Do you have a Box? I mean, THE box. The box that holds all those old pictures and love letters, cards, newspaper cutouts, plane ticket receipts, foreign money etc. Some would say Pandora’s Box;)
I had one of those boxes. Today, I went through it and – gasp! – threw stuff out! Full On.
It was a bittersweet tenderness. I looked at maps I collected over the years, ferry passes from sea crossings on my early travels, held money from various parts of Asia in my hand, and ticket stubs collected from fun first dates or with people I idolized (like my first ticket to see H.H. the Dalai Lama in person). I admitted, for example, that I really didn’t need the bulky napkin from a crazy guesthouse in Bangkok where I had stayed up all night with my friend dancing in wigs and sipping various concoctions with this “new” drink called Red Bull. I mean, really…I wasn’t going to bust that out with a grandkid on my lap one day. Maybe the story, but not the napkin;)
I also read beautiful letters from past boyfriends…many from more than a decade ago. I went through little packages they had made for me, sending them across mountains when I was working abroad or in the middle of Alaska or the Sierra Nevada in California.
As I read the loving words and saw the care put into the gifts, my heart twanged as I thought about how they might be doing now, how I feel so blessed to have been loved in such a beautiful way by them, and – yes – I wondered if they hated me.
For realz? For realz.
It takes a lot to disappoint another to honor yourself. Some of those breakups were ones that I wasn’t sure should happen, but I was trusting myself and what I needed, and honoring a future that would be better for both of us if we spent it apart. Inevitably, it was the right thing to do.
But still, I wondered if they hated me for breaking up. I really did love them, and I really wanted them to know that. I just, frankly, also loved myself more.
There…I said it.
While those relationships did indeed come to an end, it was good to remember that I have had some pretty amazing men in my life. I’ve been fortunate enough to generally have relationships in which we communicated well, were trusting, passionate, and involved a lot of life adventure in all shapes and sizes (pan to montage of me in couplehood laughing and frolicking in the mountains…).
Gag. I sound like the female version of Julio Iglesias right now. And I lack the accent to make up for the sappiness. Sorry.
In any event, they were great men, and I just didn’t want them to hate me. But ya know what? You can’t control something like that. I reminded myself that while I like to think of myself as a Jedi on some level, mind tricks were not my forte and I had to simply let go.
Then I wondered: why had I been holding on to all those letters and photos and poems etc anyway? Yes, part of it was lovely and sentimental.
But if I’m being Full On Honest with myself, the other part is because of the remnants of a poverty mentality around love. On some level, my holding on to these keepsakes was similar to the folks with financial poverty mindsets who hoard things, filling up a garage of items they never use in a poverty mindset because they are afraid they may never be able to afford to get another one should they need it someday. And things still sit there, never to be used.
It was like Chris Rock’s description of women’s “plutonic friends” being a – excuse my vulgarity – “Dick in a Glass Case.” Break in case of emergency. This was my Love in a Glass Case. Open, read, and maybe even call in case of a heart emergency.
I say “remnants” of a poverty mindset around love because I have proudly moved through the grittiest part of that at this point in my life (one of the COOLEST things ever about getting older!). I am very clear about who I am and what I want (at least a whole lot more clear than I’ve ever felt before!) and KNOW that I deserve every bit of it. That means I am much more willing to disappoint another in order to honor myself, and this is also more possible because I know there will be someone who will celebrate me and love me even as I fully honor myself: Myself. So, I have less of a need for Love in a Glass Case should an emergency arise.
It is indeed one thing to read through such letters and look over the photos and have internal sounds of “To All the Men I’ve Loved Before” going through my head. It is a whole other beast to toss things out. But I did.
EVERY SINGLE ONE of those things? Hell no!
OK…I admit…DID hold on to a handful of the cutest most intricate little gifts mostly because they seemed like art to me. At least that’s the bullshit excuse I gave myself. But I bet deep down it is because there is still the tiniest remnant of that poverty mentality left. And one day I am sure those final pieces of past loves will also leave my presence. In fact, I bet it will happen pretty soon. Like waiting one more month to bring that sweater you never wear to Goodwill.
The coolest part of this whole thing was finding a card from my current partner from over 12 years ago. We have finally arrived back into each others’ lives after many years – and many interim relationships. We met in Kathmandu when we were wee little ones (mid-20s). I recognized his writing on the back of a postcard and turning it over there was the old photo of an iconic Buddhist stupa he took me to on the back of his motorcycle in Bodhnath, Nepal. He had glued the photo to a thick piece of paper, sending it off to me as a postcard when I was in graduate school at UCSF. I held this in my hands for a long time, amazed at how a part of me always knew we’d end up together.
I stuck that postcard on the fridge for him to see when he came home. And I put a lot of other things from that box into the recycling bin, and others I burned ceremoniously. They deserved more than a landfill parting.
I sat there, quietly, happy that I was not feeling empty as a result of having let go. I felt more full, and at the same time, more spacious allowing love in the present to fill my cup.
Note: Ana Neff is known as the Freedom™ Mentor. She helps individuals awaken their lives, their businesses and their success with radiant inner confidence. Her monthly Freedom Junkie eZine goes out to hundreds of subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can learn more about her coaching programs and download her FREE Getting Clear Guide by visiting www.FreedomJunkie.com