A pile of a couple hundred ties lay strewn about a table in my bedroom. Forced to move them when I painted the closet where they were hanging. Collected over thirty years of professional employment, I treasured my ties. They were a symbol of my professional attitude. Although, not required to wear a tie in my former job, I chose to wear a tie virtually everyday, even as the work culture became more casual and ties became less and less common. The tie was my symbolic uniform of my job. When I put on a tie I was preparing for work. Almost all are silk with various dramatic patterns from cubist renderings of Picasso paintings to musings by Jerry Garcia to red, white, and blue for American holidays and even one made of aluminum shaped like a zydeco washboard. Ties were my expression of individuality and style. Careful to wear the Casablanca tie on Valentine’s day as I was to wear the snowman around Christmas. When it was hot out I would wear the cotton batik from Bali. Without exception, I made sure the tie of the day matched my pants and jacket. Looking good was never sacrificed for my occasional sartorial eccentricities.
Soon after my retirement with my new girlfriend, I went to county line beach and made a bonfire of my work shoes, and a stack of ties. Intent on ritualizing the change in my life, I thought the transition would be quick and easy. It has not been. I haven’t been able to deal with this closet of ties since that night at the beach. They just hung there, limp, purposeless, like a collection of clothes in the Smithsonian. Forced to move them, I am reluctant to place them back in their display case. What for? I never wear a tie these days and probably won’t until the next funeral I attend. The end of another year seems an appropriate time to look at closure of that phase of my life. I don’t intend to return there. I am transforming in 2012.
We all have remnants of past personae hanging around our homes. Could be gifts from a past lover that we never use. Or maybe sports gear from an earlier obsession now done. How do we handle these relics? Do we allow them to use up space in our house and in our minds? How do we dispose of them? Toss them out unceremoniously following the biblical admonition, ‘let the dead bury the dead?’ Perhaps we pack them away in a storage bin or attic because we just can’t bear to part with the memory attached to the thing.
The end of the year is often used as a time to release old baggage but my inquiry is on the way and manner we release, toss, trash, and store our past. Do we do it with appreciation of the person and situation that the thing represents? Do we reject the feelings of loss that may arise? Do we practice a small ritual to recognize the transition we have made? A New Year arises on Jan 1 like it does every year and can we approach the New Year complete? Can we become complete with the stories, persons, and places that passed through our experience for the past 365 days? By complete I mean to get up to date and embrace the whole thing; the good, bad, and the ugly. These days between the winter solstice and January 1 can be used as days of reckoning with our year just past. Make that long promised phone call. Send that email to a friend that fell out. Maybe even write a note to yourself acknowledging the successes and failures of the past year. The tradition of making resolutions or intentions is a powerful way to begin a new year. It is helpful to clean out the closets first and release the old stuff that no longer serves. The ties won’t go back, just as I won’t go back to the old job and it is time for them to hang out somewhere else. Make some space for the new by going into the closets, inner and outer, and reviewing and releasing or renewing.