Cleaning up for the Holidays

Recently, I slipped on gloves and a home-spun hazmat suit to clean out my storage shed. It was jammed with cardboard boxes that were crammed with stuff and spiders and tiny bugs who’d planted “Home Sweet Home” signs in every corner. I’m too embarrassed to show you an actual photo, but here’s a facsimile: My purpose was to find the angel that belonged on top of the Christmas tree. I didn’t find the angel, but I found so much more.

Each box held junk…and treasures. Stories woven by my children. Tokens from family trips. Letters from friends and family. Autographs from favorite stars. But what I found especially intriguing was a box marked, “Lida’s Writing Stuff.” I lifted the lid and looked inside. I rediscovered magazines and newspapers I’d set aside. I was clueless why I’d saved some. An old Readers’ Digest? Why? Others contained an essay or article I’d written. I’d also found loose pages and barely filled notebooks. False starts and feeble attempts at writing something. Anything. I’d yearned to write for so long. Only it didn’t always make sense to me.

I tossed some of the writings aside. But I also discovered other pages filled with words and sentences that were okay. I’d hoped they showed a wee bit of promise.

I didn’t know it at the time, but those notes were my writing practice. My learning experience. I’d written words and sentences, studied them, and then studied the words and sentences of authors I’d admired. This constant note-taking and reviewing helped me to try and understand what worked and what didn’t. It instilled a glimmer of confidence or maybe a small belief in some ability to string words together to form living sentences and, eventually, a novel.

In life we come across junk and treasures. Situations we’d like to forget immediately, and others we cherish. These others are what propel us forward, keep us going. So how about, this holiday season, we only hold on to our treasures and discard the rest? Those boxes filled with wonderful artifacts, recollections, and in the case of writers, notes and stories containing seeds of hope. When we lighten our loads, it frees us to pursue the more important things in life. By the way, I finally found the angel I was seeking.

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