2013 was a year of releasing. I found myself cleaning out closets and storage areas, throwing out old decorations and recycling scrap metal that had lived in my junk pile for ages. I was on a mission, and nothing was safe..from my kitchen cabinets to my toiletries. All this was brought on by the passing of my spouse’s Grandfather. We had the task of cleaning out a house that had been collecting stuff for 40-plus years. What an eye-opener! Anyone whose ever been tasked with something like this knows it can be a great inspiration to downsize and clear out the clutter at home.
In that spirit, I began going through some old papers to make room in an ill-used file cabinet. Now I know, this sounds like something we all need to do but NEVER find the time to do. But as I pressed on, I came across my Creative Writing journals from college. Procrastination opportunity! I sat down on the floor to page through them.
I was fortunate to attend Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, a small haven for the Liberal Arts. Wanting to tap into the wealth of published English professors on faculty, I took several writing classes with some very bright authors. We were required to turn in a weekly journal of ideas, poems, stories and general observations. Being a prolific journal-writer already, it was no hardship for me to faithfully deliver my pages each week.
I anticipated insight and brilliance in those long-forgotten spiral bound journals. I first noticed the doodles and quotes that decorated every space on the covers, recalling those heady days of optimism and freedom that epitomized my college experience. The more I read, however, the more curious I became. This wasn’t the buried treasure I expected to unearth. Who was this person whose emotional life was so raw and overwhelming? Was this really the roller coaster of my life at that time? My emotions were huge and seemed so very real, and reaction was the name of the game for me at that time. I thought that was the only way to be, ruled by relationship ups and downs and angst of every kind. The person who scrawled those verses and prose was deeply hurting and confused. She really bought into these changing emotions and acted on them as if they were solid and real.
One thing I have learned since that time is that emotions, thoughts, and life itself are not at all solid or fixed. If we wait a moment, these tough emotions will pass. If we pause to breath, the overwhelming anxiety calms down, so we can tap into our innate wisdom and understanding and know what to do. I don’t think I would have been able to hear any of this back then. Time, experience, and truth-seeking has helped me to see that I can live a more peaceful and authentic way.
So there I was, smarting with recognition of my old self smacking me in the face, when one page slipped out of the nest of hand-written notes. For some reason, it caught my eye, and I realized I was looking at a letter to my future self. Here’s what it said:
THERE IS NOTHING TO FEAR (this in caps)! Take off! Start your own mission of finding you! Remember – that which you are seeking is causing you to seek. If you didn’t already know the secret to your fulfillment, contentment or inner harmony, you wouldn’t be searching for it in the first place. It’s already there – complete and ready – and you are on the right path to it. Don’t rush it. Every step in the process is there for a reason. Learn from everything you encounter. And if you find yourself despairing in a situation, reach for an old, proven comfort, be it family, religion, books, meditation, art or writing.
Wow. That stunned me. I realized the truth that we all have great wisdom, even when it’s hidden deep inside our neuroses and pain. It was exactly what I needed to hear that day. I kept that one piece of printed, lined notebook paper, along with some finished stories, as reminders of that creative time in my life, and I let the rest go.
I gathered up those old journals and took them down to our fire pit. I started a little fire with kindling and a few pages, then I fed those words of fear and confusion to the flames. As the smoke circled me, I knew that I was releasing some deeply held hurt from those past days. I had been carrying it around with me all these years like dead weight.