I'm in the middle of a major basement cleaning project, going through old boxes and getting rid of a ton of stuff that I just no longer need in an effort to make more room for The Man and his two daughters (who will hopefully be coming to visit this summer). Most of it is quick and easy: Keep the Halloween decorations; donate the extra vacuum cleaner; keep the juicer; dispose of the 13 half-empty paint cans.
But then I came to those sentimental boxes. Those ones are always doozies, aren't they? The high school yearbooks (keep), the dance recital costumes (toss), the picture my little brother drew for me when he was 5 (keep), my prom dress (toss). And that box that everyone has: the past relationships box. What to do with that?
My relationship box, thankfully, is actually quite small. Once an avid letter saver, I've long since parted with the hangings on of all my past relationships. It's not that I'm bitter or want to forget any of them. Quite the contrary. I just don't need the notes, the cards, the ticket stubs anymore. I have completely moved on from each and every one of those relationships, and so their various detritus no longer hold any sentimental value. I do keep the pictures, but those never made it into the relationship box in the first place; they were never treated as special or private or personal (clearly, no nudie pics in my collection). The photos are just more evidence of every day life, no different from the photos of of camping trips and birthday parties and Christmas trees they're flanked by. And so those stay. But everything else made its way into the recycling bin a long time ago.
With one exception.
I'm still hanging on to a box from my ex-husband. Inside are mementos from our dating and married years that, at the time, seemed worthy of saving. I keep it now not for sentimental reasons (if I were at all sentimental about our relationship, I probably wouldn't have torn up my wedding dress to make the most awesome Corpse Bride costume EVER). It doesn't serve as a monument to our marriage, but as a peacekeeper to our divorce. Here's why:
Most of the time, I'm mildly annoyed with my ex-husband. We generally get along fine but, you know, he bugs me. He is my ex-husband after all. And periodically, that mild annoyance becomes something much, much more, and it's all I can do to keep from poking his eyes out with toothpicks. In those instances, it's helpful to remember that, at one time, I considered him a decent human being. That's where the box comes in.
I don't have to physically refer to the box. I don't have to dig it out of its storage tub and pull off the flowered top to flick through any of its contents. In fact, I've only opened it twice since our divorce seven years ago. Simply knowing it exists, knowing that there is concrete evidence of our relationship in my home is enough. Once upon a time, I liked that guy. Loved him, even, though it makes me cringe to even utter the word in reference to him. And if I found something to like about him once, he must not be a wholly terrible guy. Remembering the way I saw him then helps me to tolerate him better now.
The relationship box turned up yesterday as I was cleaning. I paused when I saw it, wondering for a moment if I should just finally dump it once and for all. I opened it and read a letter from my ex-husband. Then another. And another. It made me uncomfortable. I'm so far removed from that time in my life that I felt like I was reading someone else's private letters. I stopped reading and put the lid back on the box. I almost threw the whole thing away - all the letters, all the birthday and anniversary cards, all the dried flowers. But it reminded me, again, that we were once a couple, a pair, a team. We once enjoyed each other's company and were able to get along on a regular basis. It reminded me that he is a fellow human being and not just an ex-husband to be tolerated. And it occurred to me that I have many, many more years of co-parenting to get through with this guy, and that I'm going to want to poke his eyes out with toothpicks many more times before we're through. I'm going to need the perspective contained within that box.
What about you? Do you hang on to mementos from relationships past? Or are you a burn all evidence kind of person? And you divorced ladies out there: what did you do with your wedding dress?
10 Easy DIY Spring Wreaths to Suit Your Decor Style
13 minutes ago