Misbehavior #373: The Soul of Downsizing (Or, I bet you didn’t realize a garage sale would help cure your anxiety).
People in trauma recovery do amazingly similar things as they start getting well. They:
- think of creative projects and make more use of their five senses,
- crack themselves up with humorous anecdotes, out of the blue,
- start to reject automatic, old-school politeness,
- think and see more clearly and critically (in a good way)…..and,
- clear stuff from their environment that they no longer need.
Let’s focus for a moment on number five.
When I was in graduate school, I started to heal from the emotional abuse of my younger life. My forthcoming book, Wife Material, tells a fictional story based on this experience.
One day, in the middle of my transformation, I woke up and realized I no longer wanted to sleep on my grandmother’s bed or store my underwear in her antique chest of drawers. Yes, this is symbolic.
Beautiful old furniture – and I loved my grandmother…but I knew it had to go, along with the pile of vintage dolls (mine, my mother’s, my grandmother’s) I’d been moving around with me in a giant cardboard box labeled, “childhood.”
I sold the whole mess to a friend who needed bedroom furniture and liked to sell other people’s things. I flinched as he rolled the heirlooms out on his green lacquered dolly. But after they were gone, I had this wonderfully empty room. And into this room went a small daybed and a crafting table. My underwear went into a plastic bin in the closet. I brought home paints and flower pots and created beaded necklaces instead of dusting my antique bedroom set and thinking of old people.
Yes, I know that sounds rude. Ungrateful and rebellious and un-Christian and un-American and un-granddaughterly. I get it. But I see that experience now as my first lesson in letting go. The impulse struck. I acted on it. I cleared away something old. I brought in something new.
Healing from trauma put me smack in the cycle of life. Birth. Activity. Decay. Death. Loss. Rebirth…And on it goes.
This weekend, I plan to get ready for a big yard sale: Stuff. Must. Go. After getting some of my own EMDR therapy to deal with grief and loss, I gathered up an entire room full of stuff: discarded electronics, gifts I never liked (guiltguiltguilt), a massage mat that collects cat hair and spider webs, clothing and keepsakes and detritus I no longer wish to move, dust, or think about. I’m done with it all. Things are just things. Things help us live and create. And when they no longer serve that purpose, we can let them go…kind of like old beliefs (e.g., “I’m a bad grand-daughter.”).
I crave clean, empty space for…unruly thoughts, naughty poems, murals, lolling around on blankets in the floor with my Boston Terrier…You get the idea.
Interested in more blog posts about healthy rebellion? Visit these posts:
- A Family Psychologist and EMDR Therapist’s advice on Healthy Rebellion
- Healthy Break Rule-breaking for Trauma Therapy and Family Psychology