Even though Spring is long gone, I’m still surrounded by old boxes. They’re hanging out in all corners of my place, begging for my organizational attention.

Some are filled with books I need to place on shelves I need to buy. Other boxes hold CDs, DVDs, hand-written letters, and various office space collectibles, like the mystery cords tangled up with one another I can’t bring myself to toss.

It’s been a few years since moving back on my own, away from Kevin and the perfectly safe life we shared. Kevin is an amazing guy and he treated me like a queen, so what the hell was I thinking, breaking it off with him? The answer is simple – as much as I love him and hard as I tried – I just wasn’t in love. And as scary as it was to leave him, it was even more so, living a life with someone I knew wasn’t meant for me.

Kevin and I are great friends, and I’m so grateful for our time together.

I’ve never been good at taking compliments. Part of me believes them, while mostly, I’m just confused. I linger in-between their words of praise, searching for elements of fiction, while secretly wanting to believe in myself long enough to realize what their saying might possibly be true.

When it comes to knowing ourselves, why can’t some of us see what others do? Why do we fall back on the fear of believing in what others know to be true?

If not filled with books, letters or office junk, the rest of my boxes are filled with photos. Hundreds, if not thousands of misty water-colored memories piled to the gills, in no chronological order. They are the Kodachrome melody of my life’s experiences. Every time I sit to organize them, I end up lost in a maze of snapshots listening to Billy Joel, frozen in time.

Some of my most cherished moments have been in solitude – free falling in memories.

Memories wrapped in surprises are especially fun. In the midst of one of my intimate archaeological photo dives recently, I came across something extraordinary. It was mixed in with my photos just waiting to be read; a tattered cocktail napkin from Dan, a waiter from my stripping days.

Dan was older than me and one of the sweetest dudes I knew – which is saying a lot, because my take on men wasn’t great. Strippers are typically surrounded by the one of the big three: Mr. Married who wants to sleep with you, Starving Student who tries to see you naked for free, or Mr. Scumbag, who’s dating your stripper-friend, but tries to get in your g-string every chance he gets.

Dan wasn’t any of those. He moved to Hawaii from Minneapolis earning his law degree by day, serving cocktails each night at the club. Whenever I was on stage Dan took a break from walking the floor and found a booth in the back to watch me. But he did more than just watch me dance. He truly enjoyed my performances, appreciating my Bob Fosse obsession and Ann Reinking channeling. He saw my childhood Broadway dream within the space of each sway of my hip, point of my toe and nude pirouettes.

After every one of my solo performance-four-song-sets on the main stage, Dan would spring to his feet applauding and whistling through his fingers, getting the crowd pumped. I knew he liked me, but it wasn’t until finding this napkin, that I realized how much:

I see the smile, its half way there
I wonder if
It really care
So many faces
So many times
I guess the smile
Comes from the rhyme
…it’s still an ass kicking smile 

I remember the night Dan wrote this as he watched me on stage. After emerging from the dressing room, I saw him standing by the bar, nervous and kind. I read it out loud in front of him and was instantly embarrassed. What did he see? I thought. Another compliment I struggled to believe.

But even then, in the thick of self-doubt and insecurity, there was something inside me that knew; something that made me hold on to this piece of paper for over 20 years. It’s the same thing that helped me break away from Kevin, knowing I wasn’t living in my truth. The same force that keeps me believing I am worth more than my the sum of my fears.

We all have pieces of personal history that remind us how far we’ve come. And sometimes, they echo what we knew all along, but are hidden behind our youth. If I knew Dan’s last name, I’d look him up to thank him for being such an integral part of mine.

Here’s the part where you tell me: what keepsake do you have that reminds you how far you’ve come?

17 thoughts on “Boxes

  1. I have a little tin box full of important memories. A small tin box (just like in the movies) and although I know I could fill a rubbermaid crate with important mementos, I think that my small tin has more value…

    Leo always said in our beginnings “The fact that she’s into me makes me think less of her” he was a bad boy with a golden heart. I believed in that heart and I am so glad I did because today he’s my anchor.

    I’m sorry it didn’t work out with Kevin. But trust me, the ocean is full of Dan’s. I know, I’ve sailed it.


  2. When I was 21 and first in the Navy, I was stationed in Maine and crazy in love with a married woman I had met there. We shared the same birthday … the same day and year and had been born just hours apart on separate coasts, so we figured out we were actually minutes apart and it certainly helped cement our bond. I was tortured by the six-month roller coaster that this relationship became, but still completely surprised and absolutely devastated when she decided to leave for South Carolina when her husband was transferred, after weeks of promising she would stay behind with me. Her parting “gift” was a small Hallmark plaque with a sad-looking puppy’s face on it, which said, “Blessed are those expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.” Thirty-one years later, after a dozen moves across both town and country, that plaque still sits in plain view on my home-office desk and as it has always has, an important reminder that still offers me wise guidance, today.


  3. Just cleaned out the house I have lived in for 9 years in CO, set to close for sale on 8/15, so this question is very interesting. I came across many deeply meaningful things, stored for years. Pictures, postcard, letters….

    But it is my curiosity, and where it has led me, that I consider the real memento.

    There is an elemental relationship between the desire for connection/intimacy/sex and destruction, which all life has at it’s core. It has to be this way for all life to be in balance on the planet. “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Each person has to come to terms with this reality in their own way, I guess. Have you seen “A Dangerous Method”, a true story about Jung, Freud, and Jung’s patient/lover/student Sabina Speilrein? Amazing film.

    I am in LA for about a week. Would be up for coffee, if you are available, to share memories of Hawaii Kai, and where that magical place leads.


    1. I totally agree – it’s all about the desire for connection – why we hold on to certain things. I haven’t seen that movie, but will have to, sounds awesome.

      I will email you and let’s see if we can connect in LA. That would be a trip, my fellow Hawaii Kai friend!


  4. That is so interesting. Do you wonder where he is now and what he is doing?

    I can across a box of my most precious things from when I was a child: an assortment of Hello Kitty goodies. I was flooded with memories of how important these few things were to me. They were in pristine condition. No stickers used, no mini envelopes written on, no tiny colored pencils sharpened down. We had very little money so I coveted them and wouldn’t allow myself the pleasure of enjoying them. I would just look and organize the little things. It really made me sad thinking about the little girl who thought these may be the only new things she would get.

    Then, I excitedly gave them to my daughter, who immediately used and lost half of them! Clearly not a child who wants for anything. Is there a middle ground anywhere? How do you teach kids to enjoy life but appreciate and respect it along the way? I fear I may have swung the pendulum a little far the other way!


    1. Thanks, Dalai – I do wonder about him, but there’s no way to reach him because I don’t know his last name. Maybe the Universe will guide him to this post! That would be something!

      Isn’t that interesting about your Hello Kitty collection!?

      I bet your little girl will keep something else and you won’t find it until years from now!


  5. I have a few “ex boxes” (not to be confused w/the video game console 🙂 and looking through the contents of those always make me feel like I’ve come far. The old pictures in them feel like they’re from other lives.

    I love that napkin. Don’t ever throw it away.


    1. There’s nothing like opening the “ex-files” to help you realize how far you’ve come! I didn’t even date this guy Dan, but he did leave a lovely impression.

      Thanks – I am never throwing it away!


  6. If we could only know what we know when we die. U know the place where u get where u are comfortable with yourself.

    I am trying to live my life that way. Not thinking of where my future will end up.

    I don’t want to regret anything.

    I live alone except for my two pups. It is nice to live alone. There is a quiet refuge. A safe refuge.

    We have to learn to become comfortable with just being by ourselves.

    I must have learned that a long time ago. Somewhere that it is ok to be alone. Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t compare yourself to others. Just enjoy the alone time. U had that excellent video of being alone I do believe. It was so true too. What she said in the video.

    When I was 19 and dating my sophomore boyfriend in college, he said to me “You will never marry.” How did he know that? I wasn’t difficult to get along with. In fact, he said to me “You are the best companion ever.” Before we dated and after, his girlfriends always were knocking at my door, wanting to spend time with me so that they could understand him. They said, “He talks about u all the time.” It was not to make them jealous and they weren’t jealous either. They wanted to come be my friend too.

    I don’t know. I excepted a long time ago that I was just different. I have always been different. My dad even says you are different.

    I think I was born an old soul.

    And I have found no man that completes me. I can’t find anyone that can be quiet when I want to be quiet and to go where my mind wanders. I do not know if he exists. But if he does, I will know. I will just know.


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