dumping mental clutter

Miscellania and deliberate dumping

2:02 PM


Filtering flotsam and other debris, Part 2





Yesterday, needing to verify my legal name as it lives on my passport, I tiptoed into our smallish extra bedroom we use as a crowded “home office.” I moved gingerly, making cautious moves toward the file cabinet while avoiding the rash of piles, more than 20 stacks of miscellania claiming a semi-permanent position on the floor, and I carefully extracted the passport.


It takes time to build up this much clutter; in our case, it has gradually accumulated over our 9 years together in this house. I can’t remember the exact moment when it happened, but at some point, we started to just avoid the room and keep the door closed.


I’ve heard mystics say that our natural world is a reflection of our invisible world, and if this is true, then it would imply that a room like the one I’ve just described must be connected to a mental/emotional counterpart.


This topic reminds me of the film Poltergeist (1982) in which a house, unfortunately found to be built on top of a cemetery filled with unhappy angry souls, is visited by a sweet but firm ghostbuster who does the work of releasing the house from its tormentors. Just after the climax of the film, the diminutive ghost whisperer says, triumphantly, “This house is cleared.”


Yes, please. And I’m not talking about the home office.


In the last post, "Filtering flotsam and other debris," I borrowed the terms flotsam and jetsam as symbolic imagery standing in for "the miscellaneous items floating about in my stream of consciousness,” focusing mostly on flotsam as unintentionally lost “bits and pieces of our constructed selves we lose track of along the way, pieces we never really mean to discard,” and have every right to reclaim.


Flotsam and jetsam that we don’t attend to, like cold case files stacked in the basement of huge government warehouses, take up space and weigh heavily on our hearts and minds. When we set our awareness and our attention toward this “floating debris,”  like focusing our attention on the piles on the home office floor, we can begin to make choices about what stays, and what goes...what serves, and what doesn’t. By all means, capture permanently the truths that will forever ground you to your heritage, your faith, your family and your true self by carving out a place in your forever home. Likewise, setting your attention on floating bodies that take up space in your mind but no longer serve you can help you release them once and for all, and bury them at sea.


Jetsam, derived from the word jettison, describes debris that has been deliberately dumped, possibly by a vessel in distress.

Simply put, if you threw something overboard in the interest of survival, it isn’t yours anymore.

Jetsam represents the burdens that we intentionally castaway, acknowledging we can no longer carry them after weighing the benefits against the deficits; the ship can’t sail with these items still on board. However, experience tells me that castaway mental and emotional debris may have some odd appeal when floating about just out of reach.  After all, these memes or practices were at one time baked into the cake of my life experience. Familiarity can have a sort of gravitational pull.


For example, growing up a child of celebrity in a family that promoted strong faith-based beliefs brewed some anxiety over keeping up appearances for me. As a young wife and mother, I struggled to maintain equilibrium keeping up the appearance of personal and familial stability even though mine was anything but. After decades of trying to create a peaceful outward expression in a chaotic, hidden environment, the lights eventually came on, and I threw this fallacy overboard; if it isn't right, you can't make it right by changing the way it looks.

Once in awhile, I am tempted to fixate on an unsightly flaw in my personal life or family, and just polish the turd instead of extricating myself of the offending stench. Inner change is what works, and the attempt to keep up appearances has never fulfilled its promise. When this notion bobs around in my mind's periphery, it pays to remember that I let that one go a long time ago; it isn't mine anymore.

Jetsam pops up mostly when it's quiet. I'll sense ghosts pinging around in my head, begging to move back in and take up residence: the attachment to material possessions, along with the I'm-only-worth-what-I-earn syndrome...the fixation on body-image from my 20s and 30s that wasted my time and energy and butchered my self esteem...and my tight grip on certain fixed beliefs that lead to a very confused spiritual paradigm.



Psychically, we may need a visual aid to help us avoid the re-incarnation of old patterns of behavior. Some folks use a "God box" created to hold onto a note or a symbol representing the items that they've surrendered; it's supposed to help with letting go, and I use this practice when it fits. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change.

For the work of putting deeply ingrained, ancient jetsam to rest once and for all, and to reinforce the finality of each decision to let go, I like to imagine attaching an anvil to a wooden crate filled with the beliefs, practices and values that I have identified as dead weight, and drop it like a rock. I don't want any of it back, so picturing the crate buried at sea helps me to let it rest in peace.






 Image from Quantum Bits, December 23, 2016, https://quantumnittygritty.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/sea.jpg





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