All around me, things glitter.
My daughters dive into three Christmas totes, each large enough to fit a whole tree. But the tree has already been unpacked from its cardboard box; these oversized Rubbermaids are stuffed with a horde of other accessories. The girls squeal as they pull treasures from the clutches of tangled string garland and lesser decorations. There is the sound of glass breaking as they dig.
Oh, remember this?
Look how little my hands were!
Ooh, the Santa bells!
I raise my wrist to my temple and wipe hair from my face. For the last three weeks I’ve found myself minimizing possessions with the same instinctual fervor in which I gathered before each baby’s birth. Why, my husband asks. I want freedom from the tidying that comes with such stuff, I say. I want order, more time for creating, for playing, for rest. I want to live intentionally, to save choice making for the decisions that matter.
But now there are narrow footpaths between the boxes in my living room, glitter dust layering the floor, a musty crawlspace smell mingling with the too-sweet scent of artificial cinnamon candles. Every flat surface is littered. Plastic branches scratch my arms and supper still needs to be cooked and this is going to take forever and the kids won’t properly help.
“Stop fooling around!” I yell. “Don’t you know I’m doing this for you?”
The girls drop finger-painted ornaments and sulk to the tree. For a moment it is silent as we pass a ball of silver string to and from each other, draping it over branches. One at a time they find reason to slip out of the room. Passing the totes, Eldest picks up and drops a silver sign back onto a pile. Peace, the sign reads.
Peace was broken, I think. I broke it.
And I’m alone in a mess of supposed-to-be-magic things.
I sit amongst the Rubbermaids on the floor and breathe. I pick up items one at a time, really looking at these shiny things I have kept in and hauled out of the basement every winter for almost ten years. I realize, without guilt, that for most of them I feel nothing – nothing at all but a vague fondness for the girl who sought them out. I smile at the memory of that too-young mother with the warrior heart, so desperate to create joy for the people she brought into a world she didn’t even feel at home in herself. Back then, these silver and gold things had been grounding, had given hope that I could create something warm in a place that felt too new and stark and lonely and cold.
And now… now I realize that we don’t need that artificial hope anymore. Our home is full: children and pets and music and memories. It is familiar and worn and busy and warm. I even know how to cook! The magic isn’t the staircase garland but the mother dancing around the dinner table. It isn’t the coffee table snowmen but the father strumming Ode to Joy by the fire. It’s not the Pinterest-worthy tree, but the starlit walk around the street we know so well. I realize, now, my children’s clear eyes sparkle as bright under one set of lights as they do twenty.
And I realize, in surprise, that I can let these things go too.
These three big boxes.
It’s such a shock that I laugh. Suddenly, it all makes sense – this need to discard, to clear out, reject. It’s one week until the first anniversary of my sobriety and I sit – tired but healthy and sorry but better and happy, oh so happy – amongst bags and boxes: the physical representation of what I’ve had to do this whole year.
let go, let go, let go:
pride and doubt
self-judgment and hate
perfectionism and inhibitions
lies and panaceas
old roles and expectations
limiting beliefs and loveless dogma
the too-tight façades and so many fears.
All the things that I needed then but no longer find joyful or useful now. All these things that let me breathe and heal and grow in the space they left behind.
And so, I sort the sacred from the nice-to-have, and I let go.
Less than a week later, my girlfriend reminds me of her young niece; the brand-new mother on her own for the very first time with a so-wonderful infant to make a Christmas for. We pack two oversized totes into her van and I say a last goodbye to the things that aren’t meant for now but felt so vital once. I think of the warrior mama in the just-starting-out home and imagine the way her baby’s clear eyes will sparkle and the courage that mama will feel when her whole house glows.
Are you sure? My friend asks.
I am so thankful for the things I have to let go.