It is amazing how long it can take to clear out the remnants of a former life.
It is more remarkable that you find you are clearing out remnants of your former self. As you clear out physical items you no longer need, you realize you have also cleared out pieces of yourself that are no longer useful.
I do believe you must make room for the new if you want to welcome it. New lives don’t just saunter into cluttered spaces where the old remains.
You have to put out the welcome mat.
But I began to see that the woman who began that filing system is now a bit of a stranger to me.
As I pulled out old files labeled “Travel” and “Kids”, I felt a million miles away from that woman, God bless her heart.
That woman was so very sure that she was going to go to all of the exotic places she collected clippings and photos of; it was just a matter of time. We had a five- and 10-year plan, after all. We were on an upward trajectory, my spouse and I.
That former self had enough spare time to contemplate, without breaking out in hives, making a birthday cake from scratch—a feat that ate up an entire afternoon. Or volunteering in the library at school for a few hours. Making it to book club more often than not.
She was able to leave the car repair records and investment files to someone else. She had a partner to help her; they divided and conquered.
Life made me leave that woman behind, at least for the time being. I could see her cringe when I recycled the travel ideas; could hear her gasp as I gave up on ever making the fancy lemon cake that put Julia Child to shame. Once was enough, I guess.
As a divorced mother of two, who supports my family financially, book club is a luxury I can no longer afford. I read, but it may take me months to finish a book. I still love to cook but I have said sayonara to the complicated recipes I used to collect. Those are for chefs with far more time on their hands.
I felt a bit sorry for myself as I thought these things, truth be told.
And then . . .
. . . In the back of that filing cabinet, buried under old diploma covers, was a small book bound in blue cloth. It was imprinted with white flowers. It is not my style. But it was my style as a teenager.
I had found a book, long forgotten, that my teenaged self created. It was filled with a far more girlish, more legible script than my current hurried scrawl.
It was packed with poems and bits of inspiration that had struck my younger self. She may not have needed many of them at the time. I’m not sure she even knew why some of them resonated.
But I knew. My forty-something self knew and then some.
It was as if I was being offered encouragement from my much younger version. What was written on the pages of that book seemed to speak to me in my seventeen-year-old voice.
It was as if life had guided me, 30 years ago, to provide myself with the encouragement I would need three decades hence.
If you think about the full-circle effect, it is kismet at its best.
There I was, feeling sorry for myself, wishing for a wise voice of comfort. And who provided that voice to me but my very self, decades younger and far less wise.
But wise enough to provide me with the sage advice of well-known poets and ancient sages, whose words she offered me on page after page.
I wiped my tears of gratitude. I remembered writing those words in my bedroom years ago, as if it was yesterday. I could hear the neighbor’s poodle barking. The sound of my crush’s ten-speed bike as it flew by my house yet again. The smell of the chop suey my mother was making for dinner.
A bit like a wormhole, time seemed compressed. I felt I could reach out and touch that girl, stroke her hair—and remain silent on all of the adventures, good and bad, that were in store for her.
I was so grateful for her and her beautiful, quiet soul. In a way I’m not always grateful for my soul now.
Yet, they are one and the same.
In that reminder lies the kismet.