I have a tidy house. I do my laundry almost daily, keep my bed made and take the time to make sure shoes are put in closets, counters are wiped down and the garbage is taken out. I ask my children to help out around the house and, for the most part, they usually do. They understand that when the house is clean and there isn’t any clutter around, things are easier to find, space is readily available for DIY craft projects and unexpected guests do not cause a wave of panic.
But what if that unexpected guest were to walk in and go directly to your storage closet? You know the one. The storage closet you haven’t thought about or looked at in years or maybe never. Is it in a crawlspace in the basement? Is it a tiny square box in your hallway ceiling that you pass by every day unnoticed? Is it one very overstuffed drawer no one dares to open? Everyone has a storage closet, but most don’t even know the storage closet is there, let alone, what in the world is in there.
August is a particularly difficult time of the year for me both physically and emotionally. It signals the end of summer. Quiet mornings with coffee on the back porch have been replaced with school arrangements, lunch preparations, and work conversations. Mindless moments at work spent laughing with colleagues are now filled with anxious dialogue about all the things that didn’t get completed that are now a crisis. The kids want new shoes, new clothes, new backpacks to prepare for their new teachers, on new bus routes with a new routine. Remember those days when you said to yourself “I’ll do that later?” Well, “later” is now and “now” you wish you had done it when you had a time called “later.”
Which brings us back to the storage closet. In your literal house it might be crawl space, a dresser, or a box in the garage, but we all have one. In your life, it’s the place inside you where you keep all of your emotions and feelings tucked away. It’s the place we don’t invite the everyday visitor. It’s a private place where entrance is earned not given. It’s the place where we hide our emotional “stuff” and take it out occasionally and others can totally see it. But wheter we realize it or not, the stuff in that closet is ours and ours alone, even if we pretend it doesn’t exist.
I think, most people are walking around with no clue about all the “stuff” they have packed in their storage closet. The thought of even looking in there disgusts them. They don’t want to have to acknowledge they even have a storage closet, let alone the feelings that are hiding in there. But just because it’s hidden, doesn’t mean people don’t see it, especially when it starts to overflow and spill out.
So back to August, when for some reason, every single person on the planet wants to dump their storage closet shit for the entire world to stop and see. Their storage closet emotions are ruling their world and they want them to rule your world as well. So this August, in preparation of National Storage Closet Emotional Dump Days, I prepared myself like a boxer ready to enter the ring. I made a commitment to myself to stay clear headed and aware. I planned to recognize when someone’s storage closet junk was going to attempt to overflow into my emotionally healthy space. And then, as planned, it happened. But I was ready.
At work, it usually starts in some way like this. Someone walks into your office with a request, gripe or “concern.” They make it about you or about someone else. It is NEVER about them. It also is NEVER about a finding a solution. It is ALWAYS about dumping negative emotions from their storage closet onto you. I believe for most, it is usually insecurity they want to dump on you. To try to really get you to buy in to their need, they personalize it. “If you would have just done…” and other times it is blame, “it’s not your fault that so-and-so did…” Either way, they start digging in their closet and dumping all of their emotional junk in a complete and utter frenzy. Grabbing from here. Throwing stuff from there. Shit is flying out of their storage closet and swirling around looking for a place to land. They want you to look at all of the stuff and freak out with them. They want you to make a grandiose display of disgust, push your chair away from your desk in horror, yell “HOLY SHIT LOOK AT ALL OF THIS FUCKEDUPNESS. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO NOW?” They are waiting for you to dig into your storage closet and pull out your matching items and be all like, “Yeah, and look at this too. See this, what about this? It’s [insert anyone else’s name] fault. Shit, this is bad. This is real bad. We are totally fucked.”
But they made a false assumption. They think your storage closet is filled with the same unhealthy and cloudy feelings as theirs. Anxiety. Depression. Disappointment. Fear. Anger. And you know what they are really trying to do when they come to talk to you? They want to take the stuff from their storage closet and show it to you because they want you to pick it up AND PUT IT IN YOUR STORAGE CLOSET. For real. Because they don’t like having a shitty storage closet. They want company. They don’t want to be the only ones with a dilapidated, disappointing storage closet, so they try to shove all their “stuff” into your closet so they don’t feel so alone.
But, and this is hard, if you take a pause and realize from the moment they walk in, they are about to try to drop some of their storage closet emotional shit, you can be ready. Because you know it is not them, it is just their storage closet shit. You can separate them from their shit. You can listen patiently. You can remain calm. You know it is the fear, anxiety and insecurities busting open the door and making their way onto your desk, attempting to get into your space and into your head.
Remember also the thing they are bringing to you is also coming with a bunch of other stuff they don’t know what to do with. So you let them dump it out for a minute because there is no stopping the frenzy, and when it’s the right time you MAKE THEM TAKE IT BACK. That’s right. You make them take their emotional shit back. Piece by piece. Moment by moment. One fucking crazy emotion at a time. Quietly listening while handing them back their shit. Nodding your head while placing Anxiety in their back pocket. Saying “OK and I understand” while you gently tuck Insecurity away. And when most of their storage closet crazy emotions are put away, you decide if you want to pull something from your storage closet out because sometimes you want to and sometimes in order to ensure life continues to revolve on its axis the way it is supposed to, you get life back in balance. So you open up and let a few of your emotions out. Peace. Calm. Security. You allow them to slowly and carefully take center stage on your desk. Your storage closet emotions sit there calmly and keep you grounded. They look at you to make sure you are OK. You are. You go on. You are ready. You are mindful, thoughtful and stable. You are clear and level and confident. You are secure knowing that your storage closet has got your back, so you don’t need to worry or have it all figured out.
And when the conversation is over, they will walk out and do one of two things. They walk into the next person’s office, shut the door and dump the shit you handed back to them on someone else’s desk. Or two, they walk into their own office, shut the door and start digging around in their storage closet looking for peace, security and calm so they can accomplish something meaningful and productive and worthwhile. And you, what do you do? You shut your door and continue to work on the meaningful work you were doing prior to the tornado entering your office. But you are fully aware that it is still August, and there is a line waiting outside your door and it won’t be long before the next person walks in. So you are patient knowing you get to calmly do it all over again.