I’ve moved a lot. I mean, a lot.
Growing up, that meant going to ten different schools by the time I finished elementary school. I used to get really bothered by the fact that I couldn’t list all of the schools I’ve been to because there were just so many. It seems like a made-up number but it’s not. Some years, I went to multiple schools (in sixth grade, I sat in seats at three different schools). I moved so much, in fact, that my academic record doesn’t exist on paper until 7th grade, when I transferred to my second middle school.
I hated it. I hated not having friends and never feeling like I knew what was really going on around me. I used to think that I would never move when I grew up.
I was wrong.
As an adult, I have moved a lot. It seems as though every few years I grow restless. I’ve rented rooms and lived alone in apartments. I have lived in dorms over summers. I have been a roommate with someone in their house. I’ve moved my furniture around my bedroom when the restlessness grew deep within me but I wasn’t able to fill boxes with my life and put them in a different house.
I’ve been living in the same house for a lot time — it will be two years in August. It’s a record since… well, probably for almost my whole life.
The thing I’ve found so cleansing about moving is that it’s the only time I want to throw away so many things. It’s the only time I have ever felt comfortable letting go.
As a kid, we didn’t really have a lot of our stuff move with us from home to home. because we didn’t have much stuff to begin with. As an adult, I have boxes and boxes of stuff. I moved them from one room to the next house to the dorm back to a room again. I stored them in a storage facility. I watched those boxes and bins get beat up and lose their lids. I’ve taped the sides of busted cardboard boxes up and scribbled the contents on the top in dying Sharpies.
The last time I moved, I got rid of so much. I looked at those boxes taking up space in the shed outside and I thought about my new house and my big closet. It was big enough but not so big that all of those boxes would fit. I was filled with an overwhelming urge to throw it all away. I didn’t care what as in the boxes. I just wanted to be free from all of it.
So every night after work, I would sit outside as the light grew dim and the porch light turned on automatically. It was summer and big mosquitoes flew around my sweaty skin. I swatted them away as I pulled everything out of those boxes, one memory at a time.
That’s what I realized I was holding onto after a while — the memories and the way my physical stuff made me feel. I had so many emotions tied to all of it. My orientation leader binder from college? I saw that and instantly I was filled with days spent with my friends as we laughed and helped students. I thought about the secrets we shared and the time I wore my new wetsuit in the swimming pool. I remembered waking up and seeing pictures on Facebook of Sarah drinking my salsa from the jar. I remembered Eva going with me to get my first tattoo.
It was like this for every item. All my books from grad school. The awards that I had won in college. My notebook of high school essays. Boxes of pictures. An old DVD player. Thing after thing. A duffle bag full of clothes that I wore when I was much thinner. A big box full of journals.
So I took every item from the box and made myself decide if I loved it or if I loved the memories tied to it more. More often than not, the memories of the things got to me. And I began to understand that I could have the memories without the things. My ability to see my joy in the past wasn’t because I had access to a binder or a pair of jeans or a picture. My heart would always remember those memories even without the things.
I threw away a lot, probably 75% of the stuff I had stored. I donated tons. I freed myself from so much in those early summer evenings as I sweated my way through sorting out my life.
Life is kind of like this for me, too. It requires sifting. Some things I have carried with me for too long. I have tried to give them to God but have let my sticky fingers grasp tightly to those things, to that pain. And it’s done no good. It’s only weighed me down in ways that have prevented me from moving forward.
It’s kept me from getting close.
It’s kept me from being free.
It’s kept me from worshiping God fully.
I don’t want those things. None of them are so dear to me that I want to carry their weight and sorrow on my back for the rest of my life.
It’s a fine line when it comes to discarding them, though. I’m finding the balance of saying goodbye to the things like shame and guilt and condemnation while still being able to look back at the things that happened and talk about them with others in order to help bring healing to those people.
Finding this balance is all about seeking God’s grace and mercy as I remember and move forward.
As I sift, I am so honored at the joy that I get to keep, the beauty that I get to hold on to. It has been a crazy-beautiful life and letting go of the hard and the bad and the negative means that there is more space of glory and joy.
I’ll do the process every day for the rest of my life to make more room for the things that really matter.
– – – – – – – – – –
This post is part of a series leading up to my book launch! Check back here on Tuesday for the next installment. And if you haven’t preordered my book Four Letter Words, you definitely want to do it now! Simply fill out this form and I’ll send you an invoice.