The Lightness of Letting Go
A personal promise to simplify life in order to move on to a brighter future
I realize this is the time of year when everyone makes big promises — the weight, the exercise goals, the career aspirations, the relationship mends. I am not immune to talking big when I see fit.
Few of these pie-in-the-sky demands come to pass, or more accurately, most of us do not follow through on our goals to make them happen. But I promise, yes, I do, with my hand on my heart, that I am throwing out what I no longer need. I am purging, really purging, and that means professional ties and some personal ones, as well as things.
This is not my nature. I realize I stay too long. I hold on to belongings, job titles and relationships long after their usefulness. I have the winter coats and figurines from my mother to prove it, the resumé and the crisp e-mail threads to bear evidence.
Not just because it is a new year, but at this plateau of my life, I choose not to participate in the false hopes that old stuff will magically return to usefulness, jobs or clients will suddenly reinvent themselves,and friendships will rejuvenate and we will stay close forever, no matter what.
You only have to drive past a garage sale, log onto LinkedIn or glance at the next table in a restaurant where a long-suffering couple does not speak to each other from bruschetta to crème brûlée, to see that most everything has an expiration date — and should.
Lest you think me heartless and without a warm spot for memories, nostalgia or melancholy, I wish to explain that I have not come to this decision quickly. I should have done a home purging 10 years ago and gotten rid of thousands of accrued items, including pillows and chipped coffee mugs. Some arenas of my work life are never going to improve, no matter how long I insist I will keep trying. So the only thing to do is make the necessary adjustments and stop expecting some miracle transformation. I need to move on where it isn’t working.
My third realm of cleansing is the trickiest. It comes from the aha that just because I have known people for a long time, it does not mean we are close. Just because we go way back doesn’t mean our bonds will automatically stretch into the future, forever. My inner circle is a sacred space — filled with family and friends and sons whom I trust and know have my back, no matter what.
I am not going to do anything dramatic — no big speeches, long letters, phone calls or e-mails. They may not even notice, but I will. I’m just not going to be available any more. I’m quietly closing the door. And what I will feel is a sense of lightness, no longer dreading the same conversations about our children, our homes, or events that happened in the distance past or in the last week. It’s as if we were each mummified in our identities, and now I am alive again.
On the placemats in Chinese restaurants that show the years of the dragon, rooster and so on, I was born in the Year of the Dog, 1958. That means I am loyal. I see I have held onto some relationships long past their reciprocal enjoyment. I also hold onto books, photographs and mementos, clothes, shoes and gifts that never quite worked. It is not that I hoard, it is that I am careful not to discard unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
And year after year after year I also keep trying to professionally please people who are immune to being pleased. I am going to stop tap dancing for the applause that will never arrive, because it really isn’t at about me. I can tap dance somewhere else for someone else and get a completely different response.
Of course I have delayed, procrastinated and agonized over how and when to make these purges that I anticipate will make me feel stronger, more decisive, less bogged down. So I chose the New Year; it’s as good a time as any to make room for the new.
I am no Nobel, Pulitzer or MacArthur Genius winner, but I am wise enough to know when and what promises to myself I can keep. I know that the protein-only diet that my doctor suggested really does work, but that it is painful because I am usually starving and I am not in the mood during teeth-chattering January to deprive myself of some foods I love. I will launch into that in April.
I also know that the choices I make for myself now for the future are for the best and that however slowly I have come to those conclusions, I see a clearer future unfolding in front of me. It is a tomorrow paved with space for brighter possibilities. It’s time.Edit Module