2016 – Portrait of the Artist

I have an annual tradition where toward the end of the year I deep clean my apartment and purge everything I don’t use.  Year after year I slowly work myself toward being a minimalist.

If you come across an item you’re not sure about while you’re in the process of decluttering there is a three-question system you use:

  1. Do you actively use it?
  2. Do you need it?
  3. Do you love it?

I’ve been doing this for a while, so most things need two or more yeses to stay.

This year what struck me as I started cleaning out my ever-dwindling cabinets is that they are not full of “things” anymore. They are full of the people I used to be, or people I wish I was.

The calculator from one of my old office jobs. I loved that job and used that calculator 900 times a day. Haven’t touched it in years.  I still use a calculator at least once a day, but as an app on my phone.  Will I forget the office job or my incredible co-workers without it?No.  I don’t use it and I don’t need it… It’s the memories I love, not the calculator.  Yes, I’ll let it go.

The copy of War and Peace I’ve started and failed to finish at least half a dozen times. Every time I pick it up I insist to myself that I will, in fact, succeed at reading War and Peace.  Why?  Because I have somehow convinced myself that doing so will prove that I am a smart person.

But…I’m already a smart person.  Have been my whole life. This is a random goal I’ve assigned myself to prove – to myself – something that has already been proven.  What. The. Hell?  I don’t use it, I don’t need it and I don’t love it… Okay, I’ll start reading it again tonight and if it doesn’t take this time then that’s it for real.  (Sigh)

The perfumed “soothing night cream” I’ve held on to for years because I would love to be one of those elegant women who uses such products while she spends 30 minutes or more getting ready for bed every night.

I picture her complete with long, satin nightgown and matching robe sitting on her faux fur stool in front of her Hollywood-lit vanity looking picture perfect while she calmly and elegantly pats her face with a billion-count Egyptian cotton towel.  She glides, swan-like, to her bedroom and floats into her perfectly made bed smelling of luxurious “soothing night cream” where she drifts into a peaceful slumber on her satin pillowcase.

That woman didn’t accidentally step in cat vomit with a bare foot on the way to the bathroom.  She isn’t exhausted from the insomnia that comes with giant composition projects. Her brain doesn’t start going in wild circles that it feels impossible to stop.  She doesn’t have her therapist on speed dial.

No wonder I can never bring myself to toss the night cream.  Look how magical it is!  As long as I have that little pot of cream in my hand I can pretend that the potential to be that other woman is right there.  All I have to do is start using it and I will be a totally different person.

That there is some amazing-as-shit fucking night cream.

See how ridiculous this is?

The truth is I can’t stand sleeping in satin gowns.  They’re fucking uncomfortable.  As far as I’m concerned they were designed by someone who never rolls over.  30 minutes to get ready for bed?  Please.  I might wash my face before bed once or twice a month.  Most of the time I wake up with yesterday’s makeup on.  I’m happy if I remember to brush my teeth let alone anything past that.  I do use satin pillowcases.  But they all have mascara and drool stains on them and they don’t match my sheets.

But does any of that mean I’m less happy than the woman in my imagination?  Nope.  For all I know she’s gliding swan-like because she’s doped up on valium and can’t feel her legs.  Maybe she has 30 minutes to get ready for bed every night because nothing has ever inspired her to the point of mania.  Maybe her outside life looks so perfect because her inside life is a disaster.  I bet she hasn’t even read War and Peace.

We all do this.  And It’s not just the physical things we hang on to hoping to be other people.  It’s the emotional stuff too.  The old ideas and images of ourselves that are outdated, or have been proven inaccurate, or we’ve grown past, but somehow we forget to throw them away, or worse, consciously cling to them as if our very lives depended on them.  Do you realize how much of our energy we waste dragging all that unnecessary shit around with us year after year after year?

No more.  This year I am choosing to consciously dump some of my old emotional stuff along with the things in my drawers.

When I was younger I was horribly irresponsible and always late for everything.  That has not been true for years, yet I still think of myself as being irresponsible.  No longer – I’m tossing that one.

I was raised by an older generation who truly believed I could only expect to succeed so far because I’m a woman.  I was a baby and didn’t know any better, so I believed it too.  Even though I know better now part of me still carries that old original belief around.  Original beliefs are tricky to get rid of, which is partially why I kept carrying it around.  Not anymore – I’m chucking it.

Shit started to hit the fan for me in spring of 2014.  Which rolled into 2015, which rolled into 2016.  It was beyond awful.  2016 continued to be awful until about June. While still not rosy and bright, the last 6 months of 2016 have been, emotionally, on a gentle upswing for me.

Part of what’s holding me back from a bigger upswing is that I’m clinging to all the hurt and fear and anger from the last few years.  It was so deep and hard and real it’s now become something I use to define myself.

Will I be less of a person if I let it go?  No.  Without it will I forget what happened to me? Hell no.  Why don’t I let it go then?  Because I don’t know who I am without it.  After all this epic change I genuinely am not sure who I am anymore.  That is terrifying.  Not knowing who you are is the scariest thing ever.  But can I find out who I am now while I’m still carrying this shit around? (avoids eye contact, shuffles feet…)

If you come across an item you’re not sure about while you’re in the process of decluttering there is a three-question system you use:

  1. Do you actively use it?      Yes.
  2. Do you need it?                    No.
  3. Do you love it?                 Hell No.

Happy New Year, Everyone!  xoxo –Kat

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