Sabbaticals, Storage Units & Laundromats…

It’s hard to believe it is already the 25th of September.  I seem to start every post with date disbelief.  I said I was going to blog about this experience of sabbatical and what nots so here I go.  Thank you for being here and reading.

The summer was full as usual.  The day after graduation at school I boarded a plane with ten teenagers headed for the Dominican Republic.  It was an amazing experience that I will have to write about at length in another post.  Suffice it to say it was meaningful and good for the soul and really special to see a group of young adults transform and represent us abroad in the best possible ways .

Another, almost 4 weeks, at Naropa was AMAZING!  I really made an effort to take care of my body more so than last summer which proved to be very rejuvenating.  That experience also is another one to write about at length that I’ll have to save for another day.  I sure do miss my sangha there.  We are all together online right now and it’s not the same.  For those of you that have participated in traditional master’s programs, sangha would be Naropa terminology for cohort.  Sangha is the sanskrit word for community.

So with those two things behind me I was back home and the sabbatical started.  The first thing on the list was to empty the storage unit I was still paying for.  This storage unit was filled with stuff from Mama’s house.  This was my second storage unit.  Back in the winter I decided it would be a good idea to move the stuff from a storage unit in Wilson to a storage unit in Raleigh so I would be able to access it easier and chip away at it.  A good idea in theory, in reality, life was too busy to touch it until August.  So off I went, determined to deal with all of it.  I envisioned myself sorting through everything at the storage unit and getting rid of what I needed to BEFORE dragging anything to the house.  Another great idea, and logical, in practice…um not so much.  I got organized I carried a table out to the storage unit, sharpies for labeling, paper, tape, all in a cute little red bin with a yak sticker on it.  So there I was in that storage unit, facing this stuff I’d been avoiding and not had the time to face.  Making a lot of decisions in one day is taxing.  Storage units are also creepy. If you are by yourself, you have to put everything back in the unit and lock it back up, just to go to the restroom.  I was just humming along, doing what I needed to do; checking my box inventory, yes I had a box inventory, which I highly recommend if you ever are faced with something like this.  I would check the boxes and the inventory to see if it was something I really wanted to deal with at that moment.  Avoidance behavior is awesome isn’t it?  I came upon a box of stuff from the top drawer of Mama’s dresser.  It must have had 4 or 5 hairbrushes.  I looked at them.  I knew, from a previous experience, what any of those hairbrushes might do to me.  I did it anyway.  I smelled one of those brushes, and there she was, almost 5 years and 2 storages units later it still smelled like her.  I just turned into a puddle.  I was sitting in a (insert expletive here) storage unit crying my eyes out.  Sigh.  Totally stopped me in my tracks.  I think I quickly got the hell out of there.  That pretty much wrapped up the day of work.

I went back the next day, a glutton for punishment.  Ready and prepared to tackle multiple boxes of linens.  My sweet Mama hoarded linens.  You name it; sheets, towels, napkins, table clothes, blankets, pillow casings.  I have a little bit of anxiety about bed bugs.  So, I thought even if I am donating some of this stuff, I should wash it.  So I did.  With so much, of course I had to go to a laundromat.  So being the glutton for punishment that I am, after the previous day’s experience I decided to spend the entire day at the laundromat dealing with most, not all, of the linens.  Have you had to spend any time at a laundromat, I mean since college?

I decided that week that storage units and laundromats were most definitely in the hell realm.  These two days certainly pushed me to my edge and to the realization that my initial plan was not going to work.  If there was the potential for me to be sobbing, I was not going to do that in a storage unit, OR a laundromat.  Against my wishes, this meant everything had to come to the basement.  This was defeating the whole purpose and rationalization for the damn storage unit in the first place.  If all this stuff came to the basement, I wouldn’t be able to walk through it, much less use it for any purpose.  So that is pretty much what happened.  The basement quickly turned into and episode or four of Hoarders.

Even though not much of dealing with stuff is pleasant, especially from a parent that is no longer with you physically, I can say it was and is nice to have the time and space to deal with it.  Even to have the time and space for the crying, it’s necessary.  I have said often in the last four plus years, we don’t do grief well here.  We don’t give ourselves time for it, we don’t discuss it, really.  I mean we have all these catch phrases… like “so sorry for your loss”, “I’m praying for you”, and we typically say these things to those in the midst of grief, and keep rolling.  I think our sentiments are genuine and there is a great level of discomfort there so it’s easier for us to just keep rolling.  Sometimes we say something really stupidbecause we so awkwardly feel we have to say something. I’ll never forget someone looking at me right after Mama died and saying “The holidays are going to be so hard for you”, ya’ think? I’ll refrain from writing here what I said about that at the time.  The other thing we do is we try to talk someone away from their feelings by giving them what we think is a necessary distraction.  One thing I am so grateful to be learning because of my work at Naropa, is to just sit with feelings, to literally feel them and experience them even the ones that hurt.  I’ve also experienced what it feels like to have someone just sit with you in hurt or grief.  I can unequivocally say that is my preference in experience.  It is much more meaningful to me to have someone just sit with me in something.  Words are not always necessary, being is.

I knew this sabbatical would be all things because that is just the way life is.

I honestly did not know this was going to turn into an entry about grief.  If you are still here with me, thank you so much for your time.  If you get the opportunity to practice simply sitting with someone in something, try it and see what shifts you notice.

Originally posted: 25 September 2014