Last week over spring break I saw my daughter standing in the kitchen pantry, pulling a plastic trash bag off the roll.

“I’m going to get rid of some things in my room,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff getting in my way.”

Given my affinity for decluttering, I tried not to act too excited. Instead, I channeled Alexis Rose from Schitt’s Creek and said, “I love that journey for you.”

Later, my husband warned me about the mess at the top of the stairs. He said that Cate was “pulling a Blake”, which means she’s doing exactly what her brother does when he’s ready for a refresh. He takes everything he doesn’t want and sits it outside his bedroom door, leaving it for us to deal with.

When I look inside my daughter’s room now, I see more space. I see how she’s shedding pieces of her elementary school self to make room for the person she’s becoming now. I love that I didn’t have to prompt this clearing out, because sometimes I feel like all I ever do as a mom is nag about cleaning up. To balance it out, I often say things like, “If something is meaningful to you, you don’t have to get rid of it. But when you take the time to clear out the things that no longer fit, it’s easier to access the things that do.” I love that Cate was able to make these decisions for herself this time without me having to prompt her.

And yet.

There’s all of this stuff sitting outside the door. A tall craft drawer on wheels. A stack of books. A bag of trash. A small laundry basket filled with this and that. It’s not unmanageable.

But where does it go? What are we supposed to do with it now?

***

I’ve written a lot about grief, and how sometimes, we’re unaware of just how much we’re carrying around. Time and time again, grief teaches me that it wants to be seen, and felt. It’s a painful process, and when we go through it, grief also brings a release. When we grieve—hard and heavy—it somehow, eventually, lightens the load.

But lately I’ve noticed that grief also leaves things behind: a subtle residue and large remnants, much like the discarded contents from my daughter’s bedroom.

Wouldn’t be nice if we could avoid the messy aftermath? If it all just evaporated into fairy dust and floated away? Sometimes, it’s that easy. And other times, we have to haul away the debris.

This week, I came across an article written by Alex Elle. She writes, “Healing is messy. Giving myself permission to not clean things up all at once has shown me how to be compassionate with myself and grateful for my emotional growing pains.”

Grief runs on its own timeline, and lately I’m learning that healing does too.

So now, when I stand outside my daughter’s bedroom door and consider the decisions that need to be made: donate? discard? repurpose? I’ll resist the urge to throw up my hands and stuff everything in a closet.

I’ll remember that healing isn’t about keeping up appearances, pretending that the mess isn’t there just because I tucked it away, out of sight. Instead, I’ll slowly, and with love, continue to do the work.

Hi, I’m Angie. My memoir “Girl in the Spotlight” will be published by Publish Her in October 2023. You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.

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