Last year, I had a multi-family yard sale with my friends where I let go of a lot of items I had assigned emotional attachments to, and I realized there was something else I needed to let go of: The Box. "What box?" you may be asking. The Box of my past. You see, I've kept The Box in my closet for most of my life. In there, I would put letters and little notes and ticket stubs and random memorabilia to remain forever in the black hole of memories known as The Box. 10 months after the yard sale, I finally got up the courage/emotional exhaustion to begin the process.
I read every letter, crying on the floor of my bedroom. Most of them were wonderful memories, but some of them were not. I realized where my notion of not feeling good enough for someone to date me came from, along with my need for people pleasing to stop someone from bullying me, amongst many other agreements I made about myself and the world. In middle school, even before my diagnosis, I just wanted to be normal, and I wrote that in a letter I didn't send yet kept in The Box. I wanted to be someone else from such a young age because I was already tired of not fitting in, not being accepted, and not loving myself because some boy (every boy) or some "friends" couldn't love me for who I was.
I wanted wine. I wanted sweets. I wanted my mom. I wanted to cry for days. But I did not indulge. Instead, I processed what the hurtful notes meant, how they shaped who I am today, and what I needed to let go. Then, I gladly/angrily/tearfully/whatever-emotion-I-allowed-myself-to-feel-in-the-moment-ly threw them away. I kept the beautiful notes of love, encouragement, and goodness to happily remain in The (now) GOOD Box, and remembered all of the beautiful people who blessed my life with their words that touched me so deeply, then and now. All of them are now teachers to me; teachers of strength, humility, and sense of self, along with teachers of love, support, guidance, and faith. I even made peace with death, particularly the death of one of my best friends, through these letters.
It seemed as if I started to breathe again, but there were still some things I was wrestling with emotionally that I didn't know how to deal with. I prayed a lot, and it seemed to help quite a bit. I'd kicked the sugar habit again, so that wasn't the problem. I was more motivated than I had been in a long time to work and get my resume up to date. My friends and I had the best relationships we've ever had. However, why was I constantly feeling lethargic and unattractive? Why was I constantly asking my boyfriend for affirmation (rather, reaffirmation upon reaffirmation) or needing attention? Why did I still feel unsafe in my own body? Why couldn't I feel love from others, but mostly, from myself?
Open the garage door to my studio, essentially, my life. It was complete chaos - dirty, dirty chaos. What was supposed to be a place of creativity, business, and productivity was just a huge mess! [Read: Complete and utter disaster.] No wonder I took a sabbatical. I couldn't get any freakin' work done in a place so unorganized, so disheveled, so full of useless, neglected things from wall to wall, floor to ceiling in some places. It was just like The Box, taking up physical, emotional, and spiritual space, and I couldn't put it off any longer. It had to be done, and I was the only one who could do it.
The first day, it took me 6 hours to get everything out of the garage and into my driveway. People thought I was having a yard sale so they actually bought a bunch of things. (If you put it out there, they will come. Noted.) The first day was a total of 14 hours of moving, sorting, sweeping, cleaning, and throwing away, but mostly, it was emotionally draining yet also somehow uplifting.
At one point, a huge revelation hit me right in the feels: I hoarded these crafts and crafty-like things my whole life because those were my only friends for so long. That truth lingered in my stomach before spilling out of my eyes, and soon, I was in a sweaty, gross puddle in the middle of my garage, looking out onto the piles of what I had decided was my life. My art and creativity is pretty much everything to me in my physical and emotional worlds, and this driveway of clutter represented years of clinging to that part of myself, developing it to the respected level it is now. It also represented the years I was isolated, being the weird girl who sat by herself at the lunch table in high school and couldn't wait to get in the art or music room to let it out - alone, again, for the most part. No wonder I do things on my own and rarely ask for help, perpetuating the cycle I've found myself in for most of my life. I retreat into my little lair of possibility, surrounded by my mountains of 'friends' I've collected in the form of crafts, sewing materials, paints, and random objects to be used for something great and awe-inspiring, I assure you, yet craving intimacy and closeness at the same time.
During this process, I uncovered so many great things I seemed to have forgotten about myself as they were hidden underneath a frustrating blanket of "UGH! WHY IS THIS HERE?!" I remembered things such as the fact that I started a really cool business in high school (and actually made money at it!) painting bar stools and other cool things, the fact that I am SUPER resourceful, incredibly observant, and a very quick and thorough learner, and the fact that I'm really great at what I do - all of it! Oh, and I'm really fun! And funny, obviously. [You better laugh at that.] Doing this manual labor for myself helped me feel better in my body for the first time in months, and I looked at my sweaty, dusty naked self that night in the mirror after that first day was over and actually liked what I saw for the first time in a long, long time. [Cue: Tears. Lots of tears.]
I made a choice that day to start over in a way. I cleared out about 50% of my things, which is more than I'd expected to rid myself of over the course of a week. I held a yard sale where some of my real life friends - also crafty people! yay!!! - and lots of lovely strangers came by to give these things a new life. I made rent with that yard sale. (Thanks, old friends, for your value!)
My space is incredible and light and full of room to explore and create and get excited! (My boyfriend even wants to set up his studio in there, which would have been impossible before.) I'm proud to now have a space that I feel represents me and my lightness of heart, fullness of joy, and excess of possibility that has gratefully returned. I'm hosting a Studio Cooling (not warming because we are in Texas and it's almost July) Party soon to celebrate the transition, and I couldn't be more thrilled for this new chapter and fresh start. Emotional health is the most important, in my opinion, and this cleanse is exactly what I needed for an optimal healthy life journey.