I cleaned out the closet last week, both literally and metaphorically speaking. Boxes full of old poems and love letters I never had the nerve to send, odds and ends from banquets and movies, pop tabs, the key to my first apartment, a conglomeration of my life dropped carefully into shoe boxes and scribbled down in journals. I sat in the closet, enjoying the peace and quiet and ran my hands over the random items and enjoyed the joy and the sadness that came with remembering a time when love was unrequited, friendship was practically effortless and the measure of importance was on a scale of whether or not I was willing to spend the money to have something laminated or had the concern to put it in a ziplock baggie.
Then came a great cloud over my heart as I realized I had moved on from what now seems like frivolity but back then was so huge and magnanimous I could take the smallest, most insignificant object and turn it into a treasure simply because it reminded me of someone else, had been written on by a hand that I desperately wanted to hold or had been in the presence of myself and someone else on what was probably no extraordinary evening for them, but for me it was just one breath away from perfection.
I'm not that girl anymore, that desperate poet, that romantic idiot who believed that love was found in one-sided suffering. I believe that when in love, both people should suffer...just ask my husband! Call it growing up, call it self-actualization, call it whatever you like...the fact of the matter is that as precious as those treasures were to me when they were collected, they are twice as precious now because they are proof that at some point I was innocent, gullible, naive and a packrat and I really truly believed in an idealistic, romantic form of love.
I do not believe in that type of love anymore. I sat in the closet trying to figure out what to throw out and what to keep and I realized that I can't throw any of it out; I need every one of those little treasures. I can't leave them behind. I can't leave that part of myself behind.
We are a figure it out, fix it, file it away and forget it society that can't seem to accomplish any of those things. We spend hours on the couch trying to figure out why we are the way we are, more hours trying to fix it. We watch Oprah and Dr. Phil hoping that they will tell us something that is going to flip the switch and shed light on all of the darkness we carry around within ourselves. We don't just carry our baggage, we build outfits around it, we allow it to grow into our very substance, we allow it to shape who we become. We leave the wrong things behind when we finally give in and "move on."
But we don't ever move on, not really. See, really moving on, as I have learned over the past couple of weeks, means holding out love to the person who has caused you pain. We leave people, we get angry at people, we shut people out of our lives and we put on the brave face or the righteous indignation face and strut around like we have done something when in fact all we have done is cauterized the nerve endings that lead from us to that person.
My father has never been in my life. I have used the absence of my father as a means to explain away my faults, my shortcomings, my irresponsible streaks. I have used the absence of my father to get things, get out of things and get to things. And in all my bravado and callous stupidity, I have bragged about moving on when all I had done was plant plastic flowers in the pit of crap I was standing in.
But I am moving on...I really am. I received an e-mail from my father recently sent through the Facebook account of my half sister who I have been communicating with for about a year. I can tell you that when I opened up the message and saw who it was from I had two incredibly polar impulses at the same time: overwhelming excitement that made me want to attack a Christmas tree and overwhelming guilt. Here was my excuse for bad behavior, my living breathing crutch and he was reaching out to me. All of my prolific poetry and deep thoughts about his absence began to smell like the manure they always had been.
Some people would say that to truly move on I will have to ignore those e-mails. Some will marvel at his nerve. I marvel at his courage. I'm moving on by clawing my way up out of the crap pit using those plastic flowers as my footholds. I'm moving on by inviting him into my life and hoping beyond all hope that he reciprocates. I'm moving on because I've finally realized, 37 years into this game that I was not the thing he left behind. I'm moving on not because it's the noble thing to do or because it's what Jesus would do. Jesus would have never let it get that far and I don't think the Son of God would spend a lifetime in a crap pit decorated with plastic daffodils. I'm moving on because I have an empty shoebox with my father's name on it and I am ready, so ready, to start filling it up with all of the little treasures that we will share. I'm moving on because deep down, underneath it all, a little bit of the girl in the closet is still coursing through my plasma.
And so, in this moving on, I will leave things behind and I will not look back at them with regret. In this moving on, I will abandon the crutch that was my father's absence and embrace the blessing of his presence. I will discard the baggage that gave me an excuse and embrace the relationship that will bring about reason. I will leave those things behind and become defined not by what I never was, but by who I will be...the daughter of a good man.