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When You Have a Mental 'Junk Drawer'


We have a “junk drawer” in our kitchen. It’s the drawer where coupons, batteries, a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measures, a flashlight, matches, lighters, cat-nip and the assorted half used birthday candle packages lay scattered about. It’s a small drawer, but it seems it has the room of Mary Poppins’ magic bag. It holds everything and when we (meaning my husband) tries to clean and organize it every once in a while, it is amazing the gifts we find in there. We probably will never have to buy another tube of superglue or a magnet again. I wouldn’t describe myself as fastidious, but I do have a place for everything, everything has a place in my home; the junk-drawer is the exception.

I have the wonderful ability to compartmentalize. In fact, one of the visuals that I used when my repressed memories started to emerge, was that the file cabinets burst their seams and the drawers came busting out. I could no longer close them; I had to begin to process my past. In fact, the last file drawer, the one that was never to be opened, I  purposefully unlocked, went through it and was able to deal with the last of those compartmentalized locked up memories. I needed to go 100 percent in and not leave anything locked away. I wanted and needed to process my past.

It seems I have a junk drawer in my mind. It’s different than the “monkey-mind” I get when I sit down to meditate. This is the place where random mind-spinning thoughts live when I try to sleep, or where self-doubt resides waiting to be pulled out, or the “should be doing,” “why did you eat that,” “did you work out enough today,” or as I found the other night while lying in bed, the image of a scary movie I didn’t see will pop into my head.

One of the most terrible symptoms of my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is nightmares. One of the tools to practice when you get into bed is good sleep hygiene. I usually listen to a podcast every night to stave off the night jitters. The other night, I was laying there enjoying the breeze coming through the window and bam, the clown from the latest horror movie popped into my head. Someone in my Facebook feed had gone to see the movie and shared the picture, letting all their Facebook friends know how much they loved it.

Somehow that picture popped up in my mind’s eye and wouldn’t leave. I even said aloud, “that’s dumb, go away now,”  and turned up the dharma talk. But nope, in the junk drawer of my mind, that one clown turned into a whole posse and would not get out of my head. That’s how I decided that I must have a junk drawer in my mind, that holds the random bits of life that just get in your head, as well as the things I need to take out every now and then.

Perhaps I just keep putting more and more in that drawer until it needs to be organized. The real junk is thrown away (like the clowns) and the rest is neatly put back until I open it and invite the messy sides of my human nature out to acknowledge, learn from and put away. The hammer, lighters, batteries and other “essentials” in our house have a small drawer in our kitchen; I guess, I decided, that I also have a small drawer in my mind that holds my “junk.”

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Getty image via Kanzefar