In my early twenties my life was quite literally a mess. Not the kind of mess that requires a therapist but the kind that requires a broom and filing cabinets and multiple trips to the Salvation Army with trash bags full of crap. At the time, I felt that I must absolutely hold on to every flier, book, recipe, tool, prop, and gadget. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life or who I wanted to be so I collected and kept everything just in case. Whenever I attempted to downsize I’d start to hear this little running monologue in my head.  It went something like this: “Where to begin…well I definitely need to hang on to that long flowing skirt because that is the exact skirt that a high school art teacher would wear and maybe I will want to be an art teacher. And I need to keep those piles and piles of beads because I think with a little more practice and some better clasps I could sell necklaces at concerts. Or maybe I could be the one performing at the concerts and in that case I should hang on to this guitar and that tin whistle and all this sheet music. And speaking of music I must save all the old mix tapes from all the old boyfriends in case I get dumped and I need to remember that I have been the subject of much attraction by many attractive people. Oh, and if I do get dumped that mini blowtorch for making Crème Brule might be important because I could end up dating someone French. Or maybe I will date no one and instead become a Hare Krishna. So I must hang on to all the books and fliers that the Hare Krishnas have given me over the years. Hmmm…do they take women? If not, maybe I will have to take that up as my cause. If I am going to have a cause I will definitely need to keep that clip board and that mini suit just so I can look professional when I go to testify on behalf of the aspiring female Hare Krishnas…” And on and on and on…

Somewhere in my mid to late twenties, as my life came into view, I was able to downsize. I cast off the “what if” items and enjoyed having a bit of negative space in my life. Suddenly I had room to do some yoga or dance. I could walk from one room to the next (even if the lights were off) without tripping on a bag or box. I even had a filing cabinet that was dedicated to actual files and not takeout menus from towns I was never going to live in. The experience was absolutely lovely and incredibly short-lived; because as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I ran full force back into the world of crap collection.

Before I’d even given birth I began gathering little scraps of felt and ribbon and popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners just in case my kid came out hankering for a craft project. I’d pick up any flier that even vaguely referenced kids and began a mad search for all the children’s books that I had ever loved. And that was before I’d even met my daughter. That was before I stared into her eyes and held the child who’s future I was going to help shape. That was before I was filled with the insane ever-present urge to make everything a possibility for her. Everything.  Now when I go to reach for something to get rid of, my mind actually takes hold of my arms and renders them useless. “STOP!” it shouts, “YOU CAN”T GET RID OF THAT! That kazoo is important! So what if you have four other kazoos? What if your daughter feels musically inspired? Do you want her to have to run around the house looking for an instrument to play? NO! You must hang on to all five and keep one in every room. You don’t want to be responsible for squelching her creative impulses DO YOU? And don’t you dare throw out those paper towel rolls and milk cartons! Soon she will need to start honing her sense of spatial awareness and building little villages out of recycled items is an ESSENTIAL way to do that!! And don’t you dare even dream about tossing the twenty-five to thirty pictures that she drew today. What the hell kind of statement will you be making about her self worth?”  And as far as I can see, this frenetic collecting is not likely to stop any time soon. Before, I was in the process of narrowing the field of possibilities. I was free to cast off “what if” items. Now, I find myself actively attempting to keep the field as wide as I can. I try to kick open all the doors, raise the windows, clear the path and say with each new day, “anything is possible!” I am quickly discovering that when anything is possible EVERYTHING must be kept. “You want to pretend to be a postal worker? Good thing I’ve been saving old envelopes for the past two years just in case this day should come. You want to find out how clocks work? Well look at that, I just so happen to have a collection of broken clocks right here! You want to learn to juggle? Here’s a dozen ping-pong balls, a hacky sack, and a three plastic bananas! Go to town!”

So, I guess I’m officially resigning myself to wander the earth gathering dress-up clothes and things made of cardboard and PVC piping and old luggage tags and on and on and on… And when all the crap has been collected and we sit there in a giant heap of “possibilities” I will just have to remember to keep a small passage that leads to the front door so that we can still find our way out into the big wide world. Where a whole other land of possibilities awaits.

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