My daughter and I hosted a small but fancy dress-up New Year’s party at our house. Champagne, delicious snacks, tarot cards, and a burning bowl for releasing the old year. Certainly not a unique activity, but one that always seems to bring a certain level of satisfaction. People love ritual and gathering around a fire is as primal and connecting as it gets.
In the burning, we get to symbolically make space for where we are now in our lives. This is not fire as destroyer, but fire as palate cleanser.
If we are paying any attention at all, we see that we are not the person we were one year ago, let alone five or ten.
That person has been absorbed into the newest version of ourselves, like matryoshka nesting dolls. We keep gathering all of the parts of who we are and how we function, refining, fine tuning, moving forward. Striving to be kinder, wiser, more generous, and more discerning.
I am finding that there is a difference between holding a memory or an item as a treasured artifact from our life and clinging to something to try and stay stuck in the past—that desire to make time stand still.
I have noticed that there are letters and emails I have hung onto, that I keep purely as “proof” that certain things were said, certain actions did, indeed, take place, like an attorney gathering evidence for a case. To prove that I was not crazy and, sometimes, in an attempt to prove that they were.
These correspondences make me cringe and shake my head in wonder at what this obsessed girl on fire could possibly have been thinking or believing. They seem like some strange fever dream, and I find that they bring up feelings of embarrassment, confusion, rage, and suspicion about what was real and genuine and what was a lie. Keeping them feels like I am fanning poisonous flames of confusion. The memories feel benign until I start rooting around in them.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” —Soren Kierkegaard
The memories of my marriage are kept in a storage bin with a lid: letters, postcards, photos. I am clear on the reality and meaning of that relationship. It is an honored box of treasured memories. It is also a reminder of our youth, our unskilled ways of communicating, our unwillingness to fight or do anything that could potentially cause waves, which in the end almost drown us both. It reminds me to do things differently in my dealings with others as I move forward. That box is sacred. I do not question the validity of its contents and it will not be touched.
It is full of love, not regret or heaviness. Ironically, I love where I stand solo in my life right now, because of how that turned out.
So I burn and delete and shred and clean house on New Year’s Eve day. With gratitude for all of my experiences, even the ones that make me wince.
Clearing, not eradicating. Letting it contribute to who and where I am in my life, right now, and not shackling me to a past that is no longer happening. That is the thing about the past: it is no longer happening.
All of my life experiences are woven into the fabric of who I am right now, but I do not need to drag the steamer trunks around with their weight and bulk and mustiness.
It is time to open the windows and allow the winds of change to blow through, and see what new delight I have made room for. Of course there will be champagne and fabulous snacks involved.