It’s a tin-roof tool shed in the back yard.
Between the house and the big live oak tree overlooking the marsh.
It has way more room than needed for a lawnmower, barbecue grill, and gardening tools. So it ends up getting filled with stuff.
Broken stuff that I planned to fix one day when I had the time. Stuff that I once enjoyed but no longer need. Stuff in plastic bins with layers of dust testifying to how much time has passed.
I end up out there one fine day early in summer, before the sun really starts beating down, and I look at all of this stuff. All of this stuff that is no longer useful to my life.
I know what I need to do but part of me is resisting because I’m a sucker for the sunk cost fallacy.
I sort it into three piles: what I’ll keep, what I’ll donate to a local charity and what just has to go.
It’s an opportunity for mindfulness, I’ll give it that.
Sorting through old boxes is like digging into the past and the past can be a messy place—a place chock-full of all the things that didn’t work out as planned.
I approach it like walking meditation, modified. We’ll call it shed clearing meditation.
I begin by focusing on my breath and opening boxes. Thoughts float up to the surface as I’m sorting—self-criticism, mostly. What was I thinking, back then? Why did I buy this in the first place? Why did I think this could be repaired? When did I think I’d have time to finish this project?
I have to let each of these thoughts go, one by one. Pop the balloons carrying them and watch them fall away. They’ll be back. That’s okay too.
I find a picture of myself—an old school photo, how random—and somehow, that helps. It’s chipped around the edges but otherwise in good shape. I must have been in second grade by the look of the photo. I prop it up on a shelf.
Every time I wonder what I was thinking back then, when I was younger, I look at the photo. I don’t know why it is, but seeing that face—those wide eyes that haven’t yet seen the world, that smile bursting with joy—the resentment just slips away.
He didn’t know, I realize.
It’s an easy thing to forget: that our younger selves did not know who we’d be today. Just as we today don’t know what we’ll hope for and dream of years from now, what the future has yet to teach us.
I finish my work.
What I keep, I leave on shelves that are now clean and well-organized. I take the rest away.
The photo of myself as a child?
I brush that off, find a frame for it and return it to the house so it’ll be close at hand the next time I need to remember.
The next time I need to forgive.
Author: Jason A. Zwiker
Apprentice Editor: Kendra Sell Hackett / Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: m-louis/ Flickr