Letting Go

June 18, 2004

This week has been a new experience in letting go for me. I spent considerable time sifting through more than fifty boxes of stuff in our garage, preparing for a potential move.

We have a 3-bay garage, with generous shelf space in the main portion, and a virtual storage locker, with more shelves in the separate third bay. The shelves were full to capacity, and the stall of the third bay was jammed with old exercise equipment, bicycles, boxes, and junk. Some of the boxes have been packed since we moved in 1998; packed since then and moved three times.

It was time to let go. Letting go is not something my family practices, so it is not something I grew up doing. My parents have lived in the same house for 43 years now, it is filled with a lifetime's collection of books, records, old papers, and the scraps of life that we all seem to collect. My family doesn't let go emotionally either. My sister's death over thirty years ago still looms large and unattended in the corner of every room where we gather. Somehow over time I learned to equate the idea of letting go of possessions as a trauma best avoided at all costs.

However, from the martial arts, and in my recent spiritual quest, I have learned that you must clean house, you must make room for newness in your life, unless you want to be trapped with only the old. You must "empty your cup" in order to fill it again.

So I sifted and categorized over forty boxes of books, and perhaps a dozen other boxes of stuff this week. Today we loaded up a cargo van and took a few hundred pounds of junk to the dump. And this afternoon we donated shoes, and kitchen items, fans, and other small household items to Goodwill.

I had originally planned on selling the books I could bring myself to part with to a used book store. Only the woman in charge was rude and dismissive. I know there was no earthly way for her to understand the emotional space I had come to in order to part with these books, but her abruptness and unwillingness to acknowledge my effort pissed me off. I stormed out of the store wanting to take my books home again. I didn't want to let go under these circumstances. After a few minutes of cooling off I decided to donate the books as well.

I was able to let go the anger I had for the smallness of the used book store owner. And I was able to let go of over 900 pounds of books at the Goodwill store. Now someone less fortunate, someone unlikely to visit a used book store might find a good book to read. I like that.

Letting go, it turns out, is a very good thing.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.