QUESTION OF THE DAY: Is your home a museum to grief?
About nine years ago, a dear friend called me one morning in a state of joy, to inform me that she had spent all night throwing out old letters, photographs and diaries. She sounded so free and light, it was amazing.
My jaw dropped.
Letters and photographs and diaries???!!! Who throws out letters and photographs? That's the stuff you're supposed to run back into the flaming house to rescue during a fire, right?
But she had thrown away several garbage bags of it, she said. Because many of those letters and photos and journals, it emerged in the conversation, were relics of her sad old failed relationships, or documents of bad times. She had been holding onto them the way we often do — as some sort of dutiful recording of her complete emotional history — but then she said, "I don't want my house to be a museum to grief."
The historian in me balked at the idea of this — you can't throw away letters, photos and diaries!!!
But I took her words to heart. I couldn't shake the sense that she was onto something. I couldn't forget how joyful her voice had sounded. I couldn't stop thinking about what miseries I had stored in my attic, literally hanging over my head.
Later that week, I took a deep breath. Then I took two big black garbage bags and did a MAJOR cleansing. Divorce papers. Angry letters. Tragic diaries of awful times. (YEARS of them: the chronicle of my depression.) Vacation photos of friendships now severed. Love letters and gifts from men who had broken my heart. All the accumulated evidences of shame and sadness. All of it: IN THE TRASH.
What was left were only items that made me feel light and lucky and free when I saw them.
That was nine years ago. I have never missed one single piece of it since.
So I ask you — are you holding onto anything that spurs memories of shame, of abandonment, of loss, of sorrow? (I don't mean healthy sorrow, like photos of a beloved friend or relative now deceased. I mean items like the letter where your ex-lover explains why it's all over, why you aren't good enough. That kind of stuff.)
Throw it away. Trust me.
See what happens when you stop hoarding sorrow.
Don't be a museum to grief.