A few days ago I began reading the book A Simplified Life by Emily Ley. It’s beautiful and practical and really emphasizes making space in your life by getting rid of things-physical things, items on your calendar, etc. By doing this-getting rid of things-you free up space in your mind, heart, and home.
Despite having moved twice in the past 18 months and cleaning out, giving away, or throwing away many items both before and after each move I find that there are certain things-papers mostly that I have held onto with an iron fist. I had such a visceral reaction to throwing them away that I have allowed them to stack up in baskets and bins and even went so far as to try to organize them into binders last January. I’ve held onto them because I might need them, someday, to reference, for something.
This weekend I was ready to latch onto Ley’s strategy of attacking a room with a trash bag and ridding yourself of things that are simply taking up space. So I did. Trash bag in hand I sat down on my office floor and went through the stacks.
The hard truth I learned was that I was holding onto a lot of those papers because tossing them might somehow diminish my experiences. If I threw those papers, packets, and pamphlets away, the hard things I’ve lived through and learned from would somehow be less real.
I only came to this realization after I’d been on the floor for awhile surrounded by information on how to thrive during deployment (the last one ended four and half years ago), how to make reintegration a smooth transition (also four and half years ago), how to be an IA family (five years ago), and countless pieces of contact information for important people during deployments that happened five and six and half years ago (those contacts are either at a different command or retired).
Realizing that I had held on to these papers, packets, and pamphlets all this time for validation was heart breaking. It wasn’t the being reminded of difficult seasons that was heart breaking it was all the anger I felt when I looked at them. Looking at them year after year and moving them from home to home only kept me stuck in that place of anger and resentment. I had a hard copy piece of evidence to prove that I had been through some tough seasons and every single time I looked at the stack my anger and resentment was not only validated but increased.
Tonight a friend posted this on her Facebook page:
The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present. Sometimes you just have to let go & let God.
I don’t believe in coincidences. More and more I see the evidence of a power greater than myself at work in my daily life. Right there in black and white were words from a friend. She didn’t write them for me. She wrote them for her, but my Higher Power knew I needed to see them. A reminder that the gut check I felt this weekend while cleaning out my stacks was both real and necessary.
After a few hours, the trash bag was filled and my stacks had dwindled to a few important pieces. But physical trash wasn’t the only thing I rid myself of that day. The mental trash, the anger and the resentment, which went along with those physical items, was far more burdensome and damaging to me. When I walked out of my clean office I knew there had been a shift in my heart. I no longer needed to cling so tightly to the physical evidence of what was, because it was overshadowing so much of what is.
Letting go is never easy but staying stuck is worse. I only know that because I have lived stuck for quite awhile and I’m working on letting go and the more I let go the freer I become.