I spent most of my February in a dark place. It was depressing, scary, and cold. Yes, I spent most of February in a basement storage area tackling my big decluttering project. And it only took me thirty-six years to start on it!
While I was digging through one of many boxes, I found a paper I wrote my first year of college called “The Art of Packing.” How odd — to be finding it as I was unpacking my life, thirty-six years before I started packing it all up.
I was only a senior in high school when my mother passed away. Since my parents were divorced, I was left responsible for packing up a three-story colonial home. As I worked my way through each and every drawer, dresser, and cabinet, I divided the items evenly between me and my two siblings.
Yet, my brother and sister did not want much to do with the memorabilia I saved for them. So, I took on the role of caretaker. For thirty-six years, I held on to everything. Each time I moved to a new home, so did the boxes. I carried them around like a heavy weight from place to place.
I KEPT THE BOXES FOR
I’ve patiently waited for my siblings to show up at my house so I can pour them each a glass of wine, turn on some music, and go through the memorabilia together. I had this vision of a happy-go-lucky gathering. But, it never happened and it might never have happened. So I had my own party. Except it didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned.
There was no wine, no music, and no laughter. Just me alone, venturing into the dark storage area to retrieve box after box. Each item, whether it be a piece of paper or a picture, was painfully examined. Throughout the process, it felt like I was re-attending the funerals of both my parents. And even my own.
"We all lived with my mother in a three story colonial house. The house now stands silent filled with the lives of four people. These possessions that fill up our house now needs to be packed and put away." — An excerpt from my college essay, The Art of Packing, 1983
In the end, I filled up twenty contractor bags of trash, made two trips to Habitat for Humanity, dropped off two loads at my local second hand store, sold some items, and gave others away. This decluttering project was messy, heavy and depressing as hell. And I was left thinking about why I had held on to all of these things?
Keeping all of these mementos meant that I valued my life and the things I’ve helped create. These items represented my years of motherhood, building a business, banding birds in the field, and being part of my small, Upper Peninsula community. And keeping all of my family’s memorabilia meant that I cared about my parents and valued their lives. Otherwise who would? I thought, ‘why do we live these lives if nobody remembers or cares about us after we’re gone?’ But, this thinking kept me stuck. And it kept me feeling heavy.
"My mother had forty-five teacups and saucers. To be fair about the division, we cleared the family room floor, smoked a joint and preceded to put all forty-five cups and all the saucers on the floor." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
I had to let go of my parents, again. I had to let go of the belief that I am a ‘bad’ person if I let go of my mother and father’s childhood pictures or their yearbooks. And I had to drop the role of caretaker that I had shouldered for thirty-six years.
In the end, I could feel in the deepest part of my being, that no picture or box filled with memorabilia represented a life well lived. It was just stuff. And that stuff doesn't define me as a child, sister, or mother. And that is what truly sparks joy in my heart!
"There is no graceful way for me to way good-bye, even to a house. The house is packed and gone, school has ended and I must move onward." — Wendy Wagoner, The Art of Packing, 1983
"My motto becomes life is a bitch and then you die."
In my 40’s I embraced the concept of anything is possible. I began to start unraveling my character patterns - seeing the continuum from you, me, we to oneness. I realized that there is no way to skip up the ladder to oneness without doing the work first. My motto in my 40’s was life is an adventure.
I truly thought I had worked on my issues around my mother’s death. I thought I had moved past it. I thought I was good with death and that death was my friend. I believed that I was good at helping people die; I could hold space for them and create a beautiful experience, which I have done. I felt it was a gift I had to give - helping people feel comfortable with dying.
But, I truly had barely skimmed the surface of understanding death. I had been holding on to my mother - not truly letting her go, I was NOT ok with letting her go again!
How was I doing this? Well, by keeping myself small, not good enough, not lovable enough. I was enforcing my core beliefs about who I was. I could even find myself merging with her in the clutter of my drawers and closet. Every time I walked into my closet or pulled open a drawer - wham! - my judge voice kicked in and I would feel less than.
It was a very subtle way of keeping my judge alive, which just happens to be my mother! My bad tone of voice I would use with my family was my mom’s voice. The popcorn I wanted to make and eat each evening was my mother's favorite. The way I kept myself avoiding true contact with people was similar to my mother's actions when she was alive.
But, if I stopped beating myself up with my inner judge voice (which is my mother), then I would need to figure out a way to let her die all over again. I would have to feel that raw, numbing pain again!
Ironically this is all imaginary in my thinking, stored in my cortex as my perception of my memories.
"My motto in my 40’s was life is an adventure."
Yesterday while lying down, I could feel the roots coming up from the earth into my feet and spreading through my entire system. I could feel that my mother was absorbed into this root system and part of consciousness (Avatar comes to mind now). I could feel the Earth mother (archetype) of consciousness and the flow of this life system through my system. It was feminine energy - not masculine. I could feel how this new energy flowed and the true strength of this space was just being. Simply lying on the table Being - not being pulled or needing to do anything for anyone - there was value in my just being.
I could feel myself at all ages, into my 90’s, feeling the same as I did when I was 2. I could feel how time was irrelevant and my previous anxiety about being a minute late to my appointment became funny. I could feel that there is no need to be held, that I was part of this Universal consciousness - of which my mom was too.
I could feel myself no longer needing anyone or anything. I was everyone and everything! What could I need or want? I had been keeping my mom alive through the gravesite, pictures, my tone of voice, my smallness, my nervous system. I was totally vibrating and relaxed at the same time.
My mother has been part of this collective consciousness since she died (and while she was alive). I was born knowing about the oneness, but had since merged with her wounded identity.
AHHHHHHHH………………..finally, I could FEEL the whole picture and KNOW that I was part of the Oneness. I had it so wrong and it seems so simple. My motto in this moment is life and death are the same, they are everything and nothing at the same time. I KNOW of Oneness and its spacious vast awareness of everything all at once.
I have worked very hard on my life up to this point (this made me giggle). I wonder what that really means. Anyway, I have many life experiences that have shaped me and allowed me to be on a journey for this elusive feeling of peace. Up to this point, it has been somewhat of a push/pull and ego driven endeavor to become a person that my children will feel in their hearts; that I was truly a good mom and person. My mom died when I was a teenager and at the funeral, I remember thinking, who are they talking about? The perceptions I have of my mother were not theirs and so it felt false to me. I felt ripped off - jealous of something they seemed to have with her that I did not feel I had. I now know that is not the truth, but at the time it was so strong. I vowed to explore and strive at being a better person for my kids and my future grandchildren. The dysfunctional patterns can stop, but once again I have worked very hard to change my character patterns. Have I arrived? Well, honestly I can say I am done striving, or trying to arrive anywhere. It did serve me having to take this journey from an ego driven agenda place. Now I am ready to just BE.
If I died tomorrow would my kids, listening to people sharing at my funeral, agree with their perceptions of me? I am not sure that would be the case, but I am ok with that because it is their journey to figure out that it is all a projection. I truly feel love for them, from every cell of my body and heart. I did the best I could with those moments in time, as did my mother. I know that my mother loved me from ever cell of her body and heart and did the best she could with the moments she had on this planet. So the letting go of what I “think” my mother did or did not do for me is a wonder gift I found within myself and I feel peace in the letting go.