Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carrying Around the Past

When I descend the stairs to the basement, my heart sinks. A sea of boxes clutters the unfinished footprint of our house. Many of my childhood possessions, including all my dolls, grow dusty and old. Up until now, I haven’t been able to part with them. Will I ever be rid of them?

For a long time I felt isolated from my past. My childhood and college years didn’t seem real. The whirlwind of kid and volunteer activities enveloped me and nothing existed before my present life as a mom in the suburbs. When I tried to describe the sensation to my husband, he didn’t understand my desire to embrace those distant, and often unhappy, days.

Last year, I peeked inside the basement boxes and remembered playing with the dolls and cleaning my room. The physical presence of the items reminded me of my parents’ divorce and my desire to leave that place. Then after many years without contact, I spent a couple of weekends with a good friend from college. Having someone else remember all the same exploits reaffirmed my memories, but also forced me to acknowledge the waywardness of my behavior. These connections to my past made me feel whole, but also brought pain.

The more I accept my past and talk about it, the more I’m convinced I can actually get rid of the boxes.

Perhaps we reach a point in our lives when it’s time for a spring cleaning. A good toss of all the shortcomings we’ve been carrying around since our childhood. In order to free ourselves, we need to confront our memories. By letting go, we can be the person we want to be.

Unencumbered by our mistakes and the missteps of others, we can make sure we are headed in the right direction to accomplish what we want with the rest of our lives. Although we may think we are on the right path, if we chose it many years ago, it may not lead to the life we want.

The old possessions can be donated or brought to the dump. I’m ready to trust that my past will always be with me without these material objects. Up until now I thought discarding these things would be a betrayal, as if I was turning my back on my family and our history. By accepting the good and the bad, the betrayal disappears.

Lately, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the person I want to be. Hopefully with a lighter load, moving on will be easier.

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