There is fall cleaning, and spring cleaning. And then there’s THIS spring cleaning.
In the fall, we prepare for winter. We turn our focus inward, bringing in the outdoor furniture, putting our outside plants to bed for a long winter nap. We prune and mulch and haul wood and generally begin to batten down. We say goodbye to fresh air (as late as possible!), closing our windows against the cold. We prepare to hibernate to the extent that we need to, both personally and geographically. We get ready to get COZY.
And for a while, it is wonderful. We bundle up in sweaters and warm coats, pile under blankets to watch movies or enjoy a fire. Forays out into the world are quick and strategic, the cold sometimes so biting that it physically hurts to breathe. It’s a lot of fun, even feeling like an adventure. Maybe we get caught up in the holidays and the details that go into planning for family reunions or winter vacations.
After a time, the charm begins to fade. Frustration mounts with the bulkiness of all of our STUFF: heavy coats, mittens, hats, scarves, bags, boots. Our bodies might have gotten bulkier, too, feeling slow and sluggish and pale. Being cooped up inside is no longer a cozy adventure; cabin fever sets in and we get claustrophobic, snappish. We are weary of snow, ice, school cancellations and delays. WE ARE BORED AND WE CAN’T FUCKING BREATHE INSIDE OR OUT.
But then, seemingly all at once, the thermometer is well north of freezing and we can breathe outside without scorching our lungs. Next is the absolute heaven of being able to open the windows and let the house take a nice, deep breath of its own. The dust and clutter that frankly became wallpaper over the winter is suddenly intolerable. EVERYTHING MUST GO: dust and cobwebs in the corners, recycling, old files, ashes from the hearth, clothes that have worn out their welcome, EVERYTHING.
And all the while, the house breathes through its open windows, coughing the winter dust and grit from its lungs: in, out, in, out. It feels the sun on its skin just as we do, and the sounds of stirring life outside fill its ears, too.
There is something especially primal about this round of spring cleaning. I feel this urge every year, but there is a feral quality to it this time that is kind of shocking to me, though not unpleasant. There was something particularly tough about this winter, which started off mildly enough. Perhaps I just have a polar vortex hangover from last year, who knows?
Maybe (and more likely) I’m just getting older and *gasp* actually liking myself better. I have long believed that less is more, and I think there’s a part of me that is ready to put my money where my mouth is in a new way. I’m pretty good at purging things periodically and I’m always equalizing (something new comes into the house, at least one old thing must go). What’s happening, though, is that I’m experiencing a much deeper cut, and not all of the shit I’m jettisoning is shit you can see. Under these old, dusty files are the archives.
Oh, those archives. We’ve all got them. Buried under lock and key, combination vaults booby-trapped with poison darts, encased in concrete and sunk to the bottom of the sea. THOSE archives.
I’m bringing them up.
And what’s most amazing to me is that I’m not scared. I attribute this largely to being in my forties, a time in which I have experienced the most peace and freedom in my life. Additionally, I have a decent amount of very good therapy in my past, as well as lots and lots of other support. Life is not always easy, but it is damn good and I am a lucky woman.
My approach is different this time, too. In the past, when I’ve decided that something needed to be changed, I went at it hammer and tongs. There was nothing peaceful or forgiving of myself about it, no gentle curiosity. It was a tactical, combative, 100% fight-or-flight mentality. This time, I’m confident that I can go through the archives slowly, cleaning up and dusting off one patch at a time. I can carefully oil the locks and retire the darts and explosives, one by one. I can take a long, cool look around and see what needs to go, and what can stay.
This spring is reflecting back to me a very interesting, pivotal crossroads. Don’t know why; doesn’t matter why. It’s not that I think I’ll NEVER get rid of this old baggage if I don’t act now, but there’s something that’s really compelling me to act on it now–respectfully. I want to cultivate and protect this feeling of lightness and freedom and see where it takes me, this “lean horse for a long race,” to borrow a phrase from Kaye Gibbons.
There’s every chance that we’ll get another snowfall yet, but I see you, Spring. I SEE YOU.