Stop This World

Gracefully going from victim to survivor to servant leader in the heartland

So, I did something last weekend.  Something that I had been putting off for over 2 years.  Something I was dreading but knew had to happen.  

I unpacked the boxes from my office in Washington, DC.  They were delivered to me over two years ago and I honestly haven’t had the desire to look through them.  They actually stayed stacked up in our garage until now.  I looked at them almost every day when I would go to my car.  I always thought to myself, “someday I will unpack those boxes, but not today.”

Someday came last Sunday.  Why?  Because my Mom needs space for her plants to stay over the winter and my stuff is taking up precious space.  And, I’m ready to unpack the memories and move on.

Why was I so hesitant to unpack my work boxes?

Well, I didn’t exactly leave on a high note.  I mean, not being able to do your job because you basically had a nervous breakdown isn’t exactly how you want to leave an organization, especially an organization you love.  I was afraid that opening those boxes would bring up bad memories and I have not been in the mood to go through all that again.

I think that there were 12 boxes of various size.  Some of them I knew were wall hangings and others I didn’t really know what I would find.  What did I leave behind in my office that I hadn’t thought about in almost 2.5 years?  The only thing that I was hoping would be in there was a pair of Dansko shoes.  Other than that I wasn’t too sure.  Kind of like a reluctant treasure hunt.

I started with the first box and it was a tough one.  Ended up being the toughest one, honestly.  It held all the notes I had collected during my time in DC.  Thank you notes from FFA members for hosting them in DC, funny notes from friends, and numerous notes of encouragement from my colleagues and friends at work.  So many notes.  Instead of being sad to read those, I ended up being really happy to read them.  Even though I have bad memories in DC, reading those notes reminded me that there were plenty of good times too. 

I opened one note and I just froze. It was from my friend, Jill, who passed away this past spring.  It was a beautiful note of encouragement that Jill was known for.  She was one of the few people that I told about my assault when things started getting really bad with my mental state.  I knew that she would be supportive and kind and this note proves that point.  While it was sad remembering this time in my life, I also smiled because Jill was such a wonderful friend and it is pretty cool to be reminded of her on a random Sunday in my garage.

What else did I find in those boxes?  

Lots of framed photos from over the years, butter boxes from Minnesota that my Dad sent with me to display, awards, lots of those squishy stress toys in every shape imaginable (what am I supposed to do with those things?), a camp chair that I used to watch the 4th of July fireworks from the rooftop, among other things.

I also found several bags of chocolate candy like Snickers and peanut butter cups.  I honestly thought that my coworkers would eat the candy I left, but I guess not. I always kept a candy dish on my meeting table to encourage people to stop by and say hi and to also keep me sane during meetings.  Everyone is happier when you start a meeting with candy.

And then I was stopped in my tracks again.  There was a commemorative ticket from the National’s for a rare no-hitter game.  The National’s I equate with my friend Christy who passed away this past Summer.  She was a Nat’s fan since the day the team moved to DC and I was lucky enough to have tickets with her and a couple other friends.  That ticket actually made me smile instead of being sad.  It was as if Christy was right there in my garage, along with Jill, telling me to buck up and cheer loud for the Nat’s in the playoff’s.

I’m still in the process of finding a home for my office things, but I’ve purged and repacked most of it.  I’m taking the beautiful notes and putting them in a safe spot in the house.

Unpacking my work boxes was actually a nice way to spend an afternoon.  Lots of good memories of my time in DC and constant reminders of the friends I made and the support they gave me, and still do.  I honestly feel a little lighter after unpacking.  I suppose those boxes had been taking up space in my brain and now I have released them. 

Nothing holding me back anymore.

PS – I found my shoes

Thanks to my friend Rockin’ Robin for this. It sat on my desk as a reminder to look fear in the eye.

3 thoughts on “Unpacking the Past

  1. Dawn Quiram says:

    You are stronger than you know! Keep on keepin’on…..


    1. Dean Norton says:

      I fully understand the emotion of not unpacking those boxes. It has been almost three years since i was”retired” and I still have not unpacked my boxes or hung my pictures and plagues. Probably holding on and not wanting finality. Proud of you for concurring your past and moving on with your future!


      1. J.Lynn says:

        Thanks so much, Dean. It was hard to unpack but it reminded me of so many good things, like meeting you & so many other state presidents.


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