The Hard (Heart) Work of Cleaning Closets

This message has been on my heart for some time.  Truthfully, I’ve been putting off typing it out because, well, this won’t be easy to write.  But I know I’m supposed to share this part of my story since the nudge to do so will not go away.  I’m believing there must be at least one other soul out there who will be grateful for these words.  Here goes…

Not quite one year ago, I was overcome with an aching desire to clean out my closets.  Aching + Desire + Clean = Yup.  Crazy, I know.  And, yes, I said closets, as in plural.  And I don’t mean clean them as in dust off exposed hardware and shelves and refold any out-of-place sweaters.  I wasn’t looking to simply tidy the place up, my type A personality already had everything in its place, or so I thought.  I needed to clean OUT my closets.  As in get rid.  Be done with.  Things.  Weight.  Weighing me down.  If you are wondering how a few full closets can possibly weigh a person down, you are on the same wavelength I was at the time.  I wasn’t so sure how this closet cleaning was going to make me feel lighter, nonetheless, I was being called to do it.
Of the three special rooms designed to house one’s personal belongings that I had filled to the brim with my carefully purchased items along the years, where to start?  Wait until tomorrow.  Wait until next week.  Wait until…what am I waiting for?!  Why do I keep putting this off?!
You know why.  It overwhelms you.  The sheer volume of things you’ve stuffed inside these spaces is enough to cause a panic attack.  Why do you have SO MANY clothes/purses/shoes?  Why haven’t you been getting rid of items little by little all along?  Wait, stop, no need to condemn yourself.  Instead, acknowledge the beauty, the sadness, and deliverance of this aspect of your closet…
Remember the days when your worth came from what you owned?  When shopping = success = feel good = I matter = a circular trap that was never fulfilled and always left you needing the next new thing?  The lie you believed that each new on-trend outfit would somehow make you like yourself more.  As you look around your closet and think of all the dashed dreams…the dress to garner attention, the pants to make you look thin…did they ever really keep their promises?
But now, instead of being mad at my old self for believing those lies, for money wasted, for time spent frivolously, I can be thankful for growth.  The change in mindset I have, the heart work I’ve done that tells me my worth is not in my clothes, my closet, my designer label or the fullness of my closet.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still like nice things and I don’t walk around naked (you’re welcome).  Now I buy clothes simply because I like them, I need them, or someone bought me a gift card and it’s a treat for me to pick out a little something special.  Shopping no longer involves the heavy, exhaustive thoughts of what will he say/she say?  How will I compare to Suzie and Vogue magazine?
Phew.  All of this, behind door #1.  Tough stuff.  Heavy to wade through.  Yet refreshing to see I am not the person I once was.  I can change.  People can change.  You can change.  We can choose change.  IMG_9149
On to door #2…
My “teacher clothes.”  After teaching young children for 10 years, I accumulated a sea of clothes that were (mostly) suited for chasing after kids on the muddy playground, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor for circle time, and comfortable enough to wear for 10-12 hours straight.  Mind you, these were not adorned with school bus and eraser appliques, but in going back through my closet, they just weren’t “my style” anymore.  I am now in a season of life where I can wear whatever I want to wear. My days spent out of fitness clothes are far and few between as it is so why should I wiggle into clothes that bring me no joy to wear?
So get rid of them.  Simple.  Done.  Not.  So.  Fast.  Why not?  These are not clothes you enjoy wearing.  What is holding you back?  Cue the tears.  Seriously?!  You are crying over clothes.  Yes.  Wait, no.  Not the clothes.  The memories.  The kids whose sweaty hugs you gladly accepted.  Snot on pants from the crying child who needed consoling.  (Before you get too grossed out, these clothes are clean, just the memories of snot remain.)  Marker stains from the child who was too enthralled with life to pay attention to where a wet marker tip was going.  These clothes held identity.  My identity.  I was a teacher.  Teacher Tammy.  I knew that role.  And getting rid of these clothes, this piece of me, signified at a deeper level there was no going back.  Permanence.  But aren’t you glad you left?  It’s been four years now.  Don’t you think it is safe to say that if you ever did decide to go back to being a classroom teacher, you may want some new styles of clothing anyway?!  Why is closure so hard?
I’m thankful we don’t have to live by our feelings.  By our own misbeliefs.  In bringing our thoughts and feelings to the surface, we can see the fault in them, push past, and step forward into our best yes.  I desire to de-clutter and get these clothes into the hands of someone who can use them versus collecting dust in my closet.  Bye, bye, teacher clothes.  (And I still consider myself to be a teacher, my wardrobe just involves a lot more spandex.)
IMG_9103 (1)
And now, for the grand finale, door #3…
Perhaps the most challenging to face of all…for it’s behind door #3 that some of my deepest hurts reside.  Ugly.  Scarred.  Shamed.  Never enough.  Always too much.  ED.
If you’re not familiar with ED, consider yourself spared from a darkness that can suck every ounce of life right out of you.  It can destroy relationships, steal joy, and lie to you time and time again.  I know you have your struggles to face, we all do, and ED just happens to be one of mine.  ED stands for Eating Disorder, Disordered Eating, as in food.  The primary thing that sustains us and gives us energy, brain function, keeps us living, moving, and breathing.  Yes, that thing which supports life at a physical level, you are going to be afraid of it.  Run from it.  Avoid it.  Hide it.  Under utilize it.  Now swing to the other side and over use it.  Abuse it.  Crave it.  Hate it.  Curse it.  Cry.  Hide.  Anger.  Fear.  Help!
What is going on?  All I did was open a closet door.  Yes, but housed within this last and final closet are all of your clothes from your thinnest days.  The smallest size the stores had to offer, some even children’s clothing.  Interesting how the items from your largest weight-bearing days are already long gone.  You couldn’t wait to be rid of those.  But why hold onto these XXS sizes?  Perhaps a glimmer of hope that you’ll one day fit into them again?  But didn’t you already do the years of heart work and counseling and growing in your faith that led you to be in the healthier place you are now?  Didn’t you decide that enjoying life, overcoming food and body image related anxiety, and not being afraid of mealtime was better than squeezing into a 00 pant?  Yes.  Let me remind you, you did.
But these clothes were so expensive.  All designer labels.  I knew they’d bring me happiness.  I mean, designer AND 00?!  What more is there to the life I’ve read about in fitness and fashion magazines, seen in the movies, heard talked about at the gym?  “Summer Shoulders” check.  “Beach Body” check.  What, you mean they didn’t tell you that in order to achieve all of this, you’d have to run 20+ miles a day?  Eat only fruits and vegetables?  Go to the doctor every month to get a new symptom looked at for fear or having polyps, no IBS, now it’s heart arrhythmia, hello anxiety, severe headaches, jaw clenching…Did they tell you you would be so ravenous and your mind racing that you wouldn’t be able to sleep at night?  And the mood swings – watch out!  No one mentioned that maintaining a 00 may cause extreme foul mood syndrome and scare away your friends and family leaving you all to yourself on Friday nights to look over your journal of what you’ve eaten that week.  Weigh yourself once more after that last sip of water to see if you gained anything since the previous hour.  And the truth is, your friends and family always still invited you, you were just to worried and uptight to attend.  ED stole the show.  He lied to you.  You believed him.  And now, look, you can get rid of these clothes, these reminders of ED, once and for all.
Hmmm…the journey to let go of “perceived control”…One of ED’s biggest lies is that you are in control when you are controlling what you eat so tightly, yet the irony is ED in fact has complete control over you.  As I get real with myself about the items in this closet, I am realizing these clothes represent a time in life where I ran from the present moment.  I couldn’t stand being still, being real, or facing the guilt and shame I had for myself.  I didn’t know that my worth went far deeper and wide-reaching than my pant size, academic achievements, and the like.
Now, I not only believe that I am more than my waist measurement, the food I do or don’t eat, my job, or what kind of car I drive, but I know deep in my heart that every person, EVERY single one of us is created on purpose, for a purpose.  And the biggest lies we can fall into are the ones that keep us focused on US.  Hey, I love to learn and grow, I’m all for personal and professional development, conferences, reading, etc.  But there’s a way of hiding behind all of that to avoid real relationships, and there’s a way to use those things as a tool to be able to impact more lives for the better.
Our time on earth is short.  Our days are numbered.  The only moment we are guaranteed is now.  I don’t think it’s by accident my anxiety cleared, my disordered eating dissipated, my depression lifted the more I believed the I was made on purpose, for a purpose, and I believed in my heart that I did have something to offer this world.
I am nothing special, and yet I aim to change the world.  Because world changers are simply average people who step up to bat.  Who say, “Put me in, coach.”  Use me.
PS-I did end up cleaning out all 3 closets, but I didn’t feel light and airy afterwards like I thought I might.  Instead, I still saw TONS of clothes that will likely sit in my closet untouched for another year to come, if I let them.  Not because they me feel powerful, complete, or thin.  It wasn’t until after I cleaned out all those other skeletons I was left to face my current impending fear…evidently, I have some beliefs of LACK in my life.  Fear if I get rid of too many clothes I’ll be lacking the perfect outfit when I need.  (Did I tell you I wear fitness clothes 98% of the time already?!)  Fear one day I may not have the resources to buy a new outfit when I need to.  So, I bring myself to the acronym I love for fear:
Looks like I’ll be cleaning the closet once more.  At least for now…