I’ve been purging. From my closets I mean.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that in moving through progressively smaller places – from a two and a half storey house with a full basement, to what is now a small one bedroom condo with two closets for storage – there couldn’t be much more to purge, would there? However, four bags of clothes, plus two more bags of coats went out the door to a donation bin, as well as another five bags of “stuff” to the garbage or recycler. AND, there is a section of my larger closet that I’ve not got to yet.
Last night I got to thinking about why I hung on to these things. It wasn’t all THAT bad; with some investment into storage pieces, I could have accommodated a lot of that stuff it in a much more sensible and meaningful fashion than I had until now. I won’t tell you what non-sensible and non-meaningful looks like, but it's not pretty. But I think the hanging on to stuff is a measure of self-burdening. Why someone would justify self-burdening is beyond me but I'm working on it.
I’m sure I’m not the only one. Some bits of clothing you look at and decide you are NEVER WEARING THAT AGAIN. There are the buying-on-a-whim mistakes. And those things you so wanted to look good in, but much as you wanted to, an honest look the mirror would not return a favourable picture. There are pieces of clothing that look nice on the hanger and match other pieces perfectly and are a great colour – but not a great colour on you. “I think I look good in red," but when you walk around feeling like you look about as attractive as a mud puddle, it becomes apparent that you don't look good in THAT particular red. There are the old favourites – so favourite and for so many years, they look tired of life and are begging for eternal rest, only you’re not ready to let them go.
Then there are the items saved for certain creative projects. One of those un-started creative projects came with me from Windsor, seven and a half years ago. I still like to partake in creative projects, but the main one is writing. I also like to photograph and paint and journal. These are the things I do all the time; so items related to projects I’d not started in the years they were stuffed in closets – gone.
And the papers, oh the papers. Bills and paperwork needing to be destroyed or filed. Stacks of paper that had graced my kitchen table right before guests were coming so got put onto a bag in the closet. Bags. Evil, multiplying demon bags.
My name is Jennifer and I will am ready to come clean with a problem: I have spent HOURS these past evenings sorting, destroying and pitching paper. Hours people! And it's not finished!
I’m fifty. Will I ever become one of those people who sorts and files mail when she gets it? One of those people who thinks “big picture” when she’s adding an item to her wardrobe? Holding on to found items because they’ll look great in a collage one day?
Not bloody likely, but in the meantime I’m feeling about 300 lbs. lighter. And the feeling of lightness is not only related to order and space in my closet and dresser. It’s coming from the knowledge that the clutter, and the resulting “to-do” things – both creative and not – at the root of the clutter, are things that live like little thwarting demons behind the walls. Demons that impede me from doing the things I need to do and want to do, like writing, and cooking.
When I’ve got the extra weight of clutter and disorganization weighing on me, I find it difficult to move forward. I procrastinate and hesitate and in the end get nothing done because I don’t want to make time for the mundane tasks in favour of the fun and more meaningful activities. Funny thing is; whenever I get down to a purging, decluttering effort like this – it is enjoyable and very satisfying.
Last night I laid in bed with the closet left open on the clean side, just so I could bask in the Zen.
(That Zen – beautiful thing number 71.)
If there's anything I've learned about myself and the creative process it's to have patience. I've learned to accept that once in awhile life demands that you just live it and save the documenting of it for later. No doubt there's something going on that requires some sitting with before there's any interpretation to be got out of it. Still, each day I look at my blog space and each day I think of the people who stop by to read what I have to say and there is some inner chastising happening. When I don't write I miss it – and I miss you.
This week, my job continues to hammer at my consciousness like a spoiled, loud child. "In-between moments" have been spent with a notebook, mulling around some ideas, some new directions, creative and otherwise. And I'm reading stories and preparing lessons – this semester's Creative Non-Fiction class full on and once again I'm discovering new writers and new people and the joy of fostering creativity.
And I've visited and shared meals with both of my daughters who have ended the "sister roommates" era and are establishing homes of their own. Several years ago, becoming an empty-nester whacked me over the head with an impact I hadn't anticipated. Who'd have thought that suddenly ending the responsibility and the nurturing and the sharing and developing and encouraging would leave you standing there dazed and wondering where you'll ever find that kind of purpose again?
Oh, but I love my grown up daughters. The purpose and intent behind the raising of them has produced gifts far beyond that which I ever imagined. And to be in their homes, feeling the love and the values I based my own home on as central to theirs – I feel nothing but gratitude. And anticipation for all those experiences that will come next.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply hold back and let the well be filled, even if that source remains a mystery.
Thanks for having patience with me my loyal friends.
Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the task anew.
~Saint Francis de Sales
… make soup.
I mean, what else would one do when one has a little case of "I got nothin'?"
Why not find a rainy night in which to go to the grocery store and fill up almost more bags than you can carry while balancing an umbrella over your head walking home. Why not make soup?
And not just one kind, make two! Hell, you've got a stove and a slow cooker – don't be a slouch! Embrace the avoiding!
When you have a little case of creative block it's easy to justify any avoiding tactic. Because making three weeks' worth of work lunches ahead only frees up writing time in future, right? And cleaning the kitchen real good afterward calms the mind. And throwing in a load of laundry is just your way of avoiding a stint of standing-blankly-in-front-of-open-closet tomorrow morning. And checking facebook and finding out that others like soup - well the making of the soup has become a higher calling – it's one's responsibility to share the recipes with one's friends, isn't it?
Just two days ago I stood at the front of a classroom and gently told a writer to "make your office hours" and "just show up" and "set that appointment with yourself to write."
But I truly believe this too: sometimes it's also okay to just let the well refill itself. Sometimes your creative being is regenerated when you do another sort of creating thing. Sometimes this other kind of creative thing looks unremarkable and even kind of ordinary. That might be called resting a little. Letting the vessel fill itself for a little while.
So you might as well fil it with soup.