“That’s the way things become clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.”–Madeleine L’Engle, The Arm of the Starfish, 1965
Have you ever had a moment when something was clear suddenly? It might be literally or figuratively. I recently have had a few of those instances. I washed my car’s window and boom! Clear. I wiped off my sunglasses and realized there had been a film of bug spray smearing the lenses, so when I put them on again it was so much easier to see. I cleaned both my bedroom and bathroom mirrors and realized how many water spots had been clouding the glass. Last night, in a conversation with a friend and in a corresponding text this morning, there was metaphorical clarity. Sometimes, it takes time and perspective for things to become clear.
The thing about clarity (metaphorical or literal) that can be so startling, though, is that you often do not realize how encumbered your vision or way was before.
I am seeking clarity right now in my life. Where do things feel blurry and fuzzy? Instead of waiting for the rainstorm to clear things away, I realize that I have to take some matters into my own hands. I have to clear some things away and see what lies beneath.
About a year and a half ago, I enrolled in an online personal growth class for a nominal fee. Each day, for a year, I received an e-mail with the day’s lesson. I saved all the e-mails, but wasn’t really ready to begin and felt overwhelmed. Interestingly enough, the course addresses all types of clutter: spiritual, physical, emotional, personal, etc. I opened up the first e-mail for the course this morning and this time I am ready. I realize that it’s lots of little steps rather than one big leap. The point is that each of the lessons and days builds on each other.
In the last week, I cleared away some of my social media clutter and cleaned out my various e-mail boxes. I unsubscribed from several daily and weekly newsletters and deleted lots of junk e-mails. In the last three days, opening up my e-mail has been appealing instead of visually and mentally overwhelming. In Twitter and Instagram, I pared down the number of accounts I was following. Now, when I actually do check in, it’s really just the stuff I want to see or read. Surprisingly, it was easy to make decisions about the ones I no longer wanted to see. I made myself make decisions about which ones I wanted to keep following, so that everything left was intentional, not just the cyber leftovers.
I deleted some contacts from my phone. A couple were just temporary numbers I had stored to help take care of field trip logistics for my “regular” school-year job. Two were from friends that have fallen away. It wasn’t a fight or misunderstanding, but there has been no contact in months. I think sometimes we grow apart, or run out of things to talk about. It had taken me a while to make peace with that, but this morning it felt cleansing to hit delete. I will look at my contacts in Facebook and make some similar decisions. Then, I will seriously look at my social media use and decide which accounts to keep and which to get rid of entirely.
Now, that I have my home cleaned out and rearranged, I think it will be easier to part with items. Coincidentally, most of this cleansing is also recommended in that online course that I just began. It has a lot to do with specific assignments, and I like that I have a map and plan already laid out for me. Plus, a swift sequence of small steps seems like the best way to go.
When clearing out, we are making intentions about each thing, whether it’s a physical item or something else. It’s not just that I filled up a bag of clothes to donate from my overflowing closet, ignoring the majority of the items, but that I made a decision to keep the others. We hold onto things: threadbare sweaters, water-ruined books, tools that don’t work. We hold onto them for all sorts of reasons. We cling, perhaps, for a flood of memories or for a broken relationship that we can’t quite admit has ended. Sometimes, it’s out of sheer habit and we don’t realize it has even formed. We hold on because we are scared to let go, because change is uncomfortable. When we clear, we give ourselves freedom. We make room for new things, but sometimes just room for the silence and the space. Clearing away doesn’t necessarily mean we have to reach for new things right away, but it gives us the opportunity to do so.
We break free. We clear up. We see differently. We make space. We see what was there before, but also all that was hidden away.
If you are making room for new, or clearing out, give yourself grace. It’s brave what you are doing. It will be messy. It might even be painful, but there will be growth, too. You will see yourself change. You will see that you are willing to let others change, grow, move away, return.
Clear, clear, clear. All of a sudden it is clear.