Healing is a layered process and my process requires some cleaning up and clearing out of the things that no longer fit in my life.
I’m going to start with the items I love most: my books.
I have been a bookworm ever since my 3rd grade teacher read Mary Pope Osborne’s 3rd Magic Tree House book Pirates Past Noon to my class. The series opened up the magic of reading and books and accelerated an imagination that had no bounds. In these books, a young brother and sister go on adventures via a magical tree house filled with magical books. All Jack or Annie have to do is open a book, point their finger, and say “I wish I could go there”. Suddenly, the tree spins, spins, spins, until it lands in the very place – or time – the siblings requested and unimaginable experiences commence. There are moments when this idea still captures my breath.
My addiction to books and stories has defined so much of who I am and has helped me grow into the woman that I am today.
I have very few memories that don’t include a book within hands reach. I have carried one with me to weddings, dinners, meetings, car rides, train rides, planes, and boats. While some of those habits were not the best, books opened me up to all the possibilities in this world and even some possibilities that aren’t.
My love for reading has been the greatest gift of my life. However, something changed along the way.
I had often received praise from relatives and family friends for reading rather than playing video games or watching too much television like some of my peers. The reality was that I wasn’t allowed to watch tv and we didn’t have any video games, so my aversion to them was not out being more mature or being more ambitious than other kids.
At some point, though, I began reading books less out of interest and more because of the reactions I got from others. I glowed with pride whenever my mother or her husband boasted about my aptitude for giant biographies on founding fathers or dead Russian autocrats. It’s not that I didn’t have a real interest in those things – I did – but there is a difference between things we are curious about and things we love. And those curiosities became fake loves out of the craving for praise and attention from others.
A few weeks ago I realized that I had a giant (GIANT) stack of partially read books that I knew I was never going to finish. I have a bookshelf crammed with books and I have stacks of books lining my bedroom walls. Don’t get me wrong, my personal fairytale includes one day having a house filled with books, but I want to want to read those books.
It dawned on me that I had filled my home with books about genocide, crimes against humanity, and the collapse of Tsarist Russia out of an old desire to gain approval from people I no longer have relationships with. And to be clear again, those books have taught be invaluable lessons and have helped open my mind and heart to people outside of my existence – and I am grateful for that.
But I decided it was time to let (most of) them go.
It’s difficult for me to explain how momentous this was. I have been so attached to these books, both for the lessons they’ve taught me and the identity I thought they gave me. But I now see that that identity was an incomplete one and it is time that I fill those shelves with books that better represent who I am and bring me joy, excitement, and some magic – even if those books don’t earn me any intellectual kudos.
Going forward, I am going to refill my shelves with books I would want to find in a magic tree house.
I think in order to truly heal, I need to let go of all the things that are holding onto me that no longer serve me. Letting go of these books has meant letting go of so much more. I went on to earn a college degree because of those books and built a version of me I thought I should be. While I don’t regret my BA in history or the hours I’ve spent volunteering at museums to ultimately go to Museum school; I am now ready to listen to the part of me that never felt whole while I doing those things.
I feel if I can heal this part of me, I can heal all the other pieces that are hurting and that need some TLC.
Boxing up those books and handing them over at the donation center was fantastic. I had expected to whimper my way through the drop-off, but I almost skipped on the way back to my car.
I was relieved.
Not just because those boxes were very heavy, but because I have let go of expectations that I, for most of my life, have thought defined me. There is a big wide open waiting for me and I cannot express how excited I am to explore.
So today, I am pointing my finger into the unknown, the undefined abyss, and I known I want to go wherever that is. I know that wherever I land, an incredible experience awaits me.
I hope that you too can let go of whatever holds you back from your truest self. It might not be as obvious as a small library of books, but if you let yourself feel fully into what you feel true connection with, healing and release can be yours too.
Reflections of a Philosophically inclined Fitness and Lifestyle Blogger