The New Year is two months old, but still the benefits of my annual “celebration” linger. No, I’m not talking about leftovers from my annual Southern dinner. On January 1, 2016, just like the start of every year, I cooked meatloaf fragrant with onions, peppers, and spicy tomato sauce. The country fried potatoes with crispy edges aligned with the lucky black eye peas; the pepper sauce teased the turnip greens, and the fragrant cornbread and homemade banana pudding reminded me of my childhood.
I’m talking about cleaning my closet.
My “tradition” may be a headscratcher for some people. Actually, it gave me some exercise while I worked off that second helping of banana pudding, and provided some mindless activity as I thought about my new year. The thing that came to mind then and has stayed with me since, is “let it go.” No, not the song from Disney’s movie Frozen. Rather, that’s a reminder to let go of whatever confuses or no longer serves me. Things like clothes that I hang onto in hopes I’ll get my “other” body back, shoes that my bunions will no longer let me wear, all the junk left behind when I change to a different purse… Most of all, all those thoughts that throw life off-kilter.
If I don’t let it all go, the past will not stay in the past. It will be the present and will become the future. This realization led me to see that, in addition to cleaning out my closet on New Year’s Day, I needed to declutter my spirit.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes; some were just dumb, while others were hurtful. Did I cause hurt to others on purpose? “Maybe,” I replied aloud to myself (after all, I was the only one in the closet). The admission made me sigh.
“But, but, but…” My mind began to whirl. “What about the time my best friend didn’t wish me happy birthday?”
“She forgot,” I reminded myself. “That was the day her first grandchild was born.”
I gave my forgiveness and then I let …it …go.
“Well, what about not being invited to the Christmas party because I’m single and they only invited couples? That was hurtful.”
Then I remembered the time I had been invited and I didn’t engage, remained aloof, and finally left early, wearing my widowhood on my sleeve. I called the hostess and asked her forgiveness for that transgression. Then, I let … it … go.
Looking at the growing pile of clothes destined for the clothing ministry, I also saw within myself all those things I needed to donate to the forgiveness pile. As I dumped the shoes and the crap out of those old purses, I also jettisoned the anger, guilt, resentment, and sour grapes.
But what about those treasures I want to keep? Decluttering helps me see them more clearly because there is more space in my life and in my heart.
Last year began with six of us siblings. Now there are five, as one of the brothers went to heaven ahead of the rest of us; none of us remembering a time when we were not all on this earth. I miss his sweet nature and twinkling eyes, and treasure his last words when I left his bedside saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He responded, “I’ll see you here…or somewhere.”
I both miss and am thankful for all that I learned from my mother, from the quiet conversations with my gentle father, from my “John Wayne” father-in-law, and from my best friend for thirty years, my mother-in-law. I’m lonely for my soul mate and husband. I will grieve for him for as long as I love him, and I will love him forever. Occasionally I feel his arms around me as I rock in his old leather recliner. I smell his scent for a moment, and gulp in air wanting more, but it vanishes as if it never was. I recall his jokes that at first caused me to smile and then to laugh right out loud. “How good is that?” he’d say.
And I love my simple home that gives me a hug every time I walk in the door. It backs up to woods full of my beloved trees, making me feel close to nature and closer to God. My children are good–working on great. Teddie, my four-footed white fur gift from God, is my heart.
Over the years, some friendships have grown distant, while others have grown stronger with love. I’ve come to appreciate more deeply the understanding and acceptance I’ve experienced with my dearest friends, as we provide comfort each to the other through joys and through sorrows.
My spiritual decluttering, I realize, needs to be a year-long activity. Whenever my resolve weakens, I can check my reality in the current moment. I can’t go backwards, just as I cannot stay where I am. Faith and fear hold hands as I leap forward. Yet, as I have discovered, things do improve, and I will discern what satisfies my soul, whether it be creativity or finding a soul mate. Accepting advice from others who have walked the journey I am just beginning challenges me, because I fear I can’t do this without losing myself.
Moment by moment, then day by day, then month by month, I can create a fulfilling life. By decluttering my closet and my spirit, I have made room for what is to come.
Linda Breeden’s stories have appeared in publications such as SimpleJoy, Angels on Earth (a Guideposts publication), Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings, and Raising Great Kids (for The Boniuk Foundation), which was also featured on an episode of Hidden Heroes on CBS. She was Redbook’s Cup of Comfort 2009 Silver Linings national contest winner, and has published in various professional journals (World at Work and Atlanta Business Chronicle). She was a finalist in Southern Writers Magazine 2013 and in 2015 Short Story Contest and writes book reviews for Family Christian. She is currently working on her first novel. Her blog Sparklers: Lights of Grace can be found at www.breedenlin.wordpress.com.