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  • Writer's pictureSandra Gallagher-Mohler

What's in Your Basement?

Throughout this time in quarantine my children have had the great fortune of taking Home-Ecc: Mom’s Version 101. The class meets Monday through Friday for an hour time block each day. The syllabus outlines a course description as follows:

Students will utilize and enhance skills related to organization, sorting, and revitalization through the processes of cleaning laundry and dishes, de-cluttering toy boxes and outgrown sports equipment, and other duties as assigned.

Ah yes… “other duties as assigned”, that’s always my favorite part. Maybe not theirs, though. Such is life.

Over the course of the last ten weeks we have gone through every closet, bin and junk drawer we have. We’ve trashed, donated, and relocated countless bags of things that took up extra space in our home, in our lives, and believe me it was necessary. It’s generally good to know you no longer need to duck and cover when opening the hall closet anymore just to get a Bandaid.

So overall there has been a new found, and very much appreciated, sense of relief knowing that these spaces have been cleared, organized and purged. Now my blood pressure won’t rise to dangerously high levels at the mere thought of other humans coming to our house unannounced (once social distancing restrictions are lifted, of course) and having them dare bear witness to what living with three boys actually looks like. The fear of judgement is real my friends. Very, very real.

But then today I went downstairs into the basement and the proverbial bubble popped. I needed a chair to complete the new virtual classroom arrangement in the little one’s bedroom, and as I got to the bottom of the steps I just stood there, taking in all the boxes of things that a lifetime had accumulate, thinking, “Damn... so much for all that progress we've made. There’s still soooo much left to do.”

Isn’t this typical of life? This process of cleaning and sparkling the outside so that what we present to the world is pristine and admirable, but yet what lies beneath the surface is still piled high with old junk from our past.

We do it all the time. We say things such as, “January first- I’m going to lose this weight. Once and for all, I’m going to do it.” So we set that five am alarm, head to the gym for a 45 min sweat sesh, come home, drink our protein shake, salad for lunch (low carb, of course), go to bed at midnight after two glasses of wine, and double the amount of hours of work for a-job we don’t even feel connected to, and then wake up the next day just to do it all over again. All the while wreaking havoc on our hormones and psychological wellness, but hey- the package looks nice, right?

Yes, fitness and salads are a start, and not ones to have any bit of shame in (I engage in both), but it begs the questions, “Am I just clearing out the closet with all of this? Have I stepped foot into the basement at all? Have I taken any time to peer into the emotional boxes I’ve sealed tight with layers of protective bubble wrap and packing tape and tucked into a corner under the stairs all these years?”. It’s a conversation worth having with ourselves if we truly want deeper change in our lives. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes.

Do I believe we all need to sit in a circle, arms clenched around the emotional boxes sitting in our laps, rehashing all of our deepest darkest struggles for days, weeks, months, or years on end? No. That’s not living. That’s re-living. But sometimes, with the right method (think ‘Emotional Flashlight’, aka a great insightful friend, coach or therapist), venturing into the ‘basement’ we can find things we need, like my chair- and... all the lessons I learned from past relationships. And when we do this, we have the opportunity to feel gratitude for the messy messages of our past, which is, in the end, the most effective form of emotional house-keeping there is. It’s where we make space- for all the blunders and scars of our past, precious moments of our present, and the wondrous new beginnings of our future.

So whether you want to lose weight, change your relationship, or change your life, journey downstairs. Take a peek into whatever chaos is in your proverbial basement (and maybe your literal one, too). And if you try, but find yourself having

to run back up to the top of the steps as fast as you can because it’s just too terrifying down there (don’t laugh, you know you’ve done it), next time just grab a flashlight, and trust that whatever you uncover is also worth unpacking. Because I promise, it is.

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