Our new refrigerator arrived on Monday morning. After the exhausting weekend we had, I wasn’t ready for the delivery men to arrive on time. Usually you get your two hour window and they arrive after their designated time. I was sort of cavalier about it and expected them to be late. However, this time, these guys were right at the top of the hour. They even called to let me know they would be arriving in 20 minutes. They came in 10 minutes.
Picture me — breakfast dishes precariously placed on every possible counter space. Lunch prep supplies strewn about. Fingers numb to the bone, chilled from waiting outside for the bus with my boys. I was anything but ready for this delivery.
I froze for a minute after the call. I looked at the clock. Looked at my disaster of a kitchen and just stood there. I would have liked to holler out for help, but I’m still figuring out how to ask for help when I need it and at this moment, it wasn’t as if I actually had any time to sort that out. I would have rather run out the door and fled the overwhelming train wreck, but I couldn’t. Instead, I did what I had to do. I cleared a path. I kicked the scattered swim team bags out of the way. Bags that had been dumped on the floor the day before and left there by my tired children. I shoved the pile of dirty dish towels to a corner of the floor. Tossed shoes the dog had carried from the mudroom floor and haphazardly dropped around the kitchen floor (don’t ask!). I tried desperately to create some space to move so I could tackle my task of emptying my old fridge.
Completely daunted, I had no choice but to dig in and get to work. Once I created a pathway to move about, my time was running out. I had to start emptying. I used brown paper grocery bags; pulling the contents out of my fridge and putting everything into them. No rhyme or reason. Just frantic unloading mixed with a tinge of fear due to the fact that I was going to have to sort through and unpack all of the stuff in these bags sooner than later.
I made it by the skin of my teeth. The old fridge was empty. It looked dingy and pathetic with fragments of carrot tops and old petrified, crusted liquids caked on the shelves. Stray dog hairs clinging to the plastic. I felt compelled to clean it before they took it away but I stopped myself. Knowing this was fruitless. I stood for about ten seconds looking into my old fridge with bags of food strewn about my feet; adding to the royal mess that was there before I began my arduous task. It looked so lonely without all of its wares. It looked empty.
The thing is, it’s not as if I didn’t know they were coming. I’m the one who scheduled the delivery date. But somehow, knowing something is going to happen and being ready for it doesn’t always coalesce. Especially if you’re weary already and the work ahead seems like a gigantic feat. Sometimes we might have to just jump in and start emptying before we think we’re ready. Before we even know why we’re emptying or what we’re going to do once it’s emptied out. Maybe we’ll even surprise ourselves if we do this.
We have what you call a built-in refrigerator, meaning it has cabinets built around it. Because of the cabinets, I needed a smaller model than the one I wanted. It’s hard to buy something new when you can’t get what you want. I wanted a refrigerator that afforded me more space. The fact that my old fridge wasn’t working anymore gave me an excuse to buy a bigger one. Learning that I couldn’t buy a bigger one with more space, I grew reluctant to buy anything at all. I didn’t know refrigerators came in sizes. I simply thought all refrigerators were pretty much the same.
When I learned of my limited size options, I honestly thought about trying to keep the old one. I tried to convince myself that I could continue to make do. I could continue to work around the fact that it froze my produce, leaked water and just didn’t work as I needed it to. I really wrestled with this. I sat with it. And then it hit me like a brick, I saw so clearly that I was painstakingly trying to believe that this crappy old fridge was working for me. I needed to let go of this, this trying to make something work that wasn’t and this attempt to convince myself that it was okay with all of its shortcomings.
While having the same dimensions as my old fridge, my new one has a better distribution of space. Who knew moving things around could make such a difference? This new refrigerator also has an amazingly bright light. When I open it up, it just looks happy inside. I can see everything — it’s very visually pleasing which suits me. I like to see everything right in front of me. I don’t do well with things tucked and hidden away in corners. Like secrets, they unnerve me. A nifty bell rings when its doors are left open for too long. Alerting us, “Hey! I’m still here. Open. Vulnerable. Pay attention to me!” It’s kind of cool. Even with its awkward drawers and unfamiliar distribution of space.
Sometimes the first step is simply clearing all of the stuff out of the way. Pulling out the old beliefs. Unsticking the petrified condiment bottles long since forgotten about. Maybe you don’t know what to do with all of it. That’s okay. Just shove it all into bags and then go from there. Once it’s all inside the bags, there’s more room on the inside to think things through. Once it’s unloaded, there’s time to reexamine it all. The fridge is empty. You’re empty. Don’t be afraid of the emptiness. Pay no attention to the plastered dog hair and moldy remnants smoldering in the crevices. They don’t matter. What matters is that with all of this room you’ve created a workspace for all of the possibilities of filling yourself back up. This is a good, good thing.
Pulling all of the muck out and standing with it around our feet permits us to look at it all. Piece by piece. Part by part. Only then can we decide what we want to get rid of. What we want to keep. And maybe most importantly, what new things we want to put inside. The space gives us room to breath. To contemplate who we see ourselves becoming. Because in truth, we are all continually becoming. Every single second. We witness this in a newborn so viscerally because we can literally observe the changes before our very eyes. As we get older, we need to remind ourselves that we, like the newborn, are always changing and growing. We forget this because we place so much stock in our formative years into becoming some-one or some-thing. We think we need to check off all of the boxes to get to the final destination. But here’s the thing — I’ve come to believe that the only final destination here on this earth is death and I’m really not in a hurry to get there. Not yet. There’s too much space to fill up. Too much living to do.
We give ourselves titles and labels and we cling to them. We tell ourselves this is who we are. We think that once we have our careers and become spouses, partners, parents, divorcees, widowers, students, orphans, triathletes, artists, musicians … that’s all we are. But this just isn’t true. It’s painfully limiting and frankly, it’s boring and it’s sad. Let’s not buy into this idea that we only fit in the space between the cabinets. We don’t. We just don’t. The sky is the limit and the only restriction on that is our own concretized beliefs about ourselves. That’s it. Sure, contemplating this possibility of experiencing a new relationship with ourselves can be totally unnerving. It is also exhilarating. Eventually, it won’t matter how much physical space we think we may have because our internal worlds are vast and filled with endless possibilities and potential. Anything is possible. Why not simply unload and give it a whirl?
I say we let go of the fear. Or better yet, hold a space for it. Tell ourselves this: “It’s totally and completely normal and appropriate to be afraid to put ourselves out there!” If we weren’t frightened, that would actually be something real to worry about. Being afraid is normal. It’s the hangups we have about fear that allow us to pulverize ourselves. We get afraid to feel afraid. But fear is the zest of life. Fear is a good thing. It lets us know we care. It lets us know we’re living and growing. It lets us know that life is risky and awesome instead of being complaisant and dull. We have nothing to gain in not trying. Plus, what fun is that?
Live vibrantly, live passionately and keep making space for all of your becoming. Jump before you’re ready. Don’t let fear hold you back, let it embolden you to grow. Take good care.