There’s an opportune time to do things . . . (Ecclesiastes 3:1 The Message)
When is an emotional question. That’s what came to mind today, as I continued my quest to clean out our storage area (ahem, the basement) of accumulated things. After fifty years of living, and almost thirty years of being a homemaker, wife and mother, things add up.
When did I get all this stuff? When will I get rid of some of it? These two questions return to me, during my perennial spring fling-athon!
Each year, I tell myself, this is it! This is the year, I will rent a dumpster and just get rid of it all! And this year, I really mean it. I won’t rent a dumpster, but day by day, I am going to take stuff to the trash can. Bag up things to donate. Get rid of years of paper mementos and doubles of photos and dusty cassette tapes and outdated music CDS and yes even, the Disney VHS movies. It’s time!
When means “at what time.” When hearkens to the past. When foreshadows the future and can even mean, now!
When has its roots in who. (That has been the biggest surprise for me: who, what, where and when all originate from the same root word.) What, where and when impacts our who-ness.
The physical evidence in my basement not only shows what I have accumulated, but also taps into personal memories. And my reluctance to let go of stuff? It has a lot to do with the emotional ties.
When reminds me that I raised two boys with my husband from infancy to manhood. When piles up with stored decorations for each holiday and season. When recalls that our sons have moved out, but a few of their belongings still linger. When blows the dust off stacks of books saved for someday, in which, I will read them again or for the first time. When remembers each gift lovingly accepted from friends and family over the years.
When I start sorting and rummaging and bravely putting these “whens” into boxes and bags to carry out, a deep grief overwhelms me. Seething anger for holding on so long to items that I no longer need, no longer use and no longer really want, except for the fact that they recall the memories. When will I release the items, and just cherish the memories? When will I let myself grieve and cry, and say good-bye to certain seasons?
When evokes a kind of grief mingled with shame. When and why did I buy some of this stuff? When did I think I was going to use some of it? When will I accept that the purpose of most of these items has been served? After about an hour in the abyss of when, I stomped upstairs, angry that it was going to take more than a couple days and quite a bit of emotional energy to complete the task of letting go.
I threw myself on my bed and cried for awhile. To let the grief go; to let the stuff go. And although there’s still more to sort through, a sense of relief and acceptance moved into the space where anger and sadness had been wrestling.
How is when affecting your who-ness?