Clearing the Closet

While not a hoarder by any stretch, I do tend to hold onto things.

I have, for instance, a set of platonic solids I created from white cardboard – a required project in a required class I took in grad school – that have stayed with me through four moves.

I have no recollection of what that class was about or why we were required to construct those geometric pieces, but there’s something quirky and fun about ‘em, so they remain.

My Beloved thinks I’m ridiculous, and I can only imagine what Marie Kondo would have to say.  (I’m not sure they give me joy, but I like to keep the door open to bemusement and other eccentricities.)

And yes, I have a messy desk.  I also have stacks of books next to my side of the bed that, whether I read them or not, I’m sure prevent that part of our floor from floating off into space.

One can never be too careful, you know…

At the same time, I have great appreciation for practices of letting go of stuff to make room for something else.

The things we need to let go of might be material, perhaps energetic.  Sometimes they’re relationships, and other times they are ideas or beliefs – including those about one’s self.

On a personal note on that last point, it wasn’t until I was in my early to mid 40’s that I really began to notice that, like a closet packed tight with ill-fitting, outdated clothes, my head was stuffed with less-than-kind beliefs about my own intellect and talents.

Even in the face of ample evidence to the contrary, the “old religion” of distorted identity and self-images had deep roots and tenacious sticking power.  After all, I’d been practiced in the art of self-deprecation and doubt since I was a kid, and I was very, very good at it.

As time carried on, there was a mountain of cognitive dissonance piling up, and I began to see (and hear and feel) that the people around me weren’t reading from my inner-scripts and, without even asking, had some very different observations and opinions about me and my smarts.

Soon enough I found myself facing that very human conundrum of wanting (needing, really) updates to my self-image operating system – and I had a mind clogged up with those old nasties.

Replacing my noggin with a larger one wasn’t exactly an option.  It was time to gather the many parts of myself and let them know there were very good reasons I kept finding myself in the company of smart, creative, wise, successful people – newsflash: I was one of them.

The thing is, many of us – perhaps most of us – wander around wrapped in old images, dated stories that likely never fit to begin with, and harbor strange attachments to beliefs about ourselves that are neither useful nor productive.  Some are painful, self-punishing or worse.

Clearing out the old to make room for the new is easy to imagine as simple process.

Conceptually it is simple, but because the old, constrictive ideas are habitual, well-trodden neural pathways, it’s not such an easy task.

What are a couple of places to begin?

One is noticing thoughts as they come up – literally catching yourself in the habitual act – and neither agreeing with nor fighting the thought.  Simply noticing with curiosity and acknowledging what’s happening: “Oh look at that.  I’m having an unkind thought about myself.”

Because most of our harshest internal thoughts are historically based, another practice to play with is taking note of one’s breath.

Am I breathing in or out right now?  How deeply and/or quickly?

Developing awareness of one’s breathing has a way of pulling consciousness away from past evidence and regrets or future worry, bringing you into the present moment.  (That’s why a focus on the breath is part of just about every meditative practice.  It works.)

There are many more ways to go, including dismantling and disentangling from old beliefs and the attitudes and practiced actions that go with them.

The most important thing is to start and, in starting, to know that as long you still have breath to notice, it’s never too late.

And one more thing…

Even though I’m continuing to find and let go of old ideas about myself, I still think the platonic solids are cool, so they get to stay!