Our dreams, hopes and desires, careers, possessions, family, friends, loved ones, pets . . . how do we let go of such fundamental components of our life when circumstances demand it?
Motivational speakers tell us never to let go of our dreams –anything is possible! But what if my dreams are simply wild fantasies, unrealistic, keeping me from fully integrating into the present? As the old adage says, not all that glitters is gold. Better to let such dreams go gracefully to play at the corners of my mouth, fond and amusing notions no longer compelling, imperative, indispensable.
What about my hopes, my cherished desires? It is difficult to let go of things we long for, but there comes a time to move on. My life flows in cycles, each interlude ripe with promise. It helps to remember that some wishes are time specific. Unfulfilled opportunities have a way of turning up again, transformed, remade into fresh chances. Holding on to the past makes me blind to new possibilities.
Careers can vanish in an economic downturn, resulting in loss of possessions, even one’s home. How can one walk away from all the memories and unfinished business of growing roots, creating legacies and well-worn paths? How did I ever bid goodbye to the rope swing my son hung from the tallest tree in the backyard when he was twelve, the kitchen where my teen-aged daughter endlessly baked loaves of zucchini bread so as not to waste those garden-grown monsters, the orchard we planted to make our five acres a homestead? At the time I was devastated; today it is photos in an album. My family is intact, my children grown and growing their own rootstocks.
Family and friends move away, finding it necessary to relocate, find new jobs, schools, retirement options. Ripped from their familiar, unhurried, spontaneous place in our life we mourn internally without immediate relief, knowing our world is forever altered because they are irreplaceable. No wonder we often cling to material things as if to forestall the inevitable loss of people.
Because, unfortunately, our loved ones, our pets, have an expiration date –one we wish would never come. A dear friend of ours passed away sooner than his time (in our reckoning) and a year later we still feel the jolt of his absence. We were supposed to take more trips together, go dancing, exchange stories, share a glass of wine . . . He died just after his sixty-ninth birthday, his dream of starting a family winery incomplete, his sons left without their father’s vision and winemaking expertise.
Another dear friend, who is struggling with advancing Parkinson’s, has just received word that he has colon cancer. He will go for surgery before the end of the month. Already weakened, he realizes he may not be coming home. His is supposed to turn eighty next February . . . how can we possibly let him go, knowing he wants to keep going? Of course we will hold good thoughts, stay strong with and for him as we wait for the outcome.
In the meantime, perhaps I can practice letting go by moving away from nonessential possessions, the excesses I am so comfortable with and am loathed to part with. The too many items hanging in my closet but too good to get rid of, the books stacked all along the staircase that I will read when I have more time, my earrings, earrings, earrings of every color and design purchased or received as gifts. They are so pretty!
Who am I kidding?