Saturday, July 13, 2013

Conquering Closets and Other Dark Scary Places

There's a lot of updating going on around here. Recently life threw me a curve I didn't see coming and when I'm working on things internally I often find myself expressing the spiritual and emotional in a the tangible and visible. I've been down this road before...sort of.

Over a dozen years ago I dealt with a serious bout of depression that lasted about a year. It was so outside of my normal character and disposition that it really threw me. I'd heard people talk about depression and hopelessness but had no understanding at all of what they were saying. My attitude was that "the sky is blue the grass is green; what's your problem?" Then it happened to me and I understood how someone could spend the entire day sitting on the sofa staring out the window in a desolate fog, between bouts of crying. Elizabeth Gilbert addresses this once in a lifetime depression in her bestseller, Eat. Pray. Love. I was so relieved when I read her description because I only knew depression as something certain people dealt with over a lifetime.

When I began to come out of that all my closets got cleaned out. We'd moved into a house my in-laws had lived in and when they moved out they just left everything they couldn't fit into their new small space. And let me be clear, they had never thrown anything away. When we moved in I'd just had a baby and was beginning home schooling my daughter. I wanted the house to look nice as quickly as possible, so all the old stuff stayed where it was and I tried to organize our things around it.

Do you see the spiritual lesson there?

We cannot work around the stuff we haven't dealt with in any healthy way. At some point it will all have to come out, otherwise it gets buried deeper and deeper. So as God and I began to work through my "stuff" I had an overwhelming compulsion to clean out closets. There are seven closets in my house and while a couple of them had been cleaned out over the years, others were deep with hard to reach places where things that seemed unimportant at the time got shoved. They were out of sight and out of the way, so they didn't seem to be troublesome but they were still taking up space in my home, collecting dust, and more importantly--I knew all that stuff was packed in there.

As I dealt with issues from the past and confronted things that needed dealing with, my aversion to emptying those closets and seeing what was hiding in there went away.

If you have ever cleaned out a closet, cabinet, or God forbid an attic then you know that much of what is being kept there has no use. It takes up space and causes problems. When I emptied them of the junk I painted all the closets and shelving before putting anything back inside. Then I only returned the things we actually used or that we might need at some point. Getting rid of useless items that weigh us down is cathartic. I felt a little lighter and in control with every bag that found its way out of the house. The clean and organized closets made me happy. Letting go of the junk made it easier to get to the things I really wanted.

 The overall feeling when I was finished was "Why did I wait so long to do that?"

We can often have the same reaction to painful things in our past, broken relationships, or things we refuse to let go of. We put off the cleansing that comes with dragging things out into the light of day. When we finally get around to it we realize the time and energy we've wasted on trying to find what we needed in our dark mess. There's a great freedom and empowerment in conquering all manner of dark scary places.

In the past few months, what I labeled Restoration Spring, didn't find me cleaning out closets, but instead restoring and reupholstering furniture, redesigning and redecorating, and putting unused spaces to use. This time around the literal and figurative things that were wrong were more on the outside. And so the restoration has been as well. The stuff wasn't buried deep in any out of the way closet but right inside the front door. The healing wasn't so much a private one but one people were aware of. The pieces of furniture and tired decor were eyesores I'd learned to live with and overlook. When I began to see things with fresh eyes, address them, and set about to restore and redecorate I wondered again:

"Why did I wait so long to do that?"

So just as there was freedom and empowerment in conquering dark and scary places, there was also peace, restoration, and comfort in addressing and conquering the ugly I'd been overlooking around the house. It was no longer acceptable just to say that it had always been that way. Full restoration meant stripping, uncovering, sanding away years of neglect to get down to what was worth keeping.

As it turned out this house was holding quite a few secret treasures and calming spaces, they only needed the hard work of seeing things as they are, imaging what could be, and setting about the hard work to move from one place to the other.

Welcome to the Never Ending Make-over.

“No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected”. ~A Course in Miracles

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