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March 14, 2013

Letting Go

Patricia A. Kelly

It’s talked about so frequently, in relation to everything from children growing up, to organizing your closets.


The subject came up for me this week while I was preparing for a yard sale. I’m a possession editor, and moved recently, so it shouldn’t have taken much.


Imagine my surprise at finding at least eight cartons of objects and papers that involve many lives besides my own. As soon as I opened them, my deceased relatives, along with the little girl I was, started peeking out, like Woody and Buzz from Toy Story.


First came my grandfather with his leather coin purse, the one he kept the emergency dollar in, and his blue Vick’s VapoRub jar. There he stood at the sink, shirt off, looking at me mischievously. After I watched him lather up and shave, he dabbed a bit of Vick’s under his nose, and teased me with his tongue swallowing trick.


As I found my dad’s shoes with their old metal shoe stretchers, he suddenly appeared to pluck me out of his closet, where I had been sitting, opening and closing the clips. I could smell his neatly brushed suits and the clean, white shirts hanging above my head as he removed me from the shoes.


I cradle my Tiny Tears doll, smell Aunt Leona’s powder puff and try on the veil she wore to her dad’s funeral some 80 years ago. Nana Bo is here, too. I lean against her while she lets me peek at the baby chick she is hatching behind the warm stove.


I especially sense my dad this week, with his quiet ways, his carefully thought out explanations, his meticulously-made and sipped evening highball, and his carefully laid fire. On the front of my second grade school workbook, in his handwriting, is my name, neatly printed and underlined.


These people, so loved, so near while I look at their things, will be gone in another sense when I’m gone.


If I keep these boxes until I die, will these objects that stir such memory in me end up in plastic bags on an auctioneer’s table, like the beautiful, carefully labeled 19th Century photos I saw at the Fairgrounds a few weeks ago?


Certainly no stranger, and not even my children, will ever get the emotional impact of them. Accepting that is really letting go.


Not only are there objects, but so much more letting go to do, to live a powerful and fulfilling life.


How would it be to give up stories and explanations? A friend was telling me the other day about standing outside in the wind one day, hearing a noise, and finding a pair of false teeth newly present on the ground near her. There were sea gulls around, but nothing else. You can tell me what happened, whose fault it was, and what sleeping, homeless guy kept his mouth open when he should have closed it, but what she noticed is all there really was.


We could let go of interpretation and blame. When my best friend came downstairs in her red negligee and snuggled up against my boyfriend in my dining room (this really happened), I immediately created the story, “My best friend betrayed me. It hurts, and I can’t forgive her.” For so many years, I repeated it to myself every time I thought of her, and suffered over it. But really, I never did find out what she was thinking, or whether she cared about me. All I really know is what I saw. When I let go of my story about it, I was able to let go of the hurt, and forgive her. Wherever you are, Suzy, I’m over it, and I hope you are having a happy life.


How about letting go of worry? It wastes energy and prevents nothing, as the bad thing that happens is always something you weren’t worrying about.


Finally, as Dr. Ben Carson said in his so memorable speech at the National Prayer Breakfast this year, how about giving up excuses, and just creating the life that‘s possible? How about letting go of winning at all costs, and just getting down to taking care of business? What might happen if Congress and the president did that?


There could be a lot to get from letting go.



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