Over the holiday break, I did something I have been putting off for months. More truth: I have been putting it off for years. I went through, cleaned out and updated  my office. 

I rationalized the steadfast avoidance of this task because I was too busy. I needed to keep everything in its place so I didn’t waste any time and lose any efficiency.

The deeper reasons I avoided it were all emotional, as they always are. 

I knew cleaning out this office would put me face-to-face with something I didn’t want to face: myself. 

I’d have to face my tendency to hoard and hang on to things way too long. My obsession with books. My ridiculous collection of notecards and pens and markers and sticky notes. The ghosts of my past. The skeletons of my past work. The way disrupting my systems unhinges me and sends me into shut down. 

And I would have an uncomfortable jumble of feelings around all of this, as I always do. 

The experience did not disappoint. But it did surprise me. 

The office held the dreck and dross of over a decade of my professional work. Notes and scraps of paper, scribbled ideas, jotted joys, and strategies, strategies, strategies I once deemed necessary, profound or revelatory. So many little scraps of paper. Remnants of my diligent soul and mind applying itself to its pursuit. 

As I sifted through, picking at the bones of who I had once been, I experienced something I didn’t expect. I could look at the woman I was in those old notebooks and see her unfolding. I could thumb through the pages and pick up the thread of her evolution. From my vantage point, I could appreciate the way she was developing, the connections she was making, the original art she was creating. How she was growing in interesting ways as she went. And unlike the me in the moment who was generating all of this, I knew where she was headed. I saw how her ideas would be honed and developed and become something unique and refined. And cool. Even though her efforts seemed plebeian at times, and maybe caused a cringe or two, I got to look at it all through the lens of the future she was guaranteed to create. And it was good. 

At one point, I became very depressed. I thought, “My goodness, I have put all of this effort into my work. Was it worth it?” I sat with that question. I did the math on how it had supported myself and my family, how it had changed lives along the way. How I had grown, how it had stretched and challenged me. How it gave me room to live my life, raise my children and to define my own schedule. How my work had inspired and elevated and gave people words where they previously could find none. How it had returned them to themselves. And I felt that question was answered. 

I realized this was a celebration. 

All of it. 

The old messy office, the bags and bags of trash, the truck-filled trip to Goodwill, and the new, neater, streamlined space I now sit in.

The cleaning out, the releasing, the getting rid of, the embracing and the witnessing, and coming to terms with. I realized that bringing in the new desk, monitor and the better office equipment was an ode to all I have accomplished over the last 12 years with a garage sale desk, an on-clearance lamp, a small laptop and a lot of gumption. 

I’ve been meditating quite a bit on celebrating and celebration lately. 

Even before the office upgrade. 

It’s our theme this month. And it’s also something I have been focusing on bringing into my work and my life. (Part of this connection to celebration has been inspired by work I have done with Fatima Mann of Love & Healing Work and Sarah Elliott of Ellivate Alliance and I owe them a debt of gratitude for their work and thinking on the topic.)

We have an uncomfortable relationship with celebrating and celebration. I traced this discomfort first to ingrained negative cultural and societal messages about humility (especially as a woman), and the folly of being boastful. I traced it to imposed beliefs that told me celebration and joy were too shiny, too loud, too arrogant. 

Then I went inward, and went deeper.

Celebration is really – vulnerability.

When we celebrate what we have done, we expose ourselves. We stand in our  spotlight. We validate our efforts. We put tender parts of ourselves forward – and risk rejection, scrutiny. 

We say to the world, “I did this. And I think it’s good.”

We dare to be worthy. 

And that’s scary. It’s powerful, too. 

Because in addition to risking the singe of the critics, we also risk the glee of the fellow travelers. 

We risk the encouragement of our peers. 

We venture the genuine appreciation of our friends.

We gamble on the much-needed support of our admirers and loved ones.

When we celebrate, we have the opportunity to pause and assess the distances we’ve traveled, as I did for days on the disheveled floor of my office. 

We have the chance to appreciate our wins and losses, our efforts and strain, our wins and our growth. Our evolution. 

We have the chance to celebrate perhaps one of the deepest of human instincts: to do, to act, to create.

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