The past can hurt. I’m finding myself facing things this week that I’d made it a point to bury. I felt it was better for me to not dwell on things gone by…it seemed better that way. However, this week, I’ve needed to pull from the memory banks and remember how it felt to live through what I’ve lived through. I believe God allows us to go through certain situations so we can help others later. I’ve always felt that my experiences made me stronger and prepared me for the road ahead, but here I sit, remembering, feeling and praying that I have the right words…that I would be inspired by the comforter and let His words flow through me. I feel completely inept. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I took a small break from cleaning and organizing projects I had planned for the day. I flipped on The Learning Channel for background noise while I munched on a granola bar and it happened. Memories I’d locked up for years came flooding back. One episode of “Hoarders” and suddenly, I was a little girl digging through the six-inch deep carpet of laundry on the bathroom floor. My favorite shirt had somehow inched deeper into the mayhem and landed on the bottom. By the time, I rescued it, it was too late. It was mildewed and completely ruined with no hope of recovery. The brown, grease and grime covered appliances on the TV were like they came straight out of my memory. As I watched, I was amazed to find things so similar to my past, like the holes in the floor that guests sometimes fell through because they didn’t know the proper procedure for jumping over them.
I remember the day a family friend came over and attempted to help us clean. She and I were in my parents’ bedroom and I was standing on the bed when she made the mistake of touching the closet door. It was just enough to cause the closet door to give up its mission and it broke and fell directly on top of me. I laugh now at the memory being completely buried under door and who knows what behind it while our friend screamed in panic and unburied me.
I knew our lifestyle was extreme, but I didn’t realize how it affected me until that moment the other day watching others living in similar circumstances. I panicked. suddenly, ever corner of my home that had the slightest pile of clutter became the enemy of my soul. The pile of mail sitting on top of the piano mocked me as if it were ready to multiply any minute. The books I have been so reluctant to part with because, let’s be honest, who wants to get rid of BOOKS?!!, suddenly seemed so unimportant. My husband has never quite understood my attachment to the printed word, but they’re so pretty! Ah, and my husband…he’s a conservationist apparently. The man will reuse anything. We have little stashes of salsa jars and empty lunch meat containers that he uses to take his lunches to work. It saves my Tupperware and for that I’m grateful, but what if it too, multiplies into a horde of garbage invading my kitchen cabinets until they explode and trap me underneath the pile. I was losing it.
After a short meltdown, I decided to tackle one cluttered area at a time starting with the things I tend to ignore most frequently. I had to make myself remember that my past doesn’t define me. The bondage I lived in as a child (most of which was completely out of my control) has no power to dominate who I am as a woman. I may never completely rid the world of clutter, but my home is NOTHING like the home in which I was raised.
This, just like all of the other things in my life, both physical and spiritual, needs to be tempered and balanced. I cannot fall into an opposite mania, where I strive so hard to be different that I forget about who I am. I can learn from my past, facing it bravely and moving forward with grace and dignity. I can use my experiences to teach my children the importance of doing things a different way. I can use my experiences to remind myself not to go back but to press on, knowing the difference between extremes and finding a balanced ground to rest on in the middle of the two. I can use the panic I felt when facing those memories to understand a little more about myself and why I pressure myself to have the “perfect” home; why I often feel as though I don’t measure up to the imaginary standard of what a woman should be able to accomplish. I can use this knowledge to pray for healing, to grow in grace, to move beyond my past into the woman God designed me to be. I can get over it…and I will.