“It’s time,” my husband Rich says as we drive back from seeing a brand new townhome overlooking the lake we’ve lived near but not on for the past 33 years. “I get a good feeling about this. We’re ready.”
“I’m not so sure,” I murmur, knowing I was the one that pushed him to make the appointment with our realtor to see it. I am surprised it is he who is so sure.
Lost in thoughts of what it would mean if the offer we just authorized our relator to write up is accepted, I am instantly brought back to this moment as I feel the warmth of his words and his hand as he gently rests it over mine. I realize that we are bidding on a new townhome about 1/3 the size of our current Victorian home of 33 years. What have we done!
We pull into our familiar stone semi-circle driveway, rutted from the rain that came down last night, the strip of grass growing too high reminding me it needs to be mowed. We drive past our lovingly restored Italianate home sitting so stately among the trees. I have driven this driveway thousands of times and I still stare in a state of wonderment that this is our home. My heart fills with gratitude as I appreciate our home nestled among a large wooded lot full of an exceptional variety of mature trees, wildflowers, and gardens that look easy to care for but aren’t.
Less than 30 days later, with the closing date on the new place within a few weeks, I am clearing clutter in my office, where I consulted for Fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs from England, Italy, and Australia for over 32 years. It’s also where just a few years ago, at the start of the Pandemic, I received emails and calls from all of my current clients to “pause” retainers. It is during this pause that I come to the realization that I am ready for a change. I am ready to let go of my consulting business and take time to write and build my b.u. Coaching business.
So, here I am. Clearing my home of things. Many things. Things large and small that we have collected while living a whole life. Things that make our house our home.
Rich was right. This is hard, but I am ready. Ready to clear this space so another family can fill it with their own things – making their own memories just as we have.
As I empty yet another drawer to sort, I uncover a lovely little wooden box with the word “surrender” on top and pink flowers painted along the top and sides. The lettering is – dare I say whimsical – and doesn’t match the phrase at all. Perhaps the designers didn’t want me to worry once I read the word “surrender”?
Interesting that this little box represents an action that isn’t easy to do. One that I’m doing right now.
Remembering that someone gave me this for a past birthday, I opened the box to find a little booklet instructing me to use the little tiny pencil provided to write down any worries and concerns on the coordinating mini-slips of paper (also included in the box). Once I’ve unburdened myself in this way, I can place each piece inside, close the lid, and it’s done. I’ve surrendered. I can now let go and trust the Universe to care for whatever I release.
It sounds so simple. Before I placed the instruction booklet inside, I noticed an additional instruction for a ritual. It suggests that once several slips of paper have been collected, you can burn them to mark a physical transformation. This appeals to me as I have done similar rituals in the past and found it gratifying to watch something I’ve needed to let go of burn becoming smoke and ash. It is so much more satisfying than leaving them inside the cute box.
As I sit surrounded by boxes of things I am either letting go of in the form of donations or trash or items I choose to keep, I recognize that while this is quite a big and significant letting go task, this is a familiar feeling. Through my mediation and mindfulness practices, I’ve learned that each moment is an opportunity to let go of expectations, judgments, and, yes, even things.
Letting go is something I’ve been practicing almost daily over the past decade or so.
As a parent, I’ve had to let my children go in stages, and now all three daughters are creating their lives in three states, each finding their way. As a business owner, I’ve let go of clients and, eventually, my business as I morphed my marketing and PR consulting practice into a coaching business and my writing practice.
And now, I am letting go of the home I’ve had for the past 33 years, where I’ve spent most of my married and parental life.
Once again, I rely on many mindfulness and Buddhist practices to make this transition. One practice, in particular, comes to my mind and can be explained best by sharing this story:
Two monks were traveling together. They reach a river they must cross to continue their long journey. While contemplating how to cross, a woman comes along and needs to travel across but is terrified of the rushing water. Even though the monks have vowed never to touch a woman, one of the monks doesn’t hesitate, lifts the woman, and carries her across to the other side. He then continues along his journey.
Both monks walked side-by-side in silence for a few hours. The other monk finally breaks the silence by asking, “ You took a vow never to touch a woman, yet how could you have picked that woman without hesitation?”
Without missing a beat, the other monk replied, “ Brother, I set her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
This is an excellent example of letting go with awareness because even if we can let go of something, we often carry beliefs or regrets that weigh us down without being aware of it.
As I let go of things, people – even my home, it helps me to be aware of any additional baggage that may hang on so I can indeed allow all of it to go.
Sometimes it’s the doubts that keep us back. The questions we need answers to so we feel safe in making a change especially one like this one.
I’ve become who I am in this house. I’ve done so much. Accomplished so much. Who will I be without this home? We are doing this too fast. How can I give up this amazing view? What on earth will Rich and I “do” without our never-ending list of chores and tasks associated with owning a home that was built in the 1800’s? Can I make our new home, which is a cookie-cutter new construction, feel like my home?
Letting go is a balance like anything else, isn’t it? We also need to know what to keep too. As I clear the clutter, I am recognizing that there are some things I know – at least for now – I want to keep.
The other day my eldest daughter Liz called me on Facetime to see how I was doing. I proudly showed her the many boxes we’ve packed for donations, and as I was panning around my office, I noticed two small figurines that have sat on my desk for decades. They were of two clay figures – one of a lopsided penguin and the other, my favorite of the two, a figure with arms stretched out as if they were about to hug someone. They never fail to bring a smile to my face. I carefully picked them up and clumsily tried to navigate the phone, so she could see them. Liz laughed. “Mom, oh my god. I remember making those in what – third or fourth grade? “These are definitely going in the KEEP box,” I replied. “Somethings are treasures, and these are a few of mine.”
Self-awareness is the key to knowing what to keep and let go of. And, if you add a dash of self-compassion, you can more easily detach from things – especially after recognizing they aren’t ours to carry.
It’s taken me decades of practice, yet, I’m still learning ways to accept what is without judging and become more mindful about what I may be carrying around and weighing me down. Those figurines don’t weigh me down. They lift me up. That is why for now, they are in the KEEP pile.
Hours later, after my phone call with Liz, I am getting ready to seal up another box for donation. I look around and notice the surrender box. Picking it up, I make sure there are no notes of mine inside, and I wrap it up and place it in donation box. I can easily let it go, knowing I don’t need it. As I tape up the box, the irony doesn’t escape me that I’m letting go of so much – including my surrender box.