So it’s Spring, and I’m in the process of decluttering, aka Spring Cleaning! WooHOO! Okay fine, I’m only really decluttering because the Universe sent me message after message that it was time to do that again – so by the 4th message I finally listened. :) Either way – Yes, it was time to declutter.
When we think about decluttering, we usually think about all the material stuff in our homes just taking up excess space – cutesy trinkets on shelves, old pairs of worn-out shoes, or that stack of magazines that never got read (This is my 2nd time reducing the same stack … I’m gettin’ there). We think about the physical objects we can see, because, well … we can see them. The reason why decluttering is so important is because every object we own, whether it’s useful to us or not, is made up of energy and therefore also takes up energy just by being in a space. Have you ever noticed how when your home or office is untidy that it becomes harder to accomplish tasks in that space? Maybe you notice you’re moving at a slower pace, easily get distracted or just don’t accomplish tasks at all because there’s a sense of overwhelm with all this extra stuff around you? Everything in our personal space takes up energy and influences our personal energy.
So what about the stuff we can’t see? The stuff that fills up our minds, our hearts, our bodies…? The stuff that happened in the past that continues to take up our energy and slow down our personal progress – the emotional clutter.
The sadness about a relationship that didn’t pan out the way you thought it would
The family fight that occurred over a year ago that still upsets you to this day
The death of a loved one from more than a decade ago
Whether it happened yesterday or twenty years ago, some experiences end up occupying our mental space way longer than we would ever intend for them to. As I write this, I can see SO many directions to take this conversation – I’m seeing themes of intention, attachment to outcomes, acceptance of what is, the power of letting go, anger, frustration, intense – INTEEEEEEENSE – sadness, and forgiveness …and I’m sure there’s more. What’s coming up for me most in this moment, though, is a combination of acceptance and forgiveness.
So here I am decluttering. One of the main areas I wanted to target today was a box of old cards and special notes I’ve received over the years. You know the one. All those special memories you just aren’t ready to toss into a trash can simply because the holiday or special event passed – especially when someone writes a really heartfelt note inside. This isn’t to say I’ve kept every single card I’ve ever received, but I’ve certainly kept a lot. So, I set a time limit for myself of when I’m to be done with my decluttering; I open my box, and BAM! Two cards in, and I’m crying like a baby. I came across a card my mom sent me right after my dad died in 2002. Time limit – out the window!
Now hold up – I’m a strong woman who’s a huge believer in healing, moving forward and doing as much as I can to not let the past hold me back in life. Does that mean it’s easy? Of course not. Does that mean stuffing it all down and pretending it never happened? Nope. Doesn’t mean that either. When my dad died it was one of the hardest things I’ve experienced to date. Let’s see if I can explain this in a nutshell. My dad was never really around; I have a small amount of in-person experiences and memories with him, but yet I know we ALWAYS had a strong, powerful connection and deep love for each other. I’ve always known and felt this, which probably made it just that much more painful that we had so few experiences together. As a teenager, there came a time I literally forgot I had a dad. Kind of weird, but true. That is, until my dad’s issues started affecting my younger sister. When your baby sister calls you balling her eyes out wondering why her father won’t call her back or act like he cares and she wants YOU to explain it to her, that’s when big-sister-protection-mode kicks in …and I remembered I had a father, too. So out came the anger; letters were written; other family got involved and didn’t understand where I was coming from …and then the silence. For six years my father and I didn’t speak. Not that that was anything drastically different from how it was before, but now we had a known, shared reason for not speaking – someone was mad. Someone was hurt.
A lot happened in that six years – I started my first career path, got married, moved to a different state (twice), continued college and eventually started the process of getting divorced, moving back and …therapy. There was so much to heal. O-M-G. At one point, my therapist suggested I ask my father to come to one of my sessions. Yeah – that one definitely took some time to think about. I mustered the courage to call him and miraculously he said YES! I was floored. So the day came, and… no dad. He didn’t show. We tried it again a couple weeks later and he agreed again … and yeah, he didn’t show again. My dad stood me up. When you’re in your early 20s going through your own divorce and your father who’s had the same pattern of not showing up for you practically your entire life now won’t show up to your therapy session after he JUST AGREED to go – TWICE – that’s a tough blow to take. So you guessed it – more anger and more silence came out of that.
Until … he finally had a breakthrough. I’m not sure what clicked for him, but he started showing up. We went out to eat for his birthday. He took me grocery shopping. He took my car to get fixed. He told me in so many words on the phone how he knew he should’ve been there for me and my siblings all those years. It was the most wonderful and most nauseating conversation I’ve ever had in my life. Honestly, I had never really known what it felt like to have a dad until that moment. The most amazing moment of it all was when he said the words “I’m sorry.” I had finally accepted I would never hear those words, and then… he said them. He died the next day. The “breakthrough” lasted a total of two weeks.
Here’s the thing: I share this not to commiserate about the death of a loved one and cling to issues of the past. I share this to point out that we all have a story that runs deep for us. Something that was incredibly painful, infuriating, filled with so much hurt, upset, frustration and so on – and yet, our story continues, our LIFE story continues. We’re still alive. We get to choose what we take with us as we move forward …and deciding not to choose, or deciding to block stuff out and not process painful emotions, is the same as choosing to take it with us, anyway.
Immediately after my dad died I was in a state of shock. I still went to work that morning because I didn’t know what the heck to do! Fortunately, my aunt welcomed me with open arms to her house where everyone gathered to grieve and plan his funeral. In the days and weeks that followed, I had so much anger boiling up and out of me I KNEW something had to change, otherwise I was going to implode. My dad and I had JUST STARTED to repair our relationship. JUST-STARTED. …and then he died. Our entire relationship (from my perspective) had been filled with broken promises. He had just made a bunch of new promises, and then this. To me, this was the ultimate broken promise. I decided then and there that YES, I was very upset that he was no longer physically around, but I also already knew that we are all more than flesh, and I knew that he believed that too. Just because our physical bodies die, we still exist. So I forced myself to accept that he was physically dead and things were different now, but in no way did that mean I had to accept that the repairing of our relationship had to end. It just wouldn’t. If he wasn’t going to be around physically to do this with me, then I would have to call the shots and we were STILL GOING TO FIX OUR RELATIONSHIP. (You know I’m laughing, right? – I can laugh about it now.) …and so we did.
I talked to him when I needed to. I visited him at the cemetery. I allowed myself to continue to express frustration and anger and sadness as I needed to. I knew that with him being on the other side now, he understood way more about my experience of our relationship than he ever could while he was physically alive on earth. I knew that he knew I needed to release the years of pent up anger, frustration and sadness (my emotional clutter). He got it. He wanted me to heal. And our relationship improved. I was able to start seeing him more as a human and not as someone with evil intentions who had children and just abandoned them only to claim someone else’s children as his own. He was a person who was funny and loving and caring. He had a HUGE heart for people, and I think that’s why so many other people didn’t quite understand my frustration towards him. I think in some ways they didn’t believe that he wasn’t really ever there for his own kids. He was an imperfect person, as we all are. He had his own hurts and issues to be resolved from his own childhood. I don’t know to what extent he ever healed any of those, but I really hope he was able to heal some of them. He was a person who made mistakes in life like we all do. Underneath it all, though, he was a bright, loving soul who just had his own challenging life experiences. He was my father.
I want to take this a step further, though. I no longer believe there really are mistakes in life. After my dad died in 2002, Neale Donald Walsch’s book The Little Soul and the Sun somehow found its way to me (“somehow” …thank you Universe!). It’s about how we are all these beautiful beings of light and we choose to come to earth to learn certain lessons and have certain experiences. What’s required for us to learn and experience something new, though? Often there’s some form of challenge or conflict that we have to overcome – and many times those challenges come through the other people in our lives. Walsch’s book is about how when one soul decides to come down to earth to experience something, other lovely, wonderful, bright souls agree to assist in helping that first soul to have those experiences. So that means that some souls will need to dim their light and not necessarily act as loving and wonderful as they truly are, so the other person can experience what it is they want to experience.
When I read that book, many experiences in my life started to make so much more sense. And the journey continued as I explored and learned more and more about who we really are, our ability to connect with loved ones on the other side and so on. I no longer think of death as the “end.” It’s an end, but not THE end. We are so powerful that we get to choose what comes next, even after someone dies, a relationship changes or things don’t turn out in a way that is painless for us. The key is being flexible enough that we’re willing to change our notions of how we thought life was supposed to be in the first place. Sometimes we’re so resistant to change that things just get worse and worse until we’ve immersed ourselves in so much pain and emotional scarring that we’re faced with a choice: The choice to either continue to cling to the shoulds and expectations we have for others and our own life, OR the choice to surrender to something different that we may have never seen coming or tried to avoid including as part of our life experience all along …and with that surrender comes the relief. The pain starts to soften and dissipate over time. The mental and emotional clutter of attaching ourselves to outcomes that never happened for us, starts to wash away. We start to see life through new, fresher eyes. Possibilities open up and the healing becomes this beautiful thing we’ve allowed into our life.
We grow up in this world thinking life is supposed to be one certain way, and when it doesn’t turn out that way, our attachment to any expected outcome can leave us feeling stuck – because we reeeeally wanted what we thought we were supposed to get. But life throws us curveballs and we all know there are no guarantees. Does that mean we are powerless? Does that mean life and expectations are bad and pointless? Does that mean you are any less worthy of receiving what you want through other means, through other people? Absolutely not. Context counts for a lot and so does remaining flexible and fluid to receiving what we want but just in a different way. And this is where the acceptance and forgiveness comes in. Because you are SO wholly deserving of ALL the love and abundance that is available to you, but sometimes we have to take a look at what’s preventing that from flowing in already. When we avoid or don’t accept what’s happened, we create a wall of resistance to new desired experiences flowing into our life (even when we think we aren’t!). Forgiveness isn’t for the other person; it’s for us. Although we can’t see emotional pain, it can be one of the heaviest pieces of clutter standing in our way preventing us from moving forward. Our painful stories provide opportunities for us to expand into something new – if we accept the challenge.
So, how does one start to release emotional clutter and reframe old stories?
Acknowledge the story and accept it for what it is. It’s okay. We all have stuff that happens and becomes a hurdle for us to move through. Stop trying to fight what happened; the facts of the past can’t change, but you can reframe how it has meaning for you in the future and influence what comes next.
Start loving yourself more now and gather your support system. Some people may be able to stop at this step, but many others will venture deeper as old wounds get re-opened and analyzed. Your support system will come in handy as you move through all of this.
Recognize the gift in your old story. What would forgiving that other person or accepting that this happened give you? Could it be more peace? Could it be the relief that is felt by crying your eyes out some more or allowing yourself to finally feel and cry at all? Could it be a new perspective on life that opens new doors for you that you never expected would come out of THIS situation? Every challenge presents a gift. The innate challenge in that is seeing the gift; but it’s there, and it’s waiting just for you. You could set an intention for how you want to reframe your story, but if that’s too challenging, your reframe will also begin to appear as you find the gift and allow it in.
So – today I cried when I read my mom’s card because I was reminded of the challenge my journey with my father was, but more importantly I was reminded of the beautiful gifts my challenge gave me: Forgiveness, healing, love and an expanded view of the world through my continued connection with my dad even after he transitioned over. I gained even more strength just by working my way through it all, that led to insight and perspective that allows me to now support my clients as they walk through their challenges. Releasing the pain and anger over expectations I had of how I thought my relationship with him was supposed to look, gave me so much freedom and more love than I was allowing in when he was alive! I’m grateful to my dad for his presence both before and after his passing, and for all I have gained from our relationship. It’s not the picture I had painted in my head, but then I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now had I not allowed myself to think outside the box a little. (I also want to give a special Thank You to my mom for being so loving and supportive throughout it all. Love you, Mom ♥)
Whatever challenging stories you might be holding on to that have created unwanted emotional clutter, know that you are not alone – and know that it’s okay to release that clutter. The clutter doesn’t have to be the person or the experience itself, but rather the feelings of being stuck in an emotional cycle that doesn’t feel good and only gets in the way of your future. We don’t have to succumb to a life of emotional pain and buried anger masked under the guise of being “strong.” You deserve way more than that, but it will take some work. Those emotions only serve us in that they tell us there’s something more to be worked through. The things we avoid the most often hold the biggest blessings for us. Sometimes being strong means being willing to break down the wall (…and deal with that shi*!)
You deserve a life of peace, calm, more love than you might say you deserve, but you DO deserve it … and everything else you want to feel and experience. When we release our emotional clutter, it’s like going on Biggest Loser and winning! Except the only competition that exists is you. When you allow yourself to release and heal, you’ll feel SO much lighter and wonder where all your new energy came from. The challenge will have served its purpose; and because you were so strong, you allowed yourself to walk that painful journey so you can get to the other side and be free from it. You are beautiful, strong and filled with so much light. My wish for you is that you won’t let ANY challenging situation get in the way of how brightly you let your light shine (at least not for too long). Give yourself some love, allow yourself to go at your own pace, and then … begin.
With love and a decluttered, open space to feel FREE,
Side Note: When I first saw the card and started crying, Charlie Puth’s “One Call Away” was playing on the radio :) …and as I finish writing this and turned up the radio again, Rachel Platten’s “Stand by You” just came on. Messages from the Universe, from God, from my dad …always hearing us and always speaking to us. I’m so grateful. ♥