was represented in those pages represented more than a decade of my life. Those years were spent working way too hard and treating each project like it was my child and needed nurturing constantly. I think both of my children would say that I probably nurtured those projects more than I nurtured them and they are probably right about that, I am sad to even admit but the truth of it was that I felt equipped to manage the project, to deliver the work, I never felt all that equipped to be a mother. I certainly did not have a great example in my own mother since she basically left when I was 10 years old. So, when it came time and I was told that kids were the next logical step in the plan (my grandmother ensuring that I would never miss a crucial step of the plan that was in those times laid out for most every girl), I felt ill-equipped but figured that I would figure it out as I went. Probably not dissimilar to a lot of people perhaps.
Well I am very happy to report that I have two amazing kids and I credit them with doing most of the hard work. It has not always been easy, but we have figured it out as we have gone along. They have come to accept me for being who I am or at least trying to accept me and I have done the same for them, no longer cajoling them into the version that I may have thought best for them but instead pushing them to follow what makes them happy, to listen to their own joy.
This process of cleaning out my attic has been hard and cathartic all at the same time. The process of looking at the past, seeing it, being grateful for all of it, even the hard parts. The test of looking at it for me was to not judge it, or perhaps more accurately, judge myself. I can be my own harshest critic so it would be easy for me to look at those things and see all of the things I “should” have done or “could” have done or wanted to do but instead I made this process more about creating space, giving the past a little bit of space in my present but not so much that it ends up tipping the present in that direction, creating more space for my present, creating the clearing that I want to make room for the future, creating room for inspiration and divinity. Letting some of the past go does that, somehow at the end of the day with just a few remaining boxes left, I feel lighter and that feels good.
What’s in your attic? Is any of it weighing you down?