Wednesday, May 4, 2016

...and Holding On

"All the art of living lies in the fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
~Havelock Ellis

I've repeated this quote because I'm still pondering it, seeing evidence of its validity everywhere I turn. 

The most obvious has been in the constant assessing I find myself doing as I strive to simplify our home.  I've been on an organization and decluttering kick for the past five years, ever since we downsized from two homes to one.  I thought I had done a wonderful job (if I do say so myself) until my sister visited last fall and commented that even though we had a lot of 'stuff', it didn't look cluttered.  It took awhile to figure out why the comment, intended as a compliment, still unnerved me. I was organized, uncluttered, but, clearly, far from the simpler look and feel that I really wanted but hadn't acknowledged.

So, for the last couple months I been removing the next level of belongings with simpler as the new criteria - a criteria that has forced me to examine and reexamine more closely the underlying reasons for holding onto...anything and everything.  For me, and I suspect for others, it's not the object that I'm holding onto, but what it represents - a memory, a relationship, an image of myself, an aspiration, an achievement, a time and place, maybe a "what if" - perhaps more.  With this realization, the decisions of what to keep and what to release became much easier, even enjoyable.

The more valuable realization dawned on me, however, when I went to visit my 90 year-old friend the week before she was to move into independent living near her family in the Midwest.  As I drove up to the house she had lived in for 17 years, she was standing in her near empty garage giving the last donations to a crew of compassionate and caring men who have obviously done this before.  We walked into her near empty home.  And in that moment I could hear the inner voice...the reason.  I'm beginning to let go now while it is my choice, while I have a partner to help with the decisions, to take the stuff to donation and consignment.  Because I want to, not because I have to!

So...this is what I've come to...

  • this fine mingling of letting go and holding on is an art each of us comes to in our own time, for our own reasons, in our own way
  • that it is much easier when it is our choice
  • that the tangibles are much easier than the memories, the regrets, the dreams and aspirations, the relationships that we are asked to let go along the way
  • that letting go may be one of the biggest and most important challenges of the aging process
But for now, it's my clothes closet.

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