12/18/2010 03:58 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Storage and Letting Go

I met my ex at the storage room last week. I took away a lesson in letting go.

The storage room is in a nondescript concrete structure in Yonkers, and until last Saturday held the remaining detritus of my marriage and some archeological evidence of life before that.  I met my ex in front.

We proceeded to the room through a chilly labyrinth of corridors lined with rooms just like ours. My somewhat morbid thought: there are lives condensed into each of these cubicles, kind of like rows of drawers in a crematorium.

The clanging of the storage room door opening echoed down the corridor as we talked studiously of neutral things, like Melissa's daughter/ my stepdaughter and her travails at her new school.  Once in the room, we quickly decided which furniture would stay or go: none for me, I was already jammed into an apartment half the size of the house we had lived in. She would take the Mies chairs, notwithstanding their total dilapidation.   

After the junk guy joined us and moved some furniture, Melissa and I started digging out and opening the boxes. I picked through the toys in the first box and noticed at the bottom some Hot Wheels tracks- the ones my son and I played with for hours and hours well before I knew Melissa. There was also some artwork, paintings which unintentionally looked like abstracts, a therapist's dream image of a very little stick figure kid and looming parents on either side, pieces of cardboard with things like buttons and feathers pasted to them. Melissa and I laughed when we could not figure out which kid did what and also how the stuff had stayed pasted to the cardboard for so long!

I shut the boxes. There were no tears or anything, no Citizen Kane moment.  The junk man asked, junk? I nodded yes. 

The rest of the room was jammed floor to ceiling with furniture which we and the junk man removed, dolly load by dolly load, until the chairs were in Melissa's car and the rest of the furniture down near his pickup truck.  It was when Melissa was gone and the junk man was breaking up the final sticks of furniture with a crowbar so they would fit in the truck, that I thought about storage and letting go. 

I arrived home feeling a bit liberated, telling my girlfriend that the storage room was cleared, ready to accept her many boxes shipped from across the country.   During the rest of the day though, a lingering question echoed in my head: what had happened during the preceding decades the skeletal remains of which ended up deposited in that room to leave me in this kind of pleasantly numb, more expectant than mournful, state?  And in that state, what could I take from the wreckage of the lives I had led, to move forward into this cool clear fall Sunday with some pinprick of light to shed on the fallout from the failed relationships that led me here?

It was amazing how easily the furniture all came apart, the crowbar went through it all like butter, it had looked so- durable! So many dinners on that table, so many books, stereo equipment, TV lodged in the bookshelf unit for years Maybe it was that, how easily all this furniture freighted with years of use and meaning came apart coaxed by the crowbar, that flagged for me that letting go is the easiest and hardest part of marriage and divorce. 

We tend to keep grievances and expectations boxed up within like we keep things in storage.  You could call it- baggage.  We take it from our childhood to our relationships, then from relationship to relationship, we open those boxes in every therapy session until we might as well play a tape recording.  What is so hard about letting go?  Isn't all we need a crowbar?