As much as it pains me to admit it, I have become a packrat. I have stuff squirreled away, nestled into dusty, cobwebby little corners that haven’t seen the light of day in forever. There are hidden piles comprised of the detritus of my life, odd bits of this and that that seemed important to save at the time. I’ll be damned if I even know what half of it is, let alone why I saved any of it.
Papers. Books. Little plastic thingies. Cancelled checks. Shapeless mementoes. Pen caps. Dried out markers. I feel as if I’ve stumbled into a Dr Seuss story:
This Thing is a little round,
This Thing never makes a sound
This Thing used to hold a shape
This Thing used to hang on drapes
Little things, big things, paper and more
So many things, all blocking the door….
Listening to the Rabbi’s sermon during one of the services for Yom Kippur, I was forced to take a mental inventory. He talked about re-ordering his garage and finding a box, over-flowing with stuff that he had been saving for years – stuff that he had been hanging on to but could no longer remember the hold that it had on him, or why he had saved it to begin with. And so he asked us, in the context of his sermon: “What do you have in your box?” The sermon was one of a series that had to do with change and perception and reality. That box was all about the stuff that I kept close to me, stuff that I needed, stuff that kept me lassoed to the past. I wanted to shout out “string or nothing!” and invoke the image of Bilbo, trapped in the caves of Mirkwood Forest with Gollum, answering Riddles in the Dark. Of course, that desire may have had more to do with hunger and fatigue than anything else. Certainly, that desire had nothing to do with being a brat…
But, instead, I took the Rabbi seriously. It was a serious question, after all, offered to me -- and the entire congregation (since I am not quite self-centered enough to believe that the Rabbi’s message was meant as an aid to my redemption alone) – the question was meant to get me to start thinking about how tethered I am to my past, how I cling to that past like a life preserver, and how that tether keeps me from claiming my present, let alone from moving into my future.
And I realized that the stuff in my box is not stuff at all. It is not paper or old photos or a program from some play I was in in High School. There are no trophies from half-forgotten competitions. There is nothing dusty or slightly mildewed or discolored shoved into the corners. What tangles and overflows and twists inside my box is people--- relationships that I have not been willing -- or able -- to let go.
I know, in my head, that it is time. Life changes, and so do needs and expectations and desires. So do people. I get that. I am quite smart, thank you very much. I know so very, very much. And that's the problem.
I live in my head with my knowing. I swirl and dance and dive into my knowing little head. I skip along the edge of reason, swim in the swift current of fact. And with every dip and dive and pirhouette, I continue to hold myself safe. I am seperate from my knowing. I can still listen to that seductive whisper that tells me this time it will be different. This time, I will have my say. This time, I will win your heart. Wherever the relationship may have wandered, this time it will be different, dammit. This time, you will not leave.
The longest journey I have ever made, will ever have to make, is the one from my head to my heart. It is an endless and eternal chasm that seperates the two. That way is dark and lonely. The cold of it seeps into my bones, freezes my joints. And I know, if I flit fast enough, dive deep enough, keep inside my head enough--- I will never have to face that desolate road. And so, for all my knowing, for all my wisdom, I have a box filled with broken relationships, tethering me to the past, holding me to you.
It's just a box. And perhaps, because the question was asked in such a way that I could finally hear it, perhaps I can start unpacking it. Maybe those twisty little tethers--- maybe I'm ready, finally and at last, to cut them. Maybe, just maybe, I am ready to put one foot in front of the other, take that one small step (no giant leaps, thank you) and start the journey to my heart.
It is so alluring: to stay, to wish, to hope, to believe. To want. And God, I want to hang on to the possibilities as I see them. And yes, for me, it is just a matter of time and luck and perfect astral alignment that Everything Goes Back To The Way It Was. My heart is doing acrobatic twists and feats of derring do to hold it all together, this little bubble of desire.
But I was asked to see what is in my box. I was asked to challenge my perceptions and entertain reality. And all the mental gymnastics in the world will not keep those pesky, twisty, lovely, damaged and broken and wonderful and past relationships in place. That journey, that endless and eternal and lonely journey has begun, whether I am ready for it or not. My feet have found the path, however rocky and dark it may be.
I am not sure of this path. I hate not being sure. I live for certainty, for deft sureness. For control. For knowing.
But it is a new year, and I get to start clean and pure. I get to be... different. I get to unpack my box, no matter how slowly or hesitantly. I get to leap, in my faith, and believe that I will be caught, to rest safely in the hand of God. I get to let go, finally, and let be. I get to breathe. Finally, I get to say good bye.
- I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.