Trying to Graft the Past Onto the Present Moment

My recent client came upon stacks of her old journals. She hadn't looked at them in years. We were clutter busting over the phone, but I could tell she had shut down. The flow of her words was gone and she spoke in terse and tense words. I could feel the tension in her throat. She was normally a very dynamic woman, and this clutter brought her to a stand still.

She sadly said, "I don't know what to do with these." I asked if she ever looked at the journals. She said she hadn't in over 15 years. She had written them during a very difficult part of her life. She said she was worried that her daughters would discover them when she dies and they would feel her despair. She thought that maybe she could rent a storage locker and keep them in there.

I said the journals served her when she wrote in them, and they aren't serving her now. It's common that we want to hang onto things because of the strong associated memories. It's like trying to adhere the good, strong feelings of the past onto something in this moment. They won't stick and this frustrates us. It's not rational. It goes beyond the intellect. That's why we can keep trying this for months and years. Trying to maintain this fantasy gunks up what matters to us now.

Hearing me talk about her clutter in this matter-of-fact way gave her some distance. She said, "I can see that the journals helped me back when I wrote in them. But I don't need to hang onto them anymore. I'm going to bring them down to the fireplace in my living room and burn them in a letting go ceremony." There was a peacefulness in her words. She got her clarity back.