Ten years ago this past July Juan and I moved into our house. Compared to the one bedroom English basement we shared in Mount Pleasant it was a palace–expansive and huge and wide open. Of all the things we loved about the house, the most magical were the closets. In Mount Pleasant we had only one closet in the whole damn place–one closet to store his clothes and mine, the shoeboxes full of memories, the rollerblades and iceskates and winter boots and summer sandals. Here we could have his and her closets. A closet for coats. A closet for out of season clothes. A closet for linens.
In the front of the house is a den. The real estate agents call it a bedroom and I suppose it could be one in a pinch. It is large enough for a desk, a chair, some shelves. Even though I doubt a twin bed would fit in comfortably, the real estate agents can call it a bedroom because it has a closet. This closet was most wonderous of all–a deep bonus closet in a bonus room. I dubbed it “the knitting closet.”
In my younger days I had three or four knitting projects going at once. The projects were always scattered around the apartment in their half-finished glory, shoved into one basket or another. And then there was the yarn I would buy at wool festivals or on sale from my favorite shop. And the yarn that was left over from the projects I had finished–the yarn that was too beautiful to throw away even if I had no idea what to do with it. It littered our apartment and drove Juan nut–all that wool.
And so, ten years ago, as I stood in my grown-up house, I knew that all the collateral clutter that came with my creative outlet would finally have a home. Its own special closet. A place where I could put all things creative. The place I would stores the pages and pages of patterns, the unwieldy piles of books, the hooks and the needles and the bags of wool and cotton that would one day become sweaters.
A few days ago I found myself on the phone with a friend of a friend. She is an astrologer and an intuitive and a woman of power. I had never had my chart done and I thought it would be a fun thing to do–an early birthday present for myself. I had heard so much about Charlotte from our mutual friend and I had a feeling she was my kind of sister. The chart reading gave me an excuse to support another mama in her business and to finally connect with someone I had longed to meet anyway.
An hour into our conversation, I was in tears. I wanted what she was saying to not be true but deep in my heart I knew she was right and it reduced me to a puddle. I don’t know if it appeared in my chart, if she felt it as a clairvoyant or if she just figured me out in the first hour of our friendship. But she nailed me. She said that I think I am done letting go but I have so much more to do. She said I want to move on, but I am still stuck. She said I think I am in touch but I am missing the mark.
She told me that I am the type of person who wants to box things up in neat little packages and declare them finished. I want to draw bright lines around the events in my life and proclaim them to be done. “whew…what a journey…So glad I learned from THAT experience….so glad I am OVER that…so happy to have crossed the torrential river to have found safe ground. No looking back now. Its done. ” I want things to be tidy and linear. I want to move forward into a place that is neater and less complicated. I pack up my experiences in little boxes and shove them into closets.
Now wonder this line from this song has haunted me all summer:
You pass through places, and places they pass through you
and you carry them with you on the soles of your travelin’ shoes…
I box it all up and shove it in a closet.
Yesterday, the three day long migraine started to let up and I was finally able to get up and move about. I could move but I could not really think or read or look at a computer or even a TV. I couldn’t stand to sit in bed more more moment and so instead I decided to clean my home office. Mindless work that would allow me to move my body gently. All the better if I couldn’t think.
My office has become a junk room. I never work there anymore, instead dragging my laptop to the dining room table and work here at the end of it. I know it would be so much more serene if I just had use of the closet. The knitting closet.
Over the years, the knitting closet has become a cartoon version of itself. It is so stuffed full of crap that you have to open it only a quarter of the way and shove something in quickly lest the whole mountain of stuff fall out on your head. Really. The closet was filled with half-finished knitting projects and half-finished scrapbook pages, bags and bags of yarn, candle making supplies, and paper and toys Max no longer played with.
I have attempted to clean out the closet in years past. I sometimes made small progress, sorting the yarn into bins and the unfinished projects into piles. Baby projects, gift projects, things I started for myself but never could complete. But cleaning out this closet was always a frustrating experience because I could never allow myself to throw anything but a few errant pieces of paper away.
Each unfinished project represented a dream to me. A small dream, maybe a dream I forgot I had, but each project represented a piece of my history, a piece of my heart. There were the pillowcases I bought in Mexico and had started to embroider that I swore would one day decorate our marital bed. There were the girly-baby sweaters that I had abandoned when Max was born, deciding instead to pick them up when I got pregnant again. There were gifts for friends I had long ago forgotten. There was yarn I bought when I was poor and ambitious–yarn I had intended to make into things to sell, yarn I had intended to make into things to make the house pretty, yarn I had intended to make into things to make me look sexy when I lost that 10 pounds. There was the half completed barnyard animals that I had started for a friends child but kept because maybe Max would someday have a child would appreciate them. There were the patterns for the jackets I had intended to make as a way to supplement my income. Each one of them representing hours and hours of hard work I couldn’t dare declare to be in vain. Each one of the things shoved half finished into the closet reminded me of some unfinished business I might just come back to, a dream that perhaps had not quite come to fruition, but maybe, possibly, one day might. Better hold onto it, just in case.
There was nothing to do but throw it all out.
Half-finished dreams shoved in a closet, even when they are disguised as trite metaphors, have a way of being sticky.
I went through it all, the yarn, the needles, the projects half knit. I stopped weighing the hours that had gone into each piece and asked myself instead was I really going to finish it? The answer to every project but one was no. And so, I salvaged what I could, collected the needles and the stitch holders and notions in my tool box. I saved the most precious, luxurious and wonderful of yarn that had not been made into anything–that had no dream attached and gave away or threw away the rest of it.
As I struggled over throwing away the partially completed projects I realized it was not all my work that I was still attached to but rather whatever the half-finished project represented to me–a sibling for Max, a Christmas when I would surprise Juan, a life where I knit and designed things for a living. Dreams I had thought I had let go of, but maybe only half way, dreams that were still half complete and shoved in the back of my heart.
I want so badly to be done with loss. I am really anxious to come to the place on the other side of the river when grieving is not necessary. I don’t like coming back in circles to the place where I stood before, the place where grief feels raw and fresh. I want to be Polly Anna and all aglow in gratitude for the life I have made in place of the life I thought I would have. I want to get to the other side and be DONE WITH IT ALREADY.
But there is no other side. There is just my life. With the closets that need emptying, one by one.