There is an episode of Lost in which the Others have had enough of the Dharma Initiative. And in that episode, tiring of the empty agreements and negotiations, they perform something they call the “Purge.” They kill all of the Dharmaville residents, excluding Benjamin Linus and Ethan Godspeed. After the Purge, the Others are the only ones on the Island… for awhile. I liked this episode. Hell, I enjoy that whole series. But the fact that the writers chose to use the word “Purge” in that episode to describe the mass murder – it made me giggle. I’ve been using the same phrase to describe the occasional cleanouts that I do, the occasional eradication of clutter in both my life and my house. I’d haven’t heard that word used by anyone else in a very long time.
At the beginning of this blog, I was housecleaning. I was trying to make my house livable, trying to exorcise memories that were, for a moment, a little painful to think about. I was distracting myself, trying to make things bearable, throwing myself into something productive so that I didn’t spend my hours gaming or wallowing in my newfound solitude. About a month into that project I met someone else, just when I least expected to. Things got a little more complicated, but still, I kept cleaning, figuring that at the very least, I owed it to myself to have a place for us to hang out when we wanted to. And as it progressed, the housecleaning took on a new purpose. I needed space. I had to MAKE space where there was no space. The list of things to do that was once as simple as a deep clean grew more complicated. More time consuming. It would be worth it, I told myself. I needed to do this anyway… he was just motivation.
This weekend, three months later, I finished the housecleaning project. Aside from a few small things that still need to get done, the house is organized, everything has its place, and I am about sixteen large storage boxes of stuff shorter. This project has been cathartic. I’ve found loads and loads of things that I had forgotten about – some of it was worth keeping, most of it was not. And I threw things away indiscriminately. What didn’t get sentenced to the dumpster got left at Goodwill.
I purged all the wedding stuff, too. Those things, seven years later, now seemed pointless to keep – the extra napkins with our names on them, the unity candle, the decorations, the memorabilia from the showers and things that were packed away during the divorce. I hadn’t looked at them since. I wasn’t even sure why I kept them to begin with. And now that that is long over, behind me, now that the divorce has been final for quite a while, I didn’t want to revisit it. I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the photographs – my family and friends are in those. And I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the greeting cards from that – most all of which came from my people. Those things I kept. Though what I’m going to do with them in the long run, I am still not sure.
Every trip to the dumpster, wedding stuff and otherwise, was hard. I’d question myself the entire way – would I want this stuff later? Would I wish I hadn’t thrown it out? I’d keep walking, because I didn’t know where I was going to put it – I needed the space for other things. Once I reached the dumpster, I unceremoniously threw it in there, knowing that once I did, that was it. I wasn’t going in there after it. And I was okay with that. One by one, the boxes disappeared until all that was left was a ceiling fan I hope to rehang someday and the box of things that belonged to my grandmother.
Once all of the physical cleaning was done, I stood back and marveled at the change. The apartment looks significantly different than it did last fall when things fell apart. Better. Less cluttered. More organized. But then, my life, really, is significantly different than it was several months ago, too. For the first time in living memory no one is stifling my creative energies or my eccentricities. I can be myself. I AM being myself. I’m liking that. I’m literally so overwhelmed with ideas for writing, for baking, for painting, for drawing that I have a hard time settling on one thing to do at a time. Things haven’t flowed for me this freely in a decade. Literally a decade. The house was clean – but there was something else that needed to be done. I knew it… I’ve known it for awhile.
A few weeks ago, though, I traveled to Ohio. I saw many of my friends – most of which I hadn’t seen in a very long time. I’d missed them, I was glad to see them, but an afternoon spent with an ex (we’d remained friends post-breakup) made me realize, more than ever, that there was still purging to be done. I’d cleaned my house. I’d gotten rid of the wedding stuff. I’d gotten rid of most of the physical reminders of my past that were just laying around here, waiting for me to stumble upon them. But there was something, this time, about the trip to Ohio that made me see things as they really are – as they always have been. I went to lunch with my ex (we call him Buttface). I spent an afternoon chatting, catching up. And I was, literally, bored out of my mind. I stayed for as long as I thought would be polite and then, as I was contemplating how much longer I needed to stay, my phone rang. And it was my boyfriend. We didn’t talk long… and while I didn’t need the call to push me back in the direction I wanted to go, it was a very good reminder of how much better I have it now than I had it then. A welcome one. There were no romantic feelings left in Ohio with Butt. There hadn’t been for a long time. Sometimes I think we kept in contact simply because we were one of the last relics from the long-time past for each other. But somehow I knew when I left that that was it… that even that part of the relic was gone. Strangely, I didn’t care. A few weeks later, while finishing the cleanout, I deleted his numbers from my phone. I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, that it wasn’t painful. I did it with barely any thought at all.
While I was at it, I decided to purge the rest. I went through my phonebook. I cleared the names of contacts I hadn’t thought of in ages. I got rid of email addresses, phone numbers, text messages. After all, I’d cleaned my house. Why not the rest? After all, hadn’t I said that I wanted to do something different? This final cleanout, this final purge would really give me the chance to actually start over, do something different.
I owed it to myself, I realized, to just LET GO. Stop looking ten feet behind me and start looking at what I have beside me and in front of me: my job, my friends, my family, my relationship, these creative ideas that are pouring out of me at the moment, this fledgling business I’m starting. None of these things are perfect. I don’t expect perfection. All of them require varying degrees of work. Most things worth having do. But these things at the very least, they deserve my complete and undivided attention. They deserve the chance to really become something incredible, and I owe it to myself to be open to that; to stop my pattern of self-sabotage by living in the past and trying to apply the past to the present. It’s easier said than done. But if I can’t do that, then none of these things will work. I’ve purged before – I’ve not purged like this. This time I meant it. This time there’s no going back. The ties are cut, the house is clean. I’m starting over.
It’s time to make a new past – maybe one that is better than the one I’ve spent too much time dwelling on over the last decade.