Monday Morning Hangover #005

too much mindfulness, truth and soul searching

Edie from Grey Gardens
It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present. Edie Beale

The Basement Project

If you have been part of my on line life or my in person life you know I’ve been slightly obsessed with cleaning out my basement. We moved nearly 7 years ago and the basement became the place for memories, hopes, dreams, tragedy, lose, projects started, projects finished but homeless, projects in planning — which really amounts too “oh, wouldn’t that be fun to make a table top out of all my broken china!” What was I thinking?

I have started and stopped this project many, many times. Honestly, facing all that the basement represented was too much. Now, after I’ve been in therapy for a year . . . I could face the basement and all the lessons it had to teach me.

The Art of Learning

As a teacher and student, I understand both sides of learning. I’m a better teacher than I am a student . . . or maybe I should say my teacher needs to be a special person. I am teachable but not by just anyone — probably why I was a horrible student in school. Probably why only a few of my closest friends who “speak Renee” can explain things to me in a way that I will receive it. I am so lucky to have them in my life.

When it comes to lessons of life I am self taught. I graduated top of my class in the school of hard knocks and still in the graduate program.

I think of the basement as a huge lesson — not just in cleaning and organizing but in my true field of study: mindfulness.

The art of learning is taking an experience and finding the life lesson with in. The art of teaching is inviting you into my story and upon your departure you are enlightened.

The Final Day of Cleaning

On January 7, 2018 I finished the basement project.

I now have a Mindfulness Hangover. I have touched everything in that basement while asking myself:

  • does this bring me joy?
  • can I buy this again later if I need it?
  • will it bless someone else?
  • do I frigging need another ______?
  • what the hell was I thinking?
  • how do I feel when I’m holding this?

I cried. I was pissed. I went into the bathroom mirror and berated myself for being stupid. I took long deep breaths. I went back into the bathroom and apologized to myself. I loaded boxes, I emptied boxes. I put stuff in the good will box, then took it out, then returned it. I laughed. I was moved to tears when I found a certain photo of my husband guiding my daughter across a cold flowing stream. I was mad at myself for thinking that I could possibly do it all — no longer can I be the keeper of ALL the physical and emotional stuff. I am not a Super Woman.

The Alone-Ness

The final day everyone was scarce. I mean really? Who wants to be around someone laughing, crying, talking to them self in a mirror and drinking pot after pot of coffee while muttering to herself.

I resorted to the TV. I just wanted something going in the background — like figure skating or a ball game. It didn’t matter just other people in the room . . . who wouldn’t question my sanity.

While at Target earlier in the day I saw the name of a book — the Zookeeper’s wife . . . interesting I thought as I continued along.

You can guess what happened next — while I was trying to find skating instead I found The Zookeeper’s wife. I turned it on for the last 30 minutes or so. It was far along enough in the movie that I didn’t pay close attention but it was nice to have “my people” from Warsaw with me as I cleaned the basement.

The next movie was Grey Gardens . . . Drew Barrymore, Jessica Lange. Two of my favorites. I think I missed the first part of the movie or just the back and forth was hard for me to follow — every time I glanced at the TV it was the present time or the past and always confusing. The movie theme of mother/daughter, glamour/lackluster, fancy/poor, present/past, abundance/nothing everything mirrored this basement project. Every photo had an element of juxtaposition. Every project had a bizarre congruency.

Memories held so tight they melded together into a history that was unrecognizable to me.

Grey Gardens was once a place filled with joy, laughter, music, dancing, amazing food, people coming and going, the latest and greatest of everything turned over time to the exact opposite of itself.

Not to mention beautiful gardens overgrown with time.

So as I’m going over bits of my life slowly and watching these two dynamic, complicated, beautiful women spiral into a life of filth and nothing — I took pause. I became mindful in a new way. Then I heard Drew Barrymore say the words of Edie Beale in a thick New York/Boston accent:

It’s very difficult to keep the line between the past and the present.

It is worth repeating.

Lessons Learned

I am still processing all that this basement project has taught me. I can’t help but share some on Medium and more intimately on

The space between the past and present is where mindfulness can be experienced. My suspicion is that neither Big Edie or Little Edie were living mindfully. The definitely lived in the moment without thinking about how their actions would alter their future. That is irresponsible not mindful. An important distinction.

Until we meet again.