Basements, Boyfriends


Some people have used this time to tackle projects like painting the spare room, fixing up a home office, or completing an intricate jigsaw puzzle.

I decided, for my project, it would be a good time to finally clean out the basement. I had some trepidation about the physical part of the process, steep stairs and heavy boxes and dust everywhere, but vastly underestimated the emotional repercussions. Jung would have a thing or two to say about metaphorically cleaning up your dark subterranean spaces.

There are items you are well aware of, like the Christmas decorations you unearth every year or the rack where you semi-annually switch summer to winter wardrobe, and maybe a ski outfit you bring up every so often. There are some pleasant surprises of things you have been looking for, like a favorite sweater, or clips from early published writing, or an important legal document you’d been trying to find. What you don’t anticipate are the boxes that were purposely buried and meant to be forgotten. That’s where the danger lies. Remembrances of ruined romantic relationships.

What I failed to realize as I went on this archeological dig was that Venus had just gone retrograde. We may be familiar with Mercury in retrograde, which wreaks havoc on communication, but Venus is the planet of love and, in retrograde, brings emotional distress as she literally takes your love life backwards. It is a time for more of an internal reflection to deal with unresolved issues and conflicts. Astrologically speaking, the universe is bringing up the worst and biggest changes in your life and forcing you to sit with them, alone, undistracted, in your basement, in cobweb covered yoga pants. Bam.

Hidden behind the tax documents and old stereo equipment and belly dancing skirt was the box marked “personal.” This is when I should have reached out to my retired therapist in Florida and asked if she could be an emotional support flashlight. Looking through the old photographs was one thing, but the letters were another. Younger people may only have an electronic emotional footprint, and while they may torture themselves deciphering past texts and trying to read between the emojis, there is nothing as powerful as someone’s actual handwriting.

As I hauled the box into the living room and started to take out all the remnants, I began an uncomfortable stroll down memory lane, like walking barefoot on pebbles. On the good side, I realized I have been lucky enough to be truly loved by a number of men. On the other, the amount of drama and betrayals was astounding. Some details, of course, I remembered, but others felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. I don’t think of myself as an overly dramatic person, but as I lined up these experiences it started to read more Tolstoy than “The Little Engine That Could.”

The time warp turned into a bit of trance and it wasn’t until I was on my seventh dump run with a tear-soaked mask that a kind young man said, “Uh, Ma’am, you’re bleeding.” I looked down at my hand and saw where I had cut it on the glass from a picture frame I had smashed. Damn that Venus.

I could have just thrown out all these pieces of my past. But instead I tried to find a way to put this puzzle together, looking at what fit, what the patterns were, and where there were gaps I just couldn’t fill.

Once I sorted out the mementos, I put them in a box, a new one. I didn’t bury it in the darkest corner but instead placed it on a well-organized shelf. With all the clutter and mess and cobwebs cleaned out, there was room to breathe. It was time to come up out of the basement into the light with lessons learned and contemplate a new romantic future. Maybe I’ll even put on that belly dancing skirt again. But after Venus gets out of retrograde.

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