Friday, August 13, 2010

Strength to Unpack the Boxes

It is much easier to step over a pair of dirty jeans than to pick it up and put it in a hamper. As the pile of laundry grows, however, the opposite becomes true. Not washing the clothes will only make life more difficult in the future, but with a jammed packed schedule there’s no room to pencil in, “Wash out ring around the collar.”

So how do we quit procrastinating and find the time to remove the clutter before it becomes a problem? Where do we find the strength?

Several years ago when I moved out of New York City, my life was packed away in boxes. Big ones, small ones, rectangular ones, square ones, even round ones, filled with books, pictures, t-shirts, socks, fear and confusion.

Many of the boxes had been in storage for some time, because although my possessions and insecurities had grown larger over the years, my apartments had become smaller. The city was a great place to live while chasing the dream of becoming a writer, but once I caught it, goals, paths and situations changed. I would no longer be able to afford the luxury of a full time job while writing, because writing became my full time job.

The boxes and I found refuge in my childhood bedroom in my mom’s Cow Island farmhouse. I stacked my past in every corner to keep it from getting in the way of my future.

My plate was full. Pages to write, decisions to make, commitments to fulfill. It seemed that no matter how hard and long I worked, there was never enough time to accomplish everything. Smaller tasks would have to wait.

I built walls with the boxes, and used them as stepladders, end tables and shelves. I constantly moved them to get to other things, but there was no time to simply unpack them.

Then my schedule began to take its toll on me in other ways. My body was exhausted during the daylight hours, but couldn’t rest during the evening. I’d toss and turn throughout the night, until the alarm clock sitting on a stack of manuscripts would yell at me to get up and capture every second of the day.

One night I laid wide awake as my body and mind fought over the control of my eyelids. Everything had become too; too exhausting, too overwhelming, too cluttered. I felt tempted to jump in my truck and drive away, leaving the boxes and commitments behind. But there was too much writing, too little time.

I stood and moved towards my desk to turn on a lamp. My goal was to get a little work done, but my body ran into a stack of boxes. One of them fell over onto the floor with a thud, and then the sound of paper sliding across the hardwood floors whispered around me.

After turning on a lamp, my eyes focused in on the damage. An opened box laid on its side in the middle of the room. Journals, tablets and sheets of paper spilled out onto the floor, while pencils rolled under my bed.

I knelt down and picked up the pages and saw that they were old writing exercises and short stories from years before. Many of them had taught me tremendously and others had made me proud. They were scattered all over the floor and there was no way to step over or around them.

The unpacking began. Clothes were organized into closet and charity piles. Dried up ink pens and markers were thrown into the trash with confusion and ten year old packs of gum. Letters from friends, past writing exercises and important financial statements were filed accordingly. Language books, travel guides and writing manuals moved onto shelves with souvenirs like ashtrays and old coffee cans filled with coins.

After that night, I moved freely around my room and accomplished tasks quicker than before. My mind and body were clear and energetic during the day and ready to rest in the evening. My past was all unpacked and organized, and it was only then that I was able to enjoy my present, and see my future.

It seems like it’s a constant battle to find the time to do the laundry, clean the closets, and remove the clutter. But making it a priority can bring peace to our lives and create more efficient paths to our future. Unpacking the boxes will bring us strength.

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