Thursday, March 15, 2018

Saying Goodbye to the Past

For the past 2.5 days, I've been sitting in front of my laptop skimming, clicking and sighing. I've been clearing out the "everything else" folder in my one gmail account. It's been a task that I've been putting off for far longer than any one task should be put off for. Why? Well, multiple reasons:

1) I knew it would be tedious. Just like I struggle with hoarding tendencies in my non-digital life, I do with things like email. I knew there was a lot of emails in there and clicking on each little checkbox was going to be boring and take a lifetime.

2) This is just one of about four that need to have this done and I felt like if I did one, the next step would have to be moving on to another one.

3) I was afraid of what I would find in there. My past hasn't always been stellar and this account goes back to about February of 2006.  That's a lot of life. That's before my divorce. That's before I moved to New York and back to Michigan. Since it seems I never deleted anything, this made me anxious.

Still, I needed to do it and for whatever reason, I decided on Tuesday to start hacking my way through the 41,000+ emails that were in there. I created some new "folders" and dragged and dropped things. I deleted things, first by clicking 25 little boxes and then by clicking the select all after I'd moved anything I wanted. I got through about 21,000 on Tuesday. It felt pretty good but I could feel my anxiety rising. By last night, each new group of emails was a struggle. I was starting to see emails from or about people who I had once considered good friends who turned their backs on me. I saw Facebook notifications about friends who had died and their posts. Still, I pressed on and today was the hardest. So many emails were like that. I came across an email with the funeral arrangements for a friend, emails from people I love who no longer have time for me, and more. Still, I pressed on and right now, unless an email has come in, the "everything else" section of my account is empty. I still have to go through the "All Mail" section to clean out some things that didn't show up...like everything from before June 2009 which didn't show up. It can wait for another day. I finished the task that I had set for myself.

It was hard. It was harder than I thought it would be. There were times where I'd just stare at a name in my inbox and re-live losing that person. I dealt with the pain of losing friends to death and to losing others to life. I'm glad that I waited until the time felt right and didn't force myself to do this when perhaps I wasn't strong enough to handle it. Now, it's done and while I feel a bit wrung out, I can put all of this behind me and move forward in my life because if nothing else, we should always be moving forward even if it's one tiny baby step at a time.

If you feel like you're ready to tackle something like this, I'd love to tell you what worked or at least helped me. Hopefully it will help you and help you to say goodbye to some not so great pieces of your past so that you can start to take another step forward:

1. Don't open each email. You may be tempted. Don't do it. Don't relive things to that level. Acknowledge it and delete it.

2. Batch delete. Save yourself some serious time and find all of the emails from a sender and if you don't need them, delete them all at once. I deleted over 1,000 from Facebook with a couple of clicks.

3. Be gentle with yourself. If you start to get overwhelmed, it's okay to take a break. It's okay to walk away from it for as long as you need to. I had to multiple times. Remember that during this, you are what matters.

....And always, no matter what, remember that you're not alone, no matter how many icky emails there might be in any account, someone loves you and you always have a place in this world.



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