I didn’t realize the metaphor until days later, when my therapist pointed it out to me.
Instead, I thought I was being unusually practical. Since moving into where I’m staying now, there were boxes of paperwork and files and the like that I’d simply left untouched, for many reasons: It seemed too daunting to open them up, because there was quite so much in there. It seemed daunting because a lot of my old life, my pre-divorce life, was in there, and I wasn’t ready to look. Or, simply, I had something else to do with my time. Until the other day, when that wasn’t the case anymore.
Instead, I had both the free time and the free brain space to think about opening everything up and resorting it; going through everything and putting it all in an order that made sense to me, discarding what I didn’t need, and basically trying to put it all back together so that I knew where everything was if and when I needed it.
Admittedly, I had no idea quite how far the paperwork went. I genuinely didn’t remember that I had paperwork from my art school days (The program to my degree show, which is more than two decades old now! My diploma!) or that there were forms and duplicates of forms from when I was trying to move to the U.S. for the first time. I was unpacking these boxes and making all these (re-)discoveries, and it was more than a little overwhelming: There was so much of it all.
And so, at some point, I found myself sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of… well, everything, really. Things to keep, things to get rid of, things that I was going to put into a box, tape up and leave in the basement because I’m not ready just yet to make a decision about where it would go.
Days after I did this, spending an entire afternoon and feeling mentally and emotionally washed out afterwards, I explained the whole thing to my therapist, as I said above. She looked at me incredulously. “What?” I asked, confused.
“You… literally went through your past and put it all in order while deciding what you could get rid of, including putting things in a box in the basement because they’re too emotional to think about right now, and you don’t think that’s a little too on the nose?” she asked.
Well, sure. When you put it like that, I do. But until then, it had just been a Saturday afternoon where I felt oddly productive.