Clear out the clutter

Warning: This blog might (will) be the most honest blog I have written yet.

And I am nervous, or anxious rather, to write this one because I know it is going to require complete vulnerability. But I am discovering that the more I write and share -my- truth, the more at peace I ultimately feel. I used to be scared to share my stories, my pain, my failures, my mistakes, and my truth because I was nervous people would see the real me and choose to leave. But instead, I am discovering that when I choose to remove the first brick, and then another, and eventually begin to tear down walls not only do people not leave, they come closer.

I am discovering that truth, authenticity, and vulnerability are the building blocks of meaningful connection. It resonates with those of us who are sick of surface-level-superficial, who can’t stand another minute of pretending to be something or someone we are not, and who crave to say something other than “great! you?” when asked how we are.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place to share your truths. I wouldn’t word vomit even 1/64 of the content that have made up these blogs to a colleague who asked me how my weekend was. That’s the wrong time, the wrong place, and likely the wrong audience. But I am learning to stand firmly in my own life and when called upon, to share my experiences, my wounds, my scars, my tears, my laughter, my mistakes, and the successes that have made me me. And in order to tell the story I am about to tell, it is going to require a bit of all of that. But as I have discovered, I can’t clear out the clutter if I am unable or unwilling to call it what it is. So here it goes.

It all started this weekend. Well, wait, that’s a lie. It all started many years ago, but the premise for this blog started this weekend. Saturday to be precise. I woke up, put both my feet firmly on the floor, made my way to the kitchen, put a kettle of tea on, and made a list of things I wanted to accomplish before my tax appointment later that afternoon. The list included the usual, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping as well as some one-off’s like making a bike maintenance appointment, buying some gear for an upcoming trip, and responding to emails. I washed towels, rugs, robes, blankets, bedspreads, socks, pants, underwear, shirts, spoons, spatulas, blenders, bowls, knives, basically anything that could be washed was washed. I scrubbed counters, floors, sinks, and even shoes. My music was loud and my motivation was off the charts. I was crossing things off my list left and right. So fast that I moved on to other tasks like cleaning out closets, drawers, and cabinets. And it is here that the story begins.

While I had cleaned everything on the surface. The dishes were done, the counters were sparkling, and my rugs and blankets were cozy fresh. It wasn’t until I started cleaning the otherwise-hidden-from-view spaces and places that I realized my life is still cluttered, literally and figuratively. I am talking paid-4-years-ago-parking-ticket-receipts, shoes-with-price-tag-still-on-them, never-worn-that-sweater-once type of clutter. But I am also talking about every single piece of paper associated with my OWI type of clutter.

Now, before I go any further. I want to acknowledge that I know drunk driving kills people. I know that there are individuals and families that will never be the same because of mistakes similar to mine. I will never say I understand that hurt because I cannot begin to. Instead, what I will say is that I am sorry. I will forever be ashamed of my actions and I will forever thank God with reverence that the only person injured was me. I have read enough M.A.D.D articles/comments associated with them to know that there is little sympathy for offenders like myself, so let me assure you that I am not asking for that here. I know what I did was wrong. But I have also read enough of those articles/comments to know what it does to someones self-worth. I am not trying to take a side on this issue, because the grief, the shame, and the gravity of these situations is very real. Instead, I am merely suggesting that there needs to be room for forgiveness. And I am speaking specifically about self-forgiveness. Hear me when I say I am not suggesting that families find room for forgiveness of offenders, that is not my place nor would it be an accurate prescription of forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t activated when the offender is ready to be forgiven, it is activated when the offended is ready to bestow it.

But in the case of self-forgiveness, there needs to be room for that type of healing.

Personally, I have struggled for years about where my mistakes fit into my story because I am not proud of them. They stand in stark contrast to who I otherwise am and they are the most vulnerable parts of me. Because of this, I have also found that they are the most-fertile breeding ground for shame. I am not exaggerating when I say I have been in a self-worth wrestling match for years because of mistakes I’ve made. And on Saturday, I had a tough time throwing away all the remaining physical reminders of my OWI. I felt guilty. I felt like I didn’t deserve to move on.

But the truth is, I am not that girl anymore. And I don’t want the definition that follows my name to be inked in the context of shame for a mistake I made years ago. I don’t have to live there, but I do have to make the choice to move. And this weekend, I took another step toward finding a new home in self-forgiveness. I cleaned out the clutter. And by doing so, I created not only physical space, but mental and emotional space as well.

Bottom line, I am not proud of what I did, but I am proud of who I am becoming. I cannot change the choices I have made but I can choose how I treat myself. And so can you. This isn’t just for those of us who have OWI’s, it is for anyone who has made a mistake – which is all of us. Not one single person on this planet is perfect. So, human-to-human hear me when I say: you don’t have to live in fear and shame, you are allowed to heal, you are allowed to grow, you are allowed to change, and you are allowed to define who you are. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.

If you are struggling with shame, living in fear of what will happen if you let go of the pain that has defined you, or just plain punishing yourself – stop. Make a choice to clear out the clutter. And if you need a place to start, well grab a trash bag (literally or figuratively) and ask yourself these questions:

  • Where in my life do I need to clear out clutter?
  • Where do I need to make a choice to free up physical, mental, or emotional space in my life?
  • Where in my life do I need to humble myself and accept grace?
  • Where do I need to start the hard work of self-forgiveness?

 

Be gentle with yourself,

M.

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