My dear Sweatpants & Coffee tribe,
I’ve been obsessed lately with cleansing and purging. Not with special teas or diets; nothing involving fasting or bodily fluids. I mean in my head and my heart and my life.
I thought maybe it began with my mother’s death and the utter finality of sorting through her few remaining possessions. It was different than when my father died. That was wrenchingly hard, but not like this. My sister and I, though heartbroken, didn’t need to find a resting place for every single item because, well, Mom was still there. She’d be the custodian of his drawings and scraps of writing, the dish on the dresser where he emptied the loose change from his pockets, his art books. This time, it was weird knowing that if neither of us was going to keep a thing, it would have to be donated or thrown out.
I got really good at sorting through the artifacts of a life. We only had a few days to clear out her tiny apartment, so there was no time for lengthy deliberation. Keep. Donate. Trash. The parameters were blessedly clear, and the time constraints were an excuse to focus only on the task at hand. Half a box of paper clips? Trash. Blouses that neither of us would wear? Donate to women’s shelter. Love letters from Daddy? Read, cry, keep. In three days, we had the place bare and scrubbed. Mom would have appreciated the efficiency.
When I got home to California, wounded and sorrowing, I brought back with me a crystal clarity, a finely calibrated bullshit-o-meter. That’s one of the gifts of grief. You have NO bandwidth for trivial nonsense. You’re dog-paddling as hard as you can to keep your head above water, so you have a finite amount of fucks to give.
In the week after my return, I cleaned out every room in our house. I gave away 90% of my clothing (don’t worry, I had way too many clothes, I’m fine). I decluttered the shit out of our house and my family watched, bemused. The sheer amount of unnecessary stuff was unbearable to my sunburned psyche. It had to go.
I found it was the same with people. There are the ones who show up, and then there are the ones who show you who they are. When I was bald and vomiting my guts out after chemotherapy or sobbing until I thought I might turn inside-out because my mother was in the next room gasping for breath as her body shut down, there were people who loved me right through it. And there were others who faded away, probably simply because they didn’t know what to say or do. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t mad. I just had no capacity or desire to wonder about their absence or speculate as to why. All I could do was focus on what was in front of me, and that was comforting.
So, that’s my secret to the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Entire Freaking World: accept what is. Don’t worry about it. Don’t overthink. Just deal with what you’re facing. To truly cleanse, you have to let go without bitterness. Everyone is doing their best, and sometimes that best is not what you need. It’s okay. You’re okay. And in the clear, bright space that remains, you’ll find peace.