One my favorite lines, for myself, friends, or clients, is "It's all compost." What I mean is that everything counts. Our successes, failures, catastrophes, and all the everyday moments in-between get thrown in that compost bin. Those banana peels, spent coffee grounds, and moldy leftovers help grow things later on.
Our lifeline is usually cast in terms of résumés--a list of what we've accomplished, a detailing of our credentials. That's probably more likely to land you a job than a bin of rotting vegetables, but I don't think résumés are where it's at if we want to get a good perspective on our lives. Throw 'er in, let 'er rot, and see what happens in a year. Or five.
Lately, I've been thinking about the compost metaphor when it comes to THINGS. We're about to pack up all our stuff for the second time in 3 months, so I've been doing some sorting. I'm embarassed at the things that survived the last move. (For example, a box from Yancey's office 7 years and 3 jobs ago.) Sitting down to sort, I had two instincts. One was to chuck every single thing. The other was to hold onto everything because it represented our history and I'm hopelessly nostalgic.
When I get to the box of cards from Wyatt's baby shower, I think of how that party helped make me the mother that I am and helped make Wyatt the secure, loving boy he is. Those cards have done their work already--I don't need to hold onto them! They're compost, in other words.
When I open the box of art supplies from Christmas gifts Yancey and I made 12 years ago, I have to be honest with myself. We won't be making linocuts or woodcuts anytime soon. We'll be lucky to get our windows in the house before it starts pouring. But I can remember those happy hours we spent and how thrilling it was to be newly married, then stick that stuff in the Goodwill pile.
And tons of photos, many of people who aren't part of our lives anymore. I'm grateful for them, their investment in us, and whatever occasions prompted the photos. Those friendships were formative and important even though I'm hauling those faces out to the recycle bin.
Scraps become compost, something more beautiful and useful, dark, loamy soil that produces new life. But that bin that sits by the curb on Thursdays? It's nasty, stinky, full of gnats and slime. I think of the Biblical phrase, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for, being certain of what we do not see." Time will do its job, but it's hard to believe that sometimes.