The Lightness of Letting Things Go
by Charles LaFond, ISR staff member
My home is cluttered with love. Well, “things” really, but they are icons of love that are hard to let go of and yet, it is time to let go of things as I get older. It is time to “small” my life. Small should be a verb. These are the “letting go” years.
Recently, I finally gave a red leather letter-folder away to a thrift store. The folder was hard to give away, not because it was valuable or beautiful or needed. It was hard to give away because a love-filled memory was attached to it. My grandmother had given it to me along with a fountain pen on my 12th birthday, more than 40 years ago. She was gentle and beautiful. She had a soft British accent, wrote in blue ink the color of a Caribbean lagoon, survived London in World War II, wore a dress every day, and always smelled of lavender. I remember opening the folder’s blue gift-box with yellow tissue paper. It too smelled of lavender.
She sat with me that day as I felt the folder’s soft grain, gold tooling, and internal satin sleeves. She told me of her love of letters – a love I inherited from her. We talked about the importance of letter-writing, of ink and its power to harm or bless. She told me that a hand-written letter was a gift of time and effort. For four decades, I used that folder. I still write letters and notes in that same Caribbean-blue ink, but I no longer need the folder.
Letting go of my beloved possessions is hard to do because each possession has a love-memory. Each possession is part of an event, a conversation, or a gesture of kindness from someone I love. When I see something in my closet or a cabinet, I remember the person who gave it to me or the event for which it was purchased. I do not want to let go of the memories, of the moment, of those people, of my life, of my story.
We all need to do hard things from time to time. Letting go of my love-things is hard, internal work, but like anything worthwhile, the more I try, the better I can do it. What was once a chore is now an opportunity to live this final third of my life in a gentle exhale. So, to live into this opportunity to down-size, I keep a small journal by my bed. Every time I take something to a thrift store, I write down what I am giving away and the story which caused me to keep it for so long. I let go of the possessions, but I keep the stories. Letting go of my things over the next 25 years will be hard to do, but I love the lightness of being which it invites.