The garage needed tending for some time, but we couldn’t bear to face it. There was the literal dirt. And there was the murky muddiness of so many piles of stuff to sort and sift through. It just felt daunting. Even overwhelming. And after all, there were so many more fun and more appealing things to do! Then when Covid-19 hit, like everyone, we found ourselves in the midst of several life shifts. We don’t know which of several things it could have been, but we somehow finally found ourselves lured into the garage and starting at one end. It was hard work. Even painful at times. It took several Tuesdays for weeks to get through it all. At times my life partner and I had to move through the challenge of not always seeing eye to eye on where to move next. There were things that had to be dismantled before they could be thrown away.
Yet it was also rewarding work in ways we could have never anticipated and would have missed out on had we never started. In that mess we unearthed treasures we didn’t know we had. We got to recall memories we had forgotten. And through the process we made more memories that will be just as meaningful to carry into the future. Five weeks and several trips to the trash, Good Will, the recycling center, and to share particular items with family or friends, the task was finished for now. The room was cleaned out and up into something entirely new where at least we pretty much now know where everything is, and what will likely need a little more tending or another look later. I’m really not sure where the motivation came from, but I’m not sure that matters as much as the fact that we dared to follow the movement when it came.
Cleaning out that garage over weeks became a catalyst for reflection on what might need cleaning out in the garage of my heart. Over five weeks of Tuesdays and between I found myself regularly asking what kind of dirt is in there that needs tending, sorting or cleaning up? What kind of murky muddiness is looming that I’m not sure I can face sifting through? How much is there that just feels daunting if not overwhelming to even get started on? After all, with this, too, aren’t there many other more fun and appealing things to spend time on?!! Yet through the literal garage project I found myself feeling called and going down into the heart space as well.
I found myself sorting through various attitudes around Covid-19, politics and racial injustice. Though I had begun some of the journey of unpacking my own racism as a white woman years ago, I was well aware there were still tons of piles left from my formation that needed to yet be cleared out. While cleaning out the literal garage, and at other times, as I began listening to fresh podcasts and reading more recent books on the many dimensions of racial injustice, I found myself in touch with my own struggles of what to hold on to and what to let go of in regard to language or imagery I use, how I spend my time or where I invest my money. I became more aware of attitudes that needed dismantling before they could truly be thrown away. In the corner of the heart holding the Covid and political dirt and piles, I needed to sort and sift through my thoughts around kindness and loving my neighbors. Who did I feel called to be kind to? And if it was everyone, was I willing to commit to hold myself accountable to that? What does it mean to act kindly no matter what someone else chooses to do with masks or distancing? Obviously there were all kinds of things dirty and piled up down there. Apparently all kinds of baggage still needing to be sorted, put on a different shelf, in a special drawer or tossed.
I’ll have to keep you posted on the heart project. I’m still in the process of going through and cleaning up. I’m taking my time. Though these are urgent times, all times have an urgency about them. And remaining steadfast in this kind of clean up, requires looking at small sections at a time over a period of time, lest it get too overwhelming and one quits the task too soon. I’m not concerned, though. I’ve done some of this kind of cleaning and sorting before. And experience makes me hopeful that now that I’ve gone in and gotten started again, if I keep at it, more treasures I could never have anticipated here, too, will come. In time, places it didn’t seem possible will be cleared out and cleaned up into something entirely new where at least I’ll better know what’s there and what likely will need more tending in future days.
And isn’t this the case with all of life, individually and communally? Good clean up is a marathon, not a sprint. I guess if you want to get somewhere alone, go fast. But if you want to get there together, you have to slow down, take hands and dig in. It’s about getting your butt on the journey. Not reaching some ultimate destination. We can’t see the ultimate destination anyway. We can only see the next step, the next pile to pick up. And if you think about it, that’s all we really need to see. It’s about being committed to an active, authentic journey just being willing to keep cleaning up – our house, the neighborhood – a little at a time, trusting that eventually there will be clearer, cleaner space for all to enjoy. It’s about being in the struggle with others, keeping connected especially when you can’t seem to get on the same page with where to move or what to pick up next. After all, aren’t we all life partners in this work?
From my garage, to my heart, to your ears. I don’t know what dirty, cluttered place you might be nudged to dare to enter into, pick a corner, and begin picking up piles. But I hope you are paying attention enough not to miss the invitation. Because I think it comes from Love for the sake of Love. And it always seems worthy of our time.