“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival….
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”
Today, I took to our garage to tackle four large bins bulging with papers and notebooks from my childhood, adolescence, and 20s. I’ve been reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and I was invigorated. I knew that I was looking only for the treasures – anything that did not “spark joy” was going in a shred pile. Easy enough.
But as I began going through journals, creative writing projects, reports, essays, and letters, I was flooded by an overwhelming sense of humiliation. Copies of letters I’d written in haste and anger. Journal entries that vacillated between gross arrogance and uncalled for guilt. Scathing essays written for school, foolishly espousing stances and beliefs I had not dared to scrutinize, properly research, or temper with humility. Reminders of my failed singer-songwriter career.
After several hours, a box weighing 40 pounds stood in the center of our garage, overflowing with the pages of my life. As I swept, I found myself in a shame spiral, longing for a different history. But later that night, grace and truth barged in and demanded that I invite all the raw versions of me to the table. They insisted I invite my feelings about myself, too. So, I’m listening to this girl and this woman whom I have been, and am now, and am becoming. She is so peculiar and kind, passionate and strange, hilarious and angry, beautiful and arrogant, raw and beloved. I have been hurt and I have hurt others. I have been loved and I have loved deeply. I am on a journey. And for some reason, I have always found it necessary to write down every step.
I had to get something out of the garage that night and I glanced once more at the purge pile, destined for the industrial shredder at the county recycling center first thing Monday morning. All that remained from my clearing out was a thin folder of kept pages on a shelf. As I turned out the light, I realized I had been given a great gift. The gift of seeing all of me, unedited, without the safe guard of a selective memory. Everything. And somehow, by grace, I was able to take a deep breath, walk into the light of my house, and call myself “beloved on the earth.”*
(*from “Late Fragment,” by Raymond Carver)