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Lessons from a Dusty Garage

by | Aug 19, 2019

I don’t know about you, but I seem to find lessons in the oddest of places. A couple of weeks ago it was on a paddle board. This week I got several from cleaning out my garage.

I had the bright (stupid) idea to turn a storage room off our garage into a teen “kid cave” (also affectionately known as the “get the fuck outta here” room). We don’t have a basement, a rumpus room, or a den. The open plan of our house was perfect when my kids were little. But now they’re big, and smelly, and need a place to hang with their friends that isn’t anywhere near their mom. ‘Cause, duh. (insert eye roll here).

And I’m all for this, or I was until we began the gargantuan task. Not only did it give me infinite moments to pause, take a deep breath, and speak with respect when I actually wanted to scream at my kids (I only lost my shit like twice), but I had to face some serious feelings while combing through long forgotten boxes and bins.

One of the most difficult decisions I had to make was what to do with family heirlooms like photographs, antiques, letters, and the like. When I was talking to a friend she said “girl, you could write a really good blog post about the stuff we carry around that is a burden from past generations, energetically AND literally the physical stuff.” And I was like, “Damn. That’s good, B.” 

So I did. And it’s so true. I have things like my parents’ wedding china, very old photographs of people I have never met and who were dead before I was born. I have some old silver pieces that are likely kinda valuable, and letters and artifacts from the 1850’s. Stuff that was super meaningful to people I was related to, but who have been gone from their earthly bodies for decades, some even centuries. I feel beholden to these ghosts and their stuff. I feel like somehow I have been given the mantle to carry the history forward. 

Here’s the issue though, I kinda just feel burdened by all the stuff. My parents came from a time and culture that “of course you had to have fine china! What if the boss was coming over for dinner?!?!” Today, we’re lucky if our guests get actual ceramic plates instead of paper. Times have changed and yet these boxes have followed me. They came through my mother, from her mother, and from many mothers before her. Will I burden MY daughter with them? 

I sure don’t want to. But what to do? Sell them to the highest bidder? Simply make some cash from my family’s history? Donate them to a place that wouldn’t value them? Try to get the meaningful things to a place that would value them? And where would that be, exactly? And this has been my dilemma every time I’ve moved or cleaned and been forced to face these heavy burdens. 

The stuff weighs down my heart. I feel sad when I think about releasing them because I wonder if the ghosts who owned these things would be heartbroken. Would I be letting down the memory of someone who paved the way for me to be who I am? Or, would letting everything go liberate not only me, but them as well? Would all my ancestors join together to applaud my audacity to commit to my freedom? Would they, as free spirits (literally), cheer to watch me unburden myself while still living on the earth? 

I have not made a decision about the stuff. I don’t feel ready to sell it or give it away or toss any of it. But perhaps taking some time to think about how it feels to drag around the literal stuff from our ancestors will lead to a clear answer about what to do with it all. P.S. To my relatives who have passed on: I’m asking for a nudge here! 

Maybe, just maybe, thinking about the items from my ancestors will also make a path to clear the energetic stuff as well. Because along with the boxes of photos and silver is the weight of the hopes and dreams, traumas, struggles, losses, fears, and failures. I thought a lot about which is more of a burden, the physical or the invisible stuff we inherit. While I’m able to organize and label the heirlooms, how do I do the same with the other? And when I donate or sell or decide to keep the stuff, what happens to the rest?

Like not having made a clear decision with the boxes and bins of things in my garage, I’m also not done noodling with the energetic hand-me-downs either. But what an unexpected gift to get in the middle of an organizational project. I appreciate that lessons are everywhere. A few weeks ago I got some on water, and this time in a dusty garage. Who knows where the next one will appear!

I would love to hear what lessons are showing up for you!

Sam

 

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