A grateful good riddance.

Two weeks ago I was in New York City.  I had the time of my life playing in the city that never sleeps.  Shopping, eating, window shopping, eating, visiting tourist sites – did I mention eating?  I had the opportunity to live up my Carrie Bradshaw fantasies while posing for pictures outside her apartment stairs and enjoying the sweet delicacies of Magnolia Bakery (yes, eating again). 

And just like Bradshaw, a small real-life occurrence gave me a little morsel of inspiration for today’s blog.  As I was strolling through Times Square with my favorite person, I quickly let his hand go as I saw an unusual advertisement on (where else?) a garbage can.  “Good Riddance Day” was the message it boasted and as I read on I was fully intrigued.  “We’ll shred, mash and destroy your worst memories from 2011.” 

The Times Square Alliance is set to hold its fifth annual “Good Riddance Day” on Wednesday December 28 and will provide a ritualistic cleansing for anyone who wishes to purge bad memories from their immediate consciousness.

I’m all for emotional cleansing.  In fact, purging was my specialty in the wake of a destructive, heartbreaking, break-up.  I threw everything out – pictures, gifts, cherished mementos – any memory I had of our relationship was tossed in the garbage, just as I felt I had been.  I changed my numbers, created new email addresses, and by six months in I had assumed a new identity.  Or so I thought.

Sometimes, when you try so hard to forget the past, you actually end up chaining yourself to it by living out this fairytale sense of who you’re supposed to be.  I was supposed to be strong and willful, independent and carefree and I threw out all the chains I thought tied me to the old Jordan.  I committed to this new girl, this girl who didn’t care.  Only she did care and she was living a lie.  She was still hurting, still wondering and still trying to understand why this beautiful entity she loved so much was so fragile that it shattered as easily as a piece of glass.

Too often, we find solace in purging a memory by simply discarding all traces that are evidence of its existence.  This process is beautiful and necessary, but we forget the work that is needed after the initial purge.  I was so quick to throw out the scraps of my past that I forgot to say goodbye to them, failed to give them the closure they deserved in my heart.  All the evidence was gone, but the pain still lived on.

While closure and cleansing are all beautiful pieces of the process of grieving, I believe, through my hardships, that maybe we’re looking at the past from the wrong viewpoint.  Instead of looking at these events as negative and destructive, maybe we should dig a little deeper inside ourselves.  Recently, I read an article addressing the top thirty things to stop doing to yourself.  Number 32?  Stop taking things for granted.  Just be grateful.

As 2011 comes to a close and 2012 invites us to the future, I am challenging myself to be grateful.  For me, 2011 was full of incredible highs and desperate lows.  But the most amazing thing was in realizing that I made it through the rollercoaster ride and came out stronger than before I hopped on.  I am grateful for every hardship, disappointment and tear I encountered along the way because now I know that I can overcome more than I thought possible with less than I ever expected to have.  I’ve also realized that sometimes to enjoy the present and look to the future, you have to challenge your past and reconcile the pain.  It’s easy to assume a new identity — it’s more challenging to forgive the pain and embrace your current situation.

Enjoy your Good Riddance Day of 2011, but don’t forget the most important step of the process of purging: closure, and a little gratefulness.  As you throw out the pain of the past in the form of pink slips, Dear John letters and broken pieces of relationships past, reconcile the pain in your heart and be grateful.  Each event has brought you to the here-and-now and that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. 

Sometimes, in order to look forward, we have to look back.

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