This has been one of those weeks where every day added another drop or two to my already on-the-verge-of-overflowing champagne glass of emotion. I reached the weekend, and there were two options available to me: crack the fuck up or find ways to release all this nonsense before that happens. I tried for option #2.

I saw the pointless-but-pretty sequel to Tron. I cooked some chili (doing something productive helps my mood, and so does eating. Bonus!) Last night, I took a long, meandering drive in my car, without any music or radio noise, and sat with my thoughts. I considered all the things I need to get done, all the things I’ve already gotten done, the things I’ve started but haven’t been able to finish… and thought about the reasons for those. I thought about how certain people and situations in my life make me feel positively crippled and incapable of doing anything.

Today, I’ve been cleaning. Three loads of laundry, getting rid of boxes and wrapping paper and other packaging from the holidays. I’ve started grouping things into boxes so it makes my move into a new place (when I find it) easier. There’s a box of kitchen stuff, and a box of wines and spirits I’ve received as gifts. There are several boxes of magazines to recycle and another two boxes of books to donate to Goodwill.

However, the most cathartic exercise I completed today was also the longest. I spent two hours going through a huge cardboard box full of envelopes and paper… this box was one I’d sort of hidden away and forgotten about, for good reason. Up until just a couple of years ago, I was a financial mess. The letters in the box dated back as far as 2004 — and I found a few documents from even earlier, including an unemployment statement from the state of New Jersey from 2003, and a bill from New York University from 2001. The bulk of the letters were overdraft statements from my bank, notices from collection agencies, statements from my school loan providers or from the debt consolidation company I started working with when I finally got up the courage to do so.

Dear reader — I shredded all of it. I sat on the floor, on a colorful area rug from Ikea, in my pajama pants, and ran each and every sheet, envelope and receipt through my cross-cut paper shredder (I kept the more recent statements that I can’t easily pull from the internet).

I didn’t start this cathartic shredding orgy before opening up ALL of the envelopes I’d left unopened because I’d been too scared or ashamed to look at them for so many years.  I don’t think I could have done that as recently as six months ago without falling into a deep, dark state of self-hatred and depression. Now? Well, I was far from happy to see everything, but I feel like I’m looking at an obstacle I’ve almost completely defeated.

My tendency is to focus not on what I’ve accomplished but on the tremendous distance I still have to travel and the list of goals I still haven’t accomplished. Reviewing this mass of paper (and chucking it into the recycling) was a great purge and reminder of what I have accomplished. I have a good-paying job. I don’t get overdraft notices from the bank anymore. I’ve paid off all my debts — with the exception of one school loan, which has been greatly reduced in size. I have a 401(k) and I was able to look at the statements from only two years ago and compare them to the one I received last month and see a clear and sizable improvement there. And I still have a great many years until retirement, so that’s good.

Things aren’t perfect, and I have a lot to do just to “get to zero” and feel like I’m back on track to getting there.  Today was the first time in many years that I was able to acknowledge that I’m catching up. Of course, other problems arise whenever the old ones are solved (hi, bum wrist and tendinitis in my ankle, strange eye irritation for the last few months and general health issues) but I can sleep at night.

It’s a good feeling.

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