Face-to-Face With The Crap
I stopped by my post office box this morning after who-knows-how-long. I was expecting to have trouble turning the key on my box, the folded up magazines and edges of post cards shredded by all the successive stuffing and weeks of piling up. I was surprised to see an empty box, except for a single slip of paper saying, “Please claim your mail at the counter.”
I stood in line as a young man with tight-fitting jeans, tortoise-shell glasses, a Members Only jacket, and a black Tumi laptop backpack (this was the downtown Palo Alto post office) put one envelope after another on the scale, each certified mail with return receipt, and then wanted to mail two packages overseas Priority Mail. He was taking forever.
And then it was my turn, finally. I extended my hand with the slip of paper and waited. A few minutes later, the woman behind the counter emerged with a white Postal Service carton (the kind the mailmen use in their trucks) between her two hands, resting against her belly. “Here you go,” she said cheerily.
“Wow,” I said out loud.
I had to look at the physical representation of several weeks (probably a month) of not attending to my previous ritual of checking my business mailbox. Mostly this ritual was about feeling important for having a business mailbox. None of the mail I receive there seems to be addressed to me personally, and all of the bills I receive online. The energy I spend on my P.O. box is primarily spent shredding and throwing things away. It’s mostly crap.
I sighed as I tried to make a bundle out of the assorted items in the carton, then carried them, like an infant against my chest, over to another counter to sort through them. I picked a spot right next to the recycling bin. They were predictable things – all the junk mail and marketing solicitations of having a credit card and magazine subscriptions mailed to a P.O. Box. They were also vestiges of my previous life, which consisted of lots of time spent thinking about furniture, clothes, shoes, and travel destinations. So two Pottery Barn catalogs, two Crate and Barrel catalogs, a Restoration Hardware catalog. And of course, two Shar Music catalogs. Why always two? And then the mailings from Yoga Journal. At least four statements saying the same thing – “Your subscription expires a year from now. Will you pay us now? Thank you.”
I went through as much of it as I could at the post office, then brought the rest home. I opened my home mail box also to be greeted by a fully stuffed space.
Looking at it, having to look straight at it, reminded me that it was unequivocally time. It was time to clean up the crap. Not the pile of mail in front of me. But what the pile of mail represented in my life.
It reminded me of the central image in Iyanla Vanzant’s memoir Yesterday, I Cried, and this quote:
“Some people don’t know how, and others never think about going back and cleaning up their crap. Most people want to start today and feel better tomorrow. They want to take a yoga class, listen to a meditation tape, rub a crystal on their head, and believe they have fixed their lives and healed their souls. You cannot create a new way of being in one day. You must take your time remembering, cleaning up, and gaining strength.”
It hit me that I have been feeling ready to do some remembering. I had built some strength and rather than running forward, it felt like time to clean up some crap. Continue reading