Every couple of years or so, frustration with the clutter and chaos around home tends to wallop me, and I seethe with the need to have a good clear-out. I riffle through files and shred outdated bills, I clean out closets and drawers and pack up boxes to donate to charity, and I generally look for ways to let go of “stuff” and open up space in my home.
This year, that process of letting go has gone even deeper. Last fall, the focus of my life shifted to caring for my father as a fast-acting cancer took him away in a matter of weeks. When I wasn’t working or sitting at his bedside, I spent time clearing out his possessions as well as mentally preparing myself for the “after” — after his death, when I would be left with no close family.
In that time of waiting, I could embrace the darkness — the grief, the emptiness, the helplessness, the dimming of my father’s inner Light. But sitting with him in his final hour, I also embraced hope and peace as I said the last goodbye, and that gave me the strength to be able to let go, both of him and of my worries about life after his death.
After the memorial service and a quiet but somewhat numb holiday season, I tackled many of the necessary tasks of settling my father’s estate, but I also started picking through my personal “after” list. It included tasks from my everyday life that I had put off, like a year-end review of my business and making plans for future cooking classes to teach, as well as doing things I had dreamed about but not yet accomplished (upgrading to a smart phone, planning a weekend getaway, scheduling a portrait photo session with a friend).
But above all, the New Year’s resolution that jumped out the most to me was to practice letting go. Not only did I need to clear out what I had kept of Dad’s things in case he needed something, but I also felt a strong urge to let go of obligations, preconceptions (especially of myself), fears, worries, and dreams that no longer fit.
It hasn’t been easy. Grief still slips through the cracks, and the loneliness has been overwhelming lately. I sometimes wonder if I am where I need to be, either in terms of geography or life’s work. I write out my thoughts in my journal, hoping to find answers someday.
But I have been making progress. I’ve let go of things (especially old clothes), hobbies I don’t find time or interest for any more, some self-defeating internal monologues, some worry. And as I let go of some things, it frees up space and possibility for something new. Sometimes I lay awake for hours in the middle of the night, so much going on in my head, so many plans forming, so many dreams to be played out.
Seems like there are a lot more questions than answers in my life these days. Maybe it’s always been like that and I just notice it more now. I hope I’m getting better at living with the questions, with the uncertainty, not forcing the answers — letting go of expectations and the need for security.
What else can I let go this year?