For almost as far back as I can remember there has been this box in my life. It was started by my mother, who told me about it when I was young. “I have this box”, she’d say “don’t ever open it until you are ready”. When I moved out on my own, she passed it to me like an unwanted torch, a ball and chain, and it became my responsibility.
It’s not an especially big or small box, it’s a shoe box taped up, a time capsule of court documents, evidence, and filthy little reminders of a time best forgotten. My childhood on a series of brittle, screaming tapes. The family’s dirty little secret folded and yellowed, the truth about who my father was and what I survived.
I always had this idea of what it would be like when I finally opened the box. I’d have to be in a mentally fortified place of some far off tomorrow. I’d make a night of it, just me and the box and I’d break the seal, letting all that pain free and I would do my best to survive it. I’d stay in one piece, and then when the tears were drying on the smeared, typed words of some psychologist of yesterday, some “point to the place on the doll your father touched you” professional, I’d start to write my life story.
This box is a small part of my story, but it isn’t me. In the last month I’ve realised some things. I’m not my past. I’m not a dusty cardboard box filled with legal trinkets. My story isn’t in the box. My story is in me. Because I still have the memories even if I don’t remember the exact date we fled west on a train, or what time he called in a bomb threat to the court house on the day of the custody hearing. I still feel his screaming without having to listen to it through the static of a long ago recorded tape. The truth is this box has been a weight in my life, and even if I reach a point in the future where I feel mentally strong enough to open it, will I want to test that strength?
This month has been about removing things from my life that don’t provide any value or purpose. It’s been about freeing my mind from the accumulated physical clutter. I don’t need what’s in the box because there’s nothing in there that would surprise me. My past is part of my story, but it deserves to hold no physical place in my future.
That’s why the last item I removed from my life during the 30 Day Minimalism Game was the box, still taped shut and heavy in more ways than one.
I feel free. I feel happy.