Throwing Out Bad Memories...
Hello my loves!
Welcome back to the blog. I'm writing in my reading nook in the basement, a fresh cup of coffee sitting next to me, and the last remnants of hazelnut chocolate still resting on my tongue. I feel blessed, content, and grateful for all of you, especially those who take time out of your lives to peek at the blog.
Something I didn't realize until recently is how wonderful it is to truly start fresh: not just from a "New Year New Me" perspective, but actually physically bringing fresh new objects into your home, making a move to a fresh town, or making fresh new friendships.
Yesterday I was on one of my walks through town, listening to a YouTube podcast, pushing my double stroller with my hands tucked deep into my new warm mittens. I realized that everything I was wearing, from my head to my toes, all my accessories, even the babies in the stroller, was new. All of it was given to me or purchased by my husband, brought into my world for this new life we've built in this new town, and the thought made me very happy.
Walking the different routes in the town, always happy to make my next turn, I realized how safe and wonderful I feel here. I never grow tired of exploring new streets and discovering another neighbor who has redone their roof or updated their siding. I get excited when I see someone has adopted a new dog, and I get inexplicably sad when I see someone moving out of the neighborhood, even if I don't know them. The fact that this town has become such a comfort to me is a blessing in itself.
Because before coming here, my life was very difficult.
I went through an extremely dark time where I felt trapped, broken, and discarded. I vacillated between barely sleeping to sleeping in 18 hour stretches, the pain and frustration of my problems screaming at me day and night. It felt like I would live like that forever, unable to heal, unable to find peace. Those memories are so strong that I still feel surges of adrenaline and sweat in my palms when I even drive near the city in which those memories took place without my fingers shaking and my heart racing.
Which is why this new town, with my new family... it feels like heaven.
Since that time, in the past few years, my life has been in the rebuilding phase. I've changed over my wardrobe, bought new clothes, a different vehicle, a different phone, and even a different lifestyle. I wear different perfume, write on a different laptop, and haunt different coffee shops. I have a new church, a different hairstyle, and different hobbies.
And it has been quite healing.
Traumatic times or even dark emotional moments can somehow fasten themselves to our possessions or our location to such a degree that we feel anchored to that former darkness, even years after it has passed us by. I used to think it was harmless to have that old dress lying around, or I wouldn't feel bothered using that coffee mug or cereal bowl, but the truth is that those bad memories of that dark time, of the person who perhaps gave me that dress or bought me that bowl: the pain lingers.
I've realized that life is too short and too precious to feel sad and dark when I'm just trying to have a bowl of cereal. My days are too busy and bright to feel a twinge of pain when I'm rooting through my sock drawer in the morning.
I'm happily frugal and like to be practical and economic, but the emotional freedom of letting go of my old possessions and replacing them has been worth the monetary cost. It is worth the hassle and it is worth the inconvenience. To feel cheerful when I root through a basket of yellow fuzzy socks my husband paid for, or smiling as I use the china dishes we received at our wedding... these small moments matter to me and they help ground me in my new life.
I'm sure we've all had the experience of standing in the hygiene aisle at the store, looking for a new deodorant and perhaps smelling different options only to take a sniff of one that brings us right back to homeroom in the tenth grade or to our first date in college with that guy we never ended up talking to again. Smells can bring sweet good memories of Christmas cookies or Easter ham, benign memories of movie-theatre popcorn or pine candles. Touching that sweater we wore to our grandmother's memorial as we're thumbing through our closet or seeing the pink bridesmaids dress from our cousin's wedding in the back of our closet... the things in our lives have the power to deposit little drops of emotion into our life. And if your heart is vulnerable or your soul is raw, sometimes even the smallest drop of a painful memory can set your day off kilter.
I've found that in this intense time in my life, run ragged by motherhood, quick back-to-back pregnancies, and the demands of being online while still healing from my past... I simply cannot afford to have little booby traps of emotional harm waiting for me around every cupboard or in every drawer in this house.
Because the objects in our homes or the smells in our lives can bring us right back to wicked times, to painful realities and into the hands of demons we'd rather leave in our past. For years I had kept clothing that I no longer wore out of sheer guilt; because the clothes still fit and they were perfectly fashionable. But I never wore them because each piece of clothing was acutely tied to a painful memory.
So in the past year or so, I've finally given myself permission to let go. Because the pain of having those pieces in my home, of having those memories screaming at me when I'm trying to finish simple tasks... it simply was not worth it.
I encourage you, if you are trying to start fresh in life, erase bad memories, or even just turn a new leaf... consider turning over some of your old possessions.
Our senses are very powerful.
As humans, we can utilize these senses to understand our environment and identify danger. It seems to me that we can sometimes associate different smells or items in our lives with painful times or relationships. And even after the threatening situation is done, the presence of those items can still represent a danger to us.
We can sometimes override bad memories, or perhaps assign new positive memories to our things, but I've also noticed that there are simply things that are too difficult to disassociate from painful events. And in that case, it's okay to let go. It's okay to move forward, to relinquish the hold on our old lives out of the guilt of replacing perfectly good items.
Because I think that there should be another category added to our discussion when we consider what to purge or declutter from our homes. We already determine if an object is used, if it brings value, and if it is in good condition.
But we should also consider if the object brings us a pit or a sting of pain.
I got rid of a dress a few years ago even though it was cute and it still fit me. I got rid of it because I have one very strong memory of that dress: where I was, who I was with, and what that person did to me. Every time I saw it in the bottom of the tote in my storage room or lurking in the back of my closet in the summer months, I would feel a pit in my stomach, the memories flooding back as my heart began to race.
It's okay to replace and it's okay to move forward. I know it might not seem practical or frugal, but I encourage you to not bring old baggage into the New Year. Free yourself from the emotional drama of those old items, and perhaps step into a different beginning. Moving, starting fresh, beginning again: these can be freeing and wonderful for those of us looking to find emotional peace.
Because sometimes, even though something might not be actively hurting us, it can be too painful and anxiety-inducing to carry on in close contact with that thing. I could no longer live in the city I went to college in, because each street I drove down, each coffee shop I hung out at: they all reminded me of that dark time. The sidewalks I jogged when I was searching for endorphins in the midst of turmoil, the campus I walked when I was headed to counseling... the people I was friends with when I was suffering... all of it was painful.
I know it's not practical or even possible for all of us to move and start completely fresh, but I encourage you to give yourself the permission you may need to move forward. Even if that means buying a new dish set or cutting bangs. If it means going to a different church, watching different shows, or even changing your personal style: whatever it takes to set yourself free from your past, I absolutely encourage ou to take those steps.
This is why I do not judge people when I see them trying to reinvent themselves.
Because I had to reinvent myself.
I had to start from the ground up, make a new life, and discover who I wanted to be.
I think it's Marie Kondo who is famous for saying that we should only keep items that bring us "joy." I've seen criticism of her theory, people positing that the sentiment is silly, asking how a dish towel or a nightstand can bring us joy. But I understand Mrs. Kondo.
Because I can absolutely look at a bath towel or a teacup and know if it brings me joy simply because many dish towels and many t-shirts have brought me pain.
Five years ago now I went to my husband and told him I wanted to spend a large amount of money on a new wardrobe. I wanted to buy things for myself that I chose without the influence of others, and I wanted to begin fresh. I don't know if I realized at the time, but I was trying to differentiate myself from my old life, find a fresh new style and a new wardrobe that would not remind me of my past.
After my traumatic birth with Bodie I was wearing a specific set of lounge pants and using a specific brand of himalyan salt in my sitz baths. Just recently I donated those lounge pants and tossed out that salt because it made me feel terrible. The dark memories of healing from that birth in the early weeks, of the emotional trauma I endured... those objects were bringing me back. So I said goodbye. And now I have less lounge pants, but I'm happier for it.
I like to donate my old things instead of throwing them out, maybe find a friend to pass them along to if they are in incredibly nice condition. Because the truth is these objects can be washed clean: neutralized and purified by the process of releasing them back into the world, ready and waiting for a new owner to make memories with them.
Reinvention and new possessions will not heal you from your emotional trauma or fix your past. But they can help you gain a new perspective on life, and even a new layer of cheerfulness when you navigate your home.
Walking these streets in my fresh town... they're not prettier or more luxurious than where I lived before. My clothes aren't necessarily nicer and my haircut isn't more flattering. But it's new. And the memories attached to these things are fresh and safe and happy. And now I feel cheerful when I take a sweater out of my closet that I bought online for myself, or read a book my mother-in-law loaned me. Because these things represent safety and love and the fact that I've begun again.
So start fresh! Change up your perfume and throw out those candles that remind you of that old relationship. Don't hang onto the past or torture yourself with the memories of yesterday. Begin again. You won't regret it.