The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Old stuff

The more space there is, the more things accumulate.

It’s true for stuff, data, and feelings.

My father was great at throwing things away. It could be, that it was easy for him because he didn’t make himself aware of the emotional attachment one could have to seemingly uninteresting things.

I remember my mother showing me how to read a recipe for Christmas cookies she had from her mother. It was written in Sütterlin, a German handwriting I didn’t learn to read. My grandmother had written it on a small little card my mother used to check when she was preparing for Christmas. A few months later my mother died and my father reorganized the kitchen. The recipes had disappeared and with it, something a tradition my mother had tried to transmit. I keep the memory of that moment and often wonder how it would be to still have this physical link with a tradition that was dear to my mother.

It’s a feeling that stays with me and isn’t resolved. A bit like unfinished business.

It’s packed away like pictures and so much of the other data that stays in some backup drive conveniently stored in the cloud. It’s stored with all the other stuff I’m slowly forgetting in some closet in the cellar. But any time I see the closet or the drive memories pop up reminding me of the unfinished business. It may even become daunting thinking about the day I’ll have to clean up.

It’s the same with feelings. All the stuff that remains around, unused, not really forgotten, not really present is a metaphor for the chaotic memories that contribute to the noise in our head when things become a bit more difficult to bear.

That’s especially disagreeable when the accumulation of unresolved emotional memories resembles a collection of stamps. Little vignettes that become a story of the other person’s “wrongdoing”.

There is much to it, to create space and time to pay attention to these things we archive without much further thinking. Throwing things away might not always be the best solution. But whenever it’s done with the attention and awareness allowing for a conscious decision, it’s transforming the unfinished business. When the emotion suddenly evaporates, something has been resolved.

It only works, when we allow ourselves to disconnect from the judgment and stay with the emotion.


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