Spring Clean: Letting Go The 20-Year Old

Cleaning out the room, which at a glance looked so empty, turned out to be deceptive. Embedded in the two shelves of papers was a lifetime to be sorted and cleaned. Isn’t this how it is with everyone? Perhaps that is why we obstinately avoid it. Let it stay settled, along with the dust. No need to churn it up, the Pandora’s box of the mind. But it’s grip never goes then, silently hidden, guiding life with stealth.

So each paper was examined and with it each thought, incident, feeling, that bubbled up. What should stay and what should go–first in the mental space? Out-of mind would quickly allow the discarding to out-of-sight in the garbage. Definitely not recycle life. Two feet of paper gone and oh, what a relief!

Then emerged the little squares of red and yellow, the geological and chemistry society membership cards for the Michaelmas, Lent, and Summer terms for 35 new pence each. They were 38 years old and had travelled the globe, but always very discreetly, somewhere along the bottom of the suitcase or shelf. Suddenly, they were being viewed for the last time. After 38 years, it was time to let the 20-year old go. Why this sudden change? It was not apparent all these years that holding on to them was holding on to a 20-year old.

That 20-year old no longer existed and could never come back. Looking at the cards, it was time to examine what hold they had in the mind. First, it was a very easily transportable sense of familiarity and comfort when moving geographically from place to place. As time and age inevitably brought their bearings of all sorts of responsibilities, old age, death, these cards were the addictive remembrances of a carefree period of life. With it, hidden beneath many layers, almost invisible, was a yearning for what had been but could never be now.

So why now? Awareness and acceptance. The two brought fresh space to embrace the life that is lived now without the shadow of the past. To accept with open arms the maturity that a lived life has bestowed, the wisdom it has given to be free, the awareness of understanding that the 20-year old did not have.

A fond good-bye is whispered as the cards go in the chuck pile of spring cleaning.


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