Open the door, walk down those eleven steps. Don't try to do it in the dark, because something's always sitting there, a broken toy, a dirty sock, one of the cats. Then again, the only time we go down there is at night, right? During the day, we don't want to have anything to do with the basement.

Take a look around. This is where we put everything we can't stand to see during our regular lives. Boxes full of things, boxes empty of things, things deprived of their boxes; items we've outgrown or retired or broken or rejected; tools that never get used, remote controls that control nothing, parts that cannot be identified; the too-sharp, the too-messy, the too-scary. When we cannot stand something anymore, it goes down to the basement.

Think about where you are. You are underground. Those eleven steps lead to the rest of the world. Up there, the lightbulbs work, happy people turn things on and use them. You can hear their footsteps over your head. You think to yourself that this must be what it's like, in some small way, to be buried alive. You realize how stupid that sounds, but when you laugh there is a strange echo to it. That echo is caused by the basement.

Lie to yourself. Tell yourself the one you always tell, the one about how it isn't so bad down here. After all, your vinyl record albums are all down here -- how bad could it be? Put one on, turn it up. But it's not as good as you remember it being, pretty bad, embarrassingly bad, how could you ever have listened to crap like this, what kind of person were you back then, what kind of person are you now, now, down here, picking through your past, picking through your soul, picking through the basement.

Realize that it's not just a metaphor. You are eleven steps down inside yourself. Eleven steps in, you look around and see yourself for what you really are. You can do this because there are mirrors down here, figurative mirrors, symbolic mirrors, metaphors lying all over the place like styrofoam packing peanuts or copies of Invisible Man. And then you turn around and actually see yourself in a real mirror and it scares the hell out of you. And then you turn around and see that one picture, where you and she were young and cold and looked like optimistic Slovak tourists, and you realize that it's not that way anymore, everything has changed. And that scares you even harder than your own self does. Don't bother screaming down here in the basement.

Make a plan. The harder stuff first, the failures, the photos of your earlier sloughed-off self or your beautiful lost self, your old journals and letters and the books you loved and never touch, the memories; deal with that first. Take it on. It might not kill you. The easier stuff will still be there later, if you can still stand it. If you still have a light burning in your brain. If you haven't eaten your own heart in bitterness. If the rest of it doesn't scar you, doesn't change you, doesn't keep you down there forever in the basement.

Remember there are others up there, living eleven steps away, running around in the well-lit present. Waiting to see you, the you you are to them, the you they recognize, not this miner of your own subconscious hoping and praying desperately that the canary stays alive, that there's enough air to breathe down there, that nothing collapses, that the traps you've set for yourself your whole life don't work. Remember that they're all up there, playing, laughing, waiting for you. Waiting to see if you ever emerge from the basement.

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