The skeletons in my closet


Every time I walk past that closet

it feels like someone reaches out and pokes me with a sharp object. It stings. Actually, it’s more painful than that, far more than an irritation. It pokes and aches and remains under the surface of the skin, swelling a little more each time.

It sounds an alarm and puts me on edge.

I want to get things taken care of. I want to put everything into nice clean shiny boxes. I want to feel the empowerment and freedom that comes with making decisions about what to keep—where to put it so that it can be found and used easily—and what to release. Most of all, I want to rid myself of the heaviness, the anxiety-ridden daily experience of

just walking past that closet.

But it is not simple avoidance of an unpleasant and boring chore that keeps me from diving in. It’s the cloud of witnesses I know I will have as my companions when I’m in there–the nasty voices and throbbing emotions and tenacious beliefs–that will be chiming in,

unwelcome as they are.

It is the anticipation of the battle I will be doing internally rather than the reality of the task itself that causes me to stop before I even start. I have tools and advice and insight and common sense aplenty; I know, I really know what to do about all of this and who to ask for help and how I should be able to move myself forward.

But I am immobilized by the prospect of those skeletons in my closet.

As excited about the outcome as I might be, as silly as I might say the voices and beliefs and memories are, they are very powerful. They still have the capacity to beat me up and leave me crying and bleeding on the floor.

So, I’ve been watching for that rare day in my life,

the one that offers a combination of physical well being and mental energy, an adequate window of uninterrupted time, and some stored up emotional resilience, enough of each to carry me through the draining internal wrestling match that accompanies this seemingly simple task.

Actually, I’m not just watching for it, I’m jostling things around, sparring with my shadow, pulling the piece out of the Jenga pile, hoping to move things around until they fall down and into place,

so that I can take the first step through that dark door.

How is it that so much has to come together to ensure that the experience of cleaning out my closet does not become emotionally unmanageable for me?

I’ve tried in fits and starts, even an hour here and there, to get all of the way inside of that closet. It’s not a full walk-in closet, rather, it’s more of a bend over, crook your neck a bit and try not to bang your head closet.

It’s an adequate size though, one for which I’m very grateful, having had no individual closet space in our previous home. But it is really not wide and tall enough to accommodate a comfortable look around. Because of this, and in spite of the hanging rail and shelves I put in to try to make the best of this space over the stairs, it’s still a logistical struggle to go in and out of there. So everything I use regularly has crept out into the hallway and just sort of sits in piles waiting for the day when everything will somehow work better.

Each time I look at that railing and those shelves by the way,

I remember the awful fearful feelings I had when I bought them.

Even though it was absolutely something that was a good and practical solution to a real problem in our home’s functioning, I remember the voice I had to silence in order to write the check:

Who do you think you are? You do not have the money to be indulging yourself in that way. This is the type of thing that other people, people with money, do.

And in the years since, frustration and resentment have been piled right on top of that yucky memory. Resentment that comes from not having had the courage to finish the job, such that it hasn’t fully worked ever since. Oh those negative, self-berating feelings.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

And as much as I tell myself that 14 years later, I should not be–am not–in that same place financially and emotionally, the truth is that I am afraid that I am.

My deep fear is that nothing has changed,

despite all of the hard work and apparent success of my business.

I felt that same childlike desperation—a grasping onto what I know I need, yet not wanting anyone to see, in case I am doing something wrong and will get into trouble for it–when I finally bought the clear plastic storage containers on sale this week.

Having reached the point of desperation

with the level of disorganization and sense of futility, I decided to buy the containers in an attempt to get myself to the next stage of solving this perpetual pain in my neck.

By the way, they were not my ideal containers.

I did not allow myself that much, of course.

But in total they cost $95, and in this “tax bill due soon, graduation party coming up, still catching up from Christmas” season—isn’t there always a season, always a reason?–the voice spoke up again:

Who do you think you are? There are people who can do this sort of thing, and you are not one of them. You need to make do with what you have. If you were creative or ingenious or hard-working enough, you would figure out a way to make it work without having to spend money needed for x, y, z. You do not have the money to be indulging yourself in this way. Plus, there are so many more important ways to spend that money, if you had it. 

The yucky feeling brought on by the voice is so strong that I have to fight not to remove the containers from my house immediately. In fact I want to strip not only the closet but the entire house of anything that might be viewed as “excessive” in any way.

Anything that is potentially taking away resources needed by something or someone else more important must go.

I want to eliminate every possible reason to be judged or disappointed, by myself as much as by others.

Because of my childhood and my sensitivity and the core beliefs I’ve adopted as a result, what may be seen as essential and reasonable by many I see as frivolous, indulgent, selfish, presumptuous, not merited, not important.

My skeletons say

“Other people’s needs are important,

your needs are not important.”

And what other skeletons do I expect to accusingly point their fingers in my direction as I go through my closet?

A whole lot of shame and ouchiness

around my weight gain over the last 10 years, my inability to lose that weight and the deep embarrassment and public humiliation that goes along with those failings being so visible. Shame around my incapacity to just get the job done (i.e. lose the weight.) The voices in my head that say that I am lazy or don’t care enough or don’t try hard enough.

The voices that say that maybe if I am smart, or charming or you name it enough, it will compensate for the fact that I am overweight.

The reminder–when I look at certain pieces of clothing–that I am probably getting to be a bit too old to wear them and that they represent a time of my life that is past, or one that will never come. And even though I really aim to appreciate where I am now, it is still hard emotionally to keep ticking off the things that will never happen again or will never happen at all, and sometimes that “thing” is simply the opportunity to wear a particular dress.

I have a deep longing

to dress myself with style and to express that part of me creatively. I have never had the opportunity to play creatively enough, even when it comes to my clothing. To have curbed many times the desire to own something that would make me feel a certain way or give me a tool to express a part of myself that may never be seen is a source of profound sadness. So, there is frustration and anger and sadness that I have limited myself in that way and that I have been limited in this way by someone or something, perhaps everything.

A tutu, ballet slippers, pretty Easter dresses and fancy hair styles, dance recital costumes, for example. These are symbols of the type of childhood I didn’t have. Athleta outfits, hiking shoes, a Nike run tracker for my laces. All representative of goals that weren’t achieved in this desired for “hot mama,” having it all stage of my life.

So there is a sense of loss about not having fully lived.

Clothes–though they might seem superficial and not important to many–are representative of certain experiences and opportunities.

And at my current size and age and with my current budget that feels like a dream that has died.

There is the shame that I feel about purchases I made that were an apparent waste of money.

Perhaps they were bought as a way to try to get by, to meet an actual need, yet resulted in me wearing something that I knew was unattractive and uncomfortable—another source of shame–like the shirt I have on right now–simply because I didn’t feel I could spend the higher dollar amount on something that fit better. Or something pretty and longed for, but in a size that I haven’t worn in 5 years. Or something that got ruined in the wash, because I didn’t take the time to handle it or store it the “right” way.

There is sadness and anger around lack,

even though I know by the rest of the world’s standards, I have plenty. A voice that says that I should be satisfied, grateful, contented, not expecting more.

So there is fear, and frustration, and anger, and creative frustration. There is a sense of being overlooked and of not having one’s needs met and of feeling insecure, and of self loathing and of shame and of embarrassment and of berating myself for even being this bothered by my weight, by my looks, by the superficial.

After all, don’t I talk a good game

about my soul and spiritual growth being more important than this external shell?

It’s painful.

It’s painful to face all of these chattering voices and feel all of these overwhelming feelings inside—and outside–of my closet.

So over the weekend, I was trying to work my way toward that strong enough emotional state to tackle the project, hoping that the end result would render the tornado of feelings less potent.

And for a number of reasons I didn’t get there.

It. just. didn’t. happen.

And then there was a real-life trigger of my fears about financial lack and failure, and it all went to hell in a hand-basket from there.

The sensitivity I have to the energy in objects and people and within myself is overwhelming. Some days I feel like I have been turned inside out, raw and pulsating.

Yesterday afternoon became one of “those” days. There was no protection, no place to hide. I crawled into the deepest darkest place I could find, covered myself up and tried to eliminate my awareness of the outside world. But I could still hear it.

More significantly, I could still FEEL it.

And I fleetingly thought of how I could rid myself of all of those yucky feelings by simply eliminating all of the things that represent a bad feeling and having the means to go out replace them with alternatives that make me look and feel good, inside and out.

And yesterday afternoon when I was feeling at my darkest edges,

I wanted to set fire to all of it,

so that I wouldn’t have to think about it, or prepare for it or try to ignore it, anymore.

 We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.
― Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

This is what it feels like

to want to watch everything burn to the ground.

Right now I have a pile of brand new storage boxes and piles of clothes blocking the entry to the closet and a very heavy heart.

And at the bottom of it all:

A deep sense of failure.

The last 24 hours has become representative of everything I have said that I would accomplish and have not. One more flagellating weapon for my laziness. A foretelling of the inevitable failure I will experience in every goal of which I have dreamed. I have failed because I have not lost the weight, I have failed because my closet is not organized, I have failed because I didn’t find some way to solve these problems on my own, without spending money I don’t have. I have failed because I care about failing.

It is a fear that my core beliefs are true:

I cannot succeed.

I cannot have my needs met while still being loved and accepted.

My needs will never be valued and honored by those I love.

These core beliefs are the skeletons in my closet.

I know that it’s not particularly uplifting, what I am sharing.

But it is true.

And that may be all that is good in it, as I can’t yet clean it up and tie a pretty bow around it or give it a happy ending.

I am sharing this because it is critical to my clarity, to my ability to go forward, to my healing.

It is for me and for God. So here it is.

Here I am.

Today I will lick my wounds, take a walk, do as little damage as possible to myself and to others. Tomorrow I will rise from the ashes and figure out how to do what’s next.

skeletonclosetHopefully, one day, I can teach those damn skeletons how to dance.

with love





p.s. If you’re still reading, you might appreciate the following post as much as I did:

Interested in exploring your core beliefs/core story? Here’s Susan.

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