Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Box Beneath the Bed...

Under my bed, I used to keep a box. It was an old, cardboard shoebox with faded orange letters.  In it were mementos of former friends, tokens from unrequited loves, and a bundle of rejection letters.  I told myself that I kept these things to stay grounded, to be real.  I remember hearing stories of famous writers and artists who kept their rejection letters as a catalyst to be better and be greater.  Some even framed them and displayed them proudly.

I didn't open the box when I needed inspiration or was looking for validation.  It wasn't on the wall to show the world how far I'd come.  It was stuffed under the bed, collecting dust and shame.  I only looked at the box when I was particularly blue, a darker shade than most.  And every time I did, I tortured myself.  I relived each hurt all over again.

I can be nostalgic to a fault.

And then there came a night where I couldn't sleep.  I tossed and turned.  I could feel the box through the bed.  It was there, lurking like some hairy beast, ready to bite and infect me with a fresh dose of sullen remorse and feelings of ineptitude.  I tried to ignore it.  But I could feel it was there.  It was my own Tell-Tale Heart.  I even dragged my blanket in the hallway and tried to sleep on the ground.  All that did was give me a better vantage-point to see the monster under my bed.

Eventually, I couldn't take it.  I got dressed, pulled the box out and wrapped it in a dishtowel.  I walked down the stairs from the 14th floor, down ten street blocks and descended into the subway station.  I didn't know where I was going.  I swiped my Metrocard and ran to catch the first train that pulled in, barely slipping in before the doors closed.

The train was empty, except for the homeless man sleeping with a newspaper draped across his face.  I sat there on the train with the box wrapped in a dishtowel on my lap.  The train sped darkly on, under the river and beneath the earth.

Tired and exhausted, I tried not to open the box.  I fought against the impulse to reminisce one last time and say farewell to the menace who lived beneath my bed.  Part of me knew that if I opened it, I would get off at the next stop and head home and put the box back.

I must have dozed off, because I remember opening my eyes to sunshine.  The train had resurfaced above ground and was making its way to its final destination.  I half expected to wake up in bed, the frantic trek to the subway station a dream.  But there I was, the box still in my lap.

When the train finally stopped, I got out and walked until my feet hurt.  I passed high-rise apartment complexes, football fields and defunct grocery stores.  The pace was slower and less possessed, but nonetheless determined.  I crossed a highway and saw water.  The pier emerged and I walked until I could walk no further.  Tired and sweaty, I placed the box wrapped in a dishtowel in a metal trashcan, turned to go and never looked back.

It's easy to hold on to old hurts and store them up.  Take them out and be reminded.  It's easy to keep regrets and failures, like so many trinkets in a box.  Saved up and ready to be spread out all over again.  But to move forward and free yourself from the unhealthy cycle, you've got to let go. Slay the monsters under the bed.  Once I got rid of the old, cardboard box, there was an incredible lightness.  I could feel the old words that haunted me so much, dissolving until they were unintelligible.  The old wounds, while not completely healed, started to mend without the threat of being ripped open again.  Now, when I try to think back of the exact contents of the box, it's hard for me to focus.  Names have been forgotten.  Those things have lost their meaning.

While I no longer keep a box of things that tether me to painful memories of the past, I am guilty of holding on to too much and have to remember, that from time to time, to let these things go… to scatter them like feathers.  Let the wind pick them up, take them away, and out of my life.  Leave the box by the sea and keep on walking.


TesoriTrovati said...

Amen. And hallelujah! You are so gifted with words. Each one more poignant and pointed than the last. Painting a picture. Drawing me in. Making me feel each memory and emotion right along with you. Thank you for this. You are my 'something good' today! Enjoy the day. Erin

Margot Potter said...

Yes, this. I am a firm believer in the power of ritual, something we have lost in our electronic society. Sometimes the physical act of release helps us achieve the spiritual act. Beautiful post, thank you.


Anonymous said...

Inspiring post, Andrew! I think I may dump the "box of what could have been" that is currently stored in my basement.