It has been 2 months since I posted. I’ve been enjoying quite the social whirlwind since I returned to Marin: dinner dates, movie dates, parties and hikes. I’m having a blast.
I’ve written so many posts in my mind, but none have made it to print. So much to say. Where to start? I’ll start here:
The question people most ask me these days is, “Are you all settled in?” The first two weeks the answer was, “not yet.” I was pining for the trails, the beach, the owls, the dogs, stars and quiet. I was worried that the din of neighborhood traffic and star-minimizing light pollution, including the glare of numerous street lamps in the area, would be insufferable. I feared I’d made a horrible mistake.
As I investigated that fear, I discovered that the only mistake would be beating myself up for the decision I’d made, not letting myself off the hook. Once I realized that, my fear dissipated as I promised myself that no matter what, I’d be kind to me.
For those first weeks, most of my “settling in” entailed getting things out of boxes, many of which had been stored for nearly 5 years. At my old place, every time I’d set aside a day to go through the boxes I’d hit an obstacle: workers in the yard, new roofing over the garage, a party on the ponderosa, something else to do, that kind of thing. Most often, though, the obstacle was the sick feeling in my stomach whenever I opened one. The overwhelming aroma of memories and uncertainty would send me reeling out the door and down the hiking trail for some fresh air. I cultivated a strong sense of “manana.”
When I started getting the urge to move, I promised myself I’d muster up the courage to go through those boxes. I did not want to pay for their portage to a new garage. But, the opportunity to move came more quickly than motivation and so, they moved with me. Truthfully, with all the space I have now, I’ve discovered that there isn’t that much to release.
For the first time in 5 years, all of my books are on shelves. All of the music equipment is up and I have plenty of space to spread out. Even my belly feels better with the space between me and the furnishings in my larger home. I have been calling this the “let’s see” house. Let’s see which of all my past identities, and the tools of the trade that go with them, will survive. I’m not going to force anything.
The boxes hold memories, but they also hold surprises. I forgot I had water goblets and dessert glasses. I rediscovered some artwork, most of my cookbooks, table linens, décor and candles. It was like getting married all over again without the hassle of a husband. I actually like most of these things, so I’m glad I kept them during my “downsized” years.
I feel the same way about me and who I’ve been and become, before and during my five years of relative solitude. I’m rediscovering neglected delights.
Here I am, in the house I lived in 15 years ago, revisiting my past in so many ways. I’ve done healing work with the younger me who lived here in those years. I’ve rediscovered the walks I used to take in the neighborhood. The same neighbors live here and remember me (as I do them). I’ve rewound and spliced. The new story (of which I wrote in the last post) is taking shape.
There’s one box that surprised me; a box bigger than all the rest (and paradoxically smaller). It’s the box around me. I’m discovering how rigid I’ve been with myself; all these rules and opinions; what’s OK and what’s not. When a possession has been in a box for five years, it makes sense that re-connecting with it will lead to observations of what’s the same and what’s different about the me that lived with it then and the me that is choosing to live with it now (or not).
I find myself musing over and over again, “I used to think (fill in the blank). What was that about?”
One of the rules my rigid self holds is that I have to get rid of things. Once I decided to let go of having to let go, I no longer worried about my identity. If my ego wants to identify itself by the things I own, it follows that I either have to use them and be that or let them go and be something/someone else. But today, I see it as just stuff. I’ll use it or I won’t and it will go when it’s time. I’m just me being who I am and the more I settle in to that, I suspect my relationship with stuff will shift without forcing anything.
Even my social activities are informing me of how I’ve changed. I’m more extroverted than I thought. I’ve gotten used to neighborhood noise and actually find it somewhat comforting. I like living within walking distance of a small downtown. Today while I was sweeping the leaves, the neighbor was mowing. Something about that makes the work easier. At night, the once dreaded streetlamp creates beautiful dancing tree silhouettes on my walls.
As I reflect upon the process of un-boxing my belongings, I realize something is happening to me too.
I am un-boxing my belonging.
I now have a small room dedicated to meditation. In my contemplation today, I visualized myself in a box. The paintings on the inside of that box were all the things I have told myself is me and images that represent the rules; right down to how to dress for my figure type and other women’s magazine advice. Above me was the ceiling I have put on joy, prosperity, income, happiness.
I imagined the box falling open, looking much like the diagram of how a box looks before it gets folded up into six sides. I watched the unfolding as the top blew off and the sides shriveled up and fell off like the petals of a spent rose. There I was, standing atop a stem, naked to all possibility. For a moment it was a bit unnerving; too vulnerable. I understood, in that moment, why I created the box; the illusion of safety and security, a sense of belonging that is represented by the box and everything in it.
Then, the stem fell away and there I was with no sense of past or future, no sense of beginning or end. My mind wanted to go to form. “What does it look like? What can we have? How can we get that? Who can we be? How do we become that?” I was aware of my thoughts and how enticing the bait was, aware too that the bait dangled on a very sharp hook.
At the same time, there was so much peace, so much safety, security and true belonging in this un-boxed, undefined, unlimited presence. Ego also wants to say, “This is perfection, this presence. How can I get more of that?”
Settling in and getting un-boxed, I am watching when I dig in and when I vacate. I notice when I put up pretty murals that tell me who I am and how easy it is to replace one box with another even if the ceiling is higher. I am aware of boxes others like to put me in and how they subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) request that I police my behavior to keep them comfortable and make them right. I notice how I am tempted to comply.
I become aware.
It’s a practice.
Copyright © August 2010, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved