Lessons from the Clearing

by Jean Marie Johnson

I decided at last to go there, to the place I'd been avoiding for far too long. Of course I'd thought about it in a rare moment of idleness or in a more prolonged wave of characteristic resolve. But it held too much, and so I let those moments pass.

Had I known what I would rediscover there, I would not have stayed away for so very long.

Better not track the time, because I know better. But track I do. I've put in about 50 hours thus far—excavating the basement, the attic, the numerous, cavernous spaces, and the nooks and crannies that hold the stuff of our lives. Photos and furniture, clothes and clutter from the life we live, the lives we've lived, and the lives of those who preceded us.

Nomads and gypsies, we have carried all of these things with us, neurotic hoarders and keepers of the memories that we are. The oldest "thing" my hands touch is a photo of my husband's great aunts, on a vast expanse of promise, deep in America's heartland. It's circa 1890-something.

I am deep in the weeds of the stuff of our lives. It falls to me, I know, to be the judge and the jury, too. I answer the call and buck up: keep, toss, stomp on. Stuff in another and yet another contractor bag. There is a certain rhythm to this. Or, assign it to limbo, a decision for another day, a letting-go I am not quite ready for.

Like my wedding shoes. "Not just yet," they say.

My heart is an undeniable whirl of emotion as I make my way through. And so I conjure an avatar, "Little Mouse," brave but so small in the face of all of this castaway but somehow sacred stuff of our lives, proof of our living. I go on and "she" gets me through.

The hours pass in this private ritual of immersion and decision. I shut off the lights, finally, my heart open, vulnerable—in the best way. And I realize, no, remember, once again, that all of it was just about the love I could wring from it. A thing kept or tossed, it doesn't matter:  I am free.

Now my coarse, weathered hands tell a story of their own. I look down, smile at them for the love-lessons recalled here in the clearing. Lessons well-earned and sometimes, hard won.

There will be more, I know. And so be it. But next time, I won't stay away for so very long.

Jean Marie Johnson is a Communico facilitator and has helped clients with their MAGIC initiatives.  And for 20 years she has specialized in cultivating the customer experience as a key competitive advantage
Before and After
Before and After
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