We’re doing some cleaning on this stormy (yes, snow blizzard, Don!) day in April. And while I am on the verge of a rant on the love-hate (today more like hate-hate) relationship I have with all of our stuff, I’m going to have some self control here and go a different direction… for today. Instead, I want to think about what we choose to remember — what we keep and what we think we need to throw away.
While cleaning his room, Luke found a story that he’d made. He read it and then said, “I think we should throw this away. Look! The staples are even on the wrong side!” I was okay with him throwing the book out because I am really in the mood for things to be leaving our house today, and also because I know that we’ve saved lots of other stories that he’s done. But normally those are the things I like to keep — regardless of which side the staples are on.
Each kid has a box in their closet where I put paper things that they’ve written/drawn/made. And after Luke’s comment I started to think of why those things are so important. We keep them not because they are so perfect, but often precisely because they are not! Remember when Luke only wrote in capital letters? Remember which letters Olivia always wrote backwards? Remember when Madeline drew that picture about how I love boobies?! We keep all of those things to show their development, to remember how they’ve grown and all the unique (and bizarre) ideas they had in their heads.
But what about for us? Do we view our “grown-up” develompent in the same way? If we had a box of memories in our closet, what would we put in it? I suspect most of us would be like Luke and not want to put in the things that aren’t “just right.” Are we embarrassed by all of the quirky (or horrible) mistakes we’ve made? Or can we see them as a precious example of how we’ve grown?
Some of us have journals where (if we’re ballsy enough) we’ll actually write down our true thoughts and secret actions– frightening as that is. It is frightening, even if it’s likely that that book will never go further than a few feet from our bedside table. Is this a fear of being known? Is this a fear of really admitting who we are?
I’m not always one to have grace with myself. “Idiot” is a word that often comes to mind when I think about things I’ve done. And yet there are a lot of times when I’ve looked back over struggles and mistakes and have seen the wonderful things that have come out of those situations. Not that my mistakes were erased but, rather, that they (or I) were somehow “okay” — maybe even better!– in the end. The mistakes (and me) weren’t as horrifying or absolute as I’d thought.
A lot of this is a perspective that can only come from looking back. When we’re in the moment, it’s usually not possible to see the repercussions (positive or negative) of what we’re doing. But I think I’d like to adopt this perspective a bit more. I’d like to store up moments in my mind, like the kids’ closet boxes, and realize that the “idiot Dixie” moments should go in there and are just as precious and important as the “clever/graceful/perfect Dixie” ones. They all tell my story and show the way I am growing.
And when we do it with ourselves, we can start doing it with others, too. You can remember the good and the bad not to keep score, but to show grace and look back in wonder at how light is still found in the darkest places, the biggest mistakes, and a bunch of those things you’d have rather forgotten.
Not that it’s an easy thing to do, of course. But I think it would be a beautiful act of humanity if we’d be willing to store (and perhaps hold dear) more of our memories.