I’m at an age where I expected to be a little wiser than I am.
I expected wisdom to arrive like a brilliant shining light accompanied by the sound of trumpets. Instead, when wisdom belatedly arrives, it looks more like a soggy package that was left on the stoop in the rain. The cardboard is damp and the ink has run. It is hard to tell, in its sodden state, if this package was even intended for me.
I’m disappointed in myself because of an argument I had with Daniel. It was sort of a cascading debate that started out with a knee-jerk reaction and wound up looking and smelling a lot more like a fight than a discussion.
The particulars are not as important as the fact that the idea I was defending so tenaciously was a lot like a really cool skirt I had in college. It was red and handwoven and I loved walking around town in it with tall suede boots and a scarf thrown around my neck. The idea was sort of sophisticated, when I was twenty-five, and it felt right on me; it gave me confidence and I became very attached to it.
I remember the skirt vividly and how good it made me feel, but I gave up the actual skirt years ago. I gave it up because the elastic in the waist had deteriorated, it sagged in the butt, and the color had started to bleach out to the color of a sickly tomato. It was sort of a baggy, faded relic that wouldn’t stay up without a safety pin at the waist by the time I finally said goodbye to it. Only after I decided to throw it out did I realize that I had long ago stopped wearing red.
Losing the skirt was liberating. I have removed nearly everything in my closet that does not both fit and reflect my current preference in color or style. I’ve given away perfectly good clothes for the simple reason that they are the wrong size. There is no reason on earth to keep a skirt that does not fit simply because it once did.
Why is it so easy to clean out my closet and so hard to clean out my head?
Looking hard at a cherished opinion or idea and asking myself, “do I really even believe this anymore?” feels like a betrayal of myself. I defined myself with that idea— I was the girl in the bright red skirt, and who would I be without it?
Yet the weight of old ideas holds me back and makes it hard to be genuinely curious about another person. “Why does he think that way? How does that make him who he is?” Instead of an open hearted curiosity, I am busily climbing into my baggy, faded arguments about why what he thinks is somehow wrong or ill-considered.
Letting go of expected outcomes and plans and simply accepting what life offers gives me incomparable freedom. Letting go of my need to control the feelings of others is hugely liberating. But just as I was congratulating myself on all the psychic space I had cleared out of my mental closet, I discovered that I am still greedily hoarding away boxes of dusty old beliefs that have not fit me in years.
It is time, once again, to lighten the load.
I may feel a pang of nostalgia as I pitch away thirty-year-old ideas but I suspect, like that terrific red skirt, I’ll never miss them once they’re gone.
Till next time,