Monday, May 9, 2011

clearing spaces

Sometime a couple of months ago my house began talking to me, much the way my body does periodically when it is in need of some nurturing. The greatest gift of available time and space in my daily life is being able to stop, listen, and respond to those spiritual nudges and whispers that eluded me for so long as I forged ahead being busy and responsible and whatever else it is that I thought I was being....not dancing to my own drumbeat all too often (hell, I couldn't even find the drum) but jumping through hoops someone else arranged for me in some kind of hellish obstacle course of money, job, addiction, love, and all the other things the ego counts on for a little ratings boost.
The storage room has been where my shame has been stored for the past 12 years, since I moved in to this house post-divorce with my seventeen year old daughter, two huge dogs, and a couple of cats (as is true for many older people, they all blend together in my mind now in a collage of fluffys and bonkies and lizzys and sams). A number of large packing cartons went straight down to this room unopened and were lodged under the stairway on the cement floor, after which additional items accumulated around the room's edges, with shelving erected and boxes stacked, some overflowing as time went on.
Also added were lots of canvases and drawing pads from Annie's time in art school, my own art supplies from my fits and starts as a painter, bins of holiday sweaters, a gradually growing collection of Christmas stuff, boxes of books that I didn't know what to do with, and then, bins with items from my dead mother, items from my dead sister, brought home after funerals in the back of the car. I could see the old VCR tapes of my children's school concerts and our family vacations, books I read to them at night. I began to feel that there were the faintest stirrings of ghosts in that room: ghosts of my children, my family, my life.
Stinky the cat was a casualty of the move, maybe, and also of the revolving door of huge dogs that were a part of my household. Never a very outgoing cat, Stinky retreated more and more to the confines of that storage room, making a sort of home base under the stairs, way back in the corner, where she undoubtedly felt safe. Over time she began to reject the litter box in favor of that little corner. Attempts to bring her into the rest of the house were not very successful; though she tolerated a little snuggling it was obvious she was always anxious to run back into her little spot.
Although I tried to keep up with it, the storage room gained a life of its own, and eventually,
I just tried to pretend it wasn't there, but that corner of my house, the bottom corner, felt heavy and dark, thick, oppressive. Over the years I confided in friends about my shameful room and they always reassured me that everyone has a room or a garage or a basement like that. It was small consolation; it didn't comfort me to know this and my discomfort with that room lived with me in this house every day. I knew that this room represented much more than accumulated clutter; it was literally my baggage, an outward symbol of inner weight. Attempts to make a dent always failed. I began to relate to the poor souls on reality shows whose stuff begins to overtake them. I understood. This was my hoarder room, the sludge of my past swirling through it.
So, with Annie agreeing to help, I rented a dumpster, bought masks and gloves and a shop-vac and attacked. My idea was to throw those under-the-stairs boxes directly into the dumpster, but Annie insisted that every one of them be opened and its contents viewed. "I want you to see, Mom" she said, "that there are no ghosts in there."
And I did see. What was in those boxes? Mostly toys-Annie's extensive Barbie collection (houses, garages, soda shops, furniture, jeeps, corvettes...), childhood favorite toys, baseball mitts and cards, and lots of other tiny toys that made Annie squeal when she saw them. I saw my sophisticated daughter become a little girl again. It was joyful work.
We filled the dumpster, somehow, with I don't know what. It seems that these items disappeared from my memory in mid-air as we heaved them in. Piles of things to keep and things for the Goodwill truck emerged and later were relocated to new homes.
With the help of a great book about feng shui and clutter, I performed a space clearing ceremony, clapping in the corners to release the stagnant energy, burning incense, doing some yoga moves designed to flush out the old and invite in the fresh and new. It is important to remove jewelry and shoes and feel the space with outreached hands. Through them I could feel that the heaviness had lifted and the energy was now flowing. I am keeping the door open for the time being, enjoying inviting the room into the rest of my house and often wandering in just to stand there and feel that space embracing me and dancing around me. Annie was right about the ghosts.

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