October 3, 2011

True Life: Emotional Hoarding.

It’s true. I am a hoarder.

I hoard memories, emotions, attachments – I hoard moments, photos, passing glances.

I hoard anything remotely tangible that I could possibly want someday. My jewelry box, for instance, is filled with jewelry from “boyfriends” I had in elementary and middle school. My bookshelf is cluttered with favors from weddings and baby showers and my closet contains shoe boxes of things I cannot part with for the significance I attach to the items. I even keep bags and bows that I once received presents in. A healthy fear of superstition keeps me from throwing these things away. What if I jinx something? What if I need this thing someday, this memory? What if I regret throwing it away?

And so I keep things. A lot of things. I’m quite orderly about it, actually. There are no essential swat teams, family interventions, or reality TV shows necessary to help me with my hoarding problem. I store all of my emotions away in nicely labeled boxes in my closet, in my desk, on my bookshelf and most importantly – on my hard drive.

Not the hard drive on my heart. This is not a metaphor. I’m talking about the hard drive on my computer. My Macbook Pro and I have been together now for seven years. During that time I have neatly put away all things that are important to me in neat little folders that identify their place in my life.

This never presented itself as a problem until recently.

Let me preface what I am about to say by adding that – Yes, I understand you can add extra storage space to a computer. And perhaps I should. But when my computer started displaying warnings saying “You have no more space left to save this item,” I began to wonder what it was exactly that was preventing me from moving forward.

I would literally have to stop exactly what I was doing, revisit the past, assess its importance to my life right here and right now, and decide whether I needed to keep carrying it or if I could let it go. Only then could I keep saving things and storing new memories, new emotions.

Wow, okay. This realization was profound to me. I teach yoga and along with that comes preaching the whole concept of letting go of the past. But here I was, carrying around thousands of layers of my past with me everyday as I tucked my laptop into my bag.

All this time I had been neatly organizing and storing things on my hard drive – papers and notes from high school, all of my papers from my college writing courses, fliers I made for yoga workshops, music I used to write, lyrics and poetry and over 3,000 photos (many of which I had extra copies of anyways because they were stored on Facebook). I was storing these things, thinking that someday I may need them, someday I may want them.

Why on earth would I ever again need the book report I wrote on Don Quixote in high school?

The answer is: I didn’t need these things. But I wanted them. They were a part of me and I wasn’t ready to let them go. But here was the problem: I couldn’t keep moving forward unless I let them go.

These stored items kept impeding progress. I would be working on a project and my computer would suddenly stop me mid-track with the message that I needed to delete things to make more space to continue with what I was doing.

This was profoundly annoying… yet, important.

So I started going through the items. All of the items. I deleted thousands of files including photos, music I once wrote, poetry and lyrics – carefully filtering through my folders and choosing maybe one or two items from each of my carefully categorized past to keep… for memories sake.

And like finally resolving some untouched dilemma from the past, I almost immediately felt lighter.

My computer began running faster.

I had literally shed thousands of layers.

Untouched projects I knew I would never finish – I deleted.

Photos from ex relationships – gone.

The emotional angst-driven poetry from the year 2004 – trash bin.

If I couldn’t identify the person in the photo – delete, delete, delete.

And just like that, letting go of the past helped me feel better in the now.

The past will always be a part of me, but I’m realizing that I don’t have to hold onto it with a death grip. There should be no anxiety or fear associated with the act of letting go – It’s okay to throw away the wedding favors, the wrapping paper, the birthday cards. Recycle them, maybe make a quilt out of the hundred or so t-shirts from events that I’ve attended over the years. Create a collage of the birthday cards. But I need not store them at the bottom of my closet just in case I want to read them again – someday.

Set the past free with joy because someday is now.

Be open to the present!

…And don’t forget to empty the trash.

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