“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full.” - Marcel Proust
This morning was not particularly different than any other, except for one thing. On his way back from the laundry room, my husband came back with a look in his eye – an urge to overhaul some room of the house. Just by catching my eye, he felt my hesitation. I knew it was the laundry room. It had become a mess of serving dishes and cooking gadgets, a stash for the overflow of toys, and storage from our trips to Costco. And it has been on our, “we should do something about this room” list for some time.
We Must Have Elves
One thing about my husband – he is obsessed with cleaning. Now, some may say that’s not a bad quality. And for the most part, I would agree. He takes everything off of the shelves and scrubs like no other. Seriously, the man knows how to clean. Yet, we all have our weaknesses, and the putting back is the hard part for him. I figure he must still believe in fairies, and the like, assuming that little gnomes or elves magically put all the little Lego pieces back in the rightful place (the same elves that throw empty food wrappers in the garbage). So, we usually end up with a huge pile of uncategorized stuff that while initially seems like progress because it was removed, will probably end up being stuffed back in the laundry room by the end of the week because we are fed up with it in the hallway.
Yet, I was able to get an extra cup of coffee and let him do his thing. And that’s where it hit me. Cleaning, whether the laundry room, or our internal rooms of emotions, traumas and thoughts, is hard stuff. It’s challenging enough to initiate the cleaning, but it also entails facing the messes of our past and present. Old wounds are not as easy to heal as Legos are to put away. The pain, the hurt, the anger, the shame - it is all real. And for many, it is too overwhelming to even consider letting those feelings out. What if they don’t stop? What if it hurts too much?
The Body Feels
It amazes me how far I can go back to an unpleasant memory. What is even more amazing to me is how strong of a guttural reaction I can have, my stomach tying in knots, a lump forming in my throat, my body physically reacting simply to a memory a long time gone. When we hold on to these old memories, these hurts, these emotional wounds, we unknowingly carry them with us and they literally become the aches and pains that are stored in our body.
The magnificent part about cleaning out these memories, wounds and even fears, is that when we can face them, feel the rainbow of emotions that they bring, we can slowly start to heal. We can live fully in the present, focusing on what is happening in the moment, and not what has already happened. We can know a freedom without the past haunting us (or our stomachs) or being afraid of these feelings or memories. They no longer wield the power they once did. Initially, the sting may hurt, the pain seemingly never-ending.
But time truly does heal, as long as we are willing to work for it. Whether it is with the help of a trusted friend, professional or even through the use of a personal journal, confronting the cobwebs of our past, ironically, is the key to moving forward. The fear of facing someone or something slowly disappears, as we learn that we can heal.
A New Start
Unlike the magical elves and gnomes of my husband’s toy roundup, there is no magic to wipe away the fallout from our internal cleaning. However, the magic is what happens after. Little by little, we start to pick up the pieces. We find people that understand and support us, not those that keep us down in dark places. We learn how to trust ourselves and our feelings. We seek out places and things that bring us true pleasure, instead of collecting junk that has no purpose except to bring clutter and confusion.
And of course, nothing is ever perfect. There are always cobwebs that form and new items that need to be organized. But it’s a start, reminding us of from where we have come and where we are going - and we can move on. That is, until it is time to clean again.