Self acceptance is the lesson I re-learn most often. Love and accept yourself first, then change what needs changing. It seems so obvious, right? Yes, it does to me too, but only when it pertains to other people, or problems I’ve already struggled through. In fact I’m mostly writing this to my future self who will undoubtedly have to learn this lesson again. My hope is that I can reread this and remember that right now I am filled with compassion for myself and everyone else struggling with this.
To say my garage was filled with storage makes it sound like when you opened the door you’d be greeted with neatly stacked labeled boxes. But that’s not how it was. It was filled with huge professional stain glass tables I hadn’t used in years, piled high with a wild assortment of of things ranging from a box of books that we meant to donate to broken computer monitors.
The chaotic nature of the piles were enough to make my eyes cross, and to make matters worse it smelled a bit like cat pee. I’d like to say it was the neighbors cat who snuck in, but no, it’s definitely my ill-behaved beast whom I adore.
I was overwhelmed with the project of sorting through everything and finding homes for it. I considered it absolute proof I was failing at life. I mean, what grown up lets this happen? Me, that’s who.
Meanwhile my partner who shared in the mess with me had a very different attitude. He didn’t care that it was messy. I mean, he wanted to park our cars in there this winter as badly as I did so he was motivated, but he just didn’t take it personally that his garage was kind of smelly and not currently usable. It was just on his to do list like any other task.
It had never really occurred to me that a mess could just be a mess, something I hadn’t gotten around to cleaning up yet. Maybe for really good reasons like I had been busy working or reading, or didn’t know what to do with all that glass, or got over whelmed and closed the door and put it off… This was new, maybe a mess just was, and wasn’t a reflection on me.
Now, I have read my share of Feng Shui books and been inspired by the philosophy and I had taken to heart the promise that a tidy home with a good flow would bring me wealth, health, happiness, and love. However instead of being inspired by this promise I used it as brutal way to criticize myself. Instead of a mess just being a mess, it had become tangible proof that every doubt I’ve ever had about myself was true.
But watching someone dealing with the exact same mess I was yet feeling so differently about it helped me understand there really was another option to just being miserable. Even so, it wasn’t exactly easy to just not take things personally. I had to stand up to the voice who constantly came back with, “yeah, but, this is really bad, you can feel good about yourself once it’s cleaned up, not before.”
I am not going to pretend like I have all the answers. But here’s what I know. It helps to separate out the feelings from the tasks. It helps to admit how you feel. Even if the feelings don’t immediately dissipate it changes your relationship to them. They are how I feel right now, not the truth about me.
To do list:
- Call stain glass friend whose helped me out in the past and see if he wants my stained glass.
- Call rubbish company and let them know there will be a large pick up.
- clear away space for piles; stay, maybe, go.
What I felt:
Shame especially can’t stand to be called out, but if you don’t it can spiral. For me, it looks like this: I feel shameful, then I feel embarrassed that I’m feeling shame, then I try to pretend I’m not feeling shameful which makes me feel truly ashamed of myself because now I’m lying and feeling like a big ol’ fraud… which of course makes me ashamed of myself.
So here’s what I did. I talked about it. And in doing so I remembered how I felt when I first moved into my house, when I had all the time in the world to work on projects because I hadn’t decided that I had failed yet. I got back in touch with that feeling. It might seem obvious, but it felt radical to have a love affair with my now messy home. It felt even more revolutionary than when in my 20’s I decided to love my butt the way it was and stop wasting my time trying to change it.
And here’s what happened. I concentrated on my love affair with my home and then, little by little, the garage got cleared. I asked for help a lot, and mostly I got it. I found homes for the stained glass, and the bee keeping equipment with people who were overjoyed to receive them, and loads of other stuff got donated. I had time to read, I had time to take care of myself. My closets are even cleared out.
This might sound like I’m bragging, but with good reason. I mean, we have a two car garage that actually holds two cars!