Letting Go (from Within My Illusions)
I started in the garage— easy enough to clear the space where five-year-old paint waited to be taken to waste recovery.
Into the closet, sorting socks and scarves and shirts, and finding joy in the growing pile of items to give away.
Books challenged me to examine where I’ve been and where I’m going and how much weight I want to carry. I made gifts of long-lost treasures found in forgotten crannies and nooks, passing along stories with the tokens, as though curating the artifacts of my life.
A stack of paper gives me pause: If I release my attachment to everything that has wounded me, then who will I be?
And I think, how courageous the tree, to let go of all its leaves and trust.
I spent the last day of 2022 with my friend, Jennifer. We often get together at the turn of the year to hold space for each other to reflect and dream. This year, we added a new ritual: composting disappointment.
While I've spent years cultivating appreciation for how life unfolds in unexpected ways that lead to delightful surprises and beautiful synchronicities, sometimes there are moments that just suck. As much as I could find the gifts, notice the bright spots, and appreciate the learnings of the year, I wanted to give myself permission to feel what was intense and challenging. No silver linings. No shaming myself for having an ego. No minimizing a feeling. No "it-could-have-been-worse"-ing. Simply letting myself feel and express disappointment where I felt it. And then letting it go.
Jennifer and I got out our journals and sat quietly writing down all of our disappointments of the year. As I wrote, I felt a like a pent of well was streaming out of me through my pen onto the paper. Then we took turns sharing our lists with each other, witnessing one another without offering advice or trying to justify or fix anything. As I read my list, I noticed that all the specific items boiled down to the same pattern repeated over and over. I also realized that I had a role in perpetuating the pattern, which gave me a feeling of agency. If my actions and expectations contributed to the sense of disappointment, I could actively work to release and shift the pattern. Jennifer found a pattern in her list that was different from mine, but equally powerful to name.
We each wrote the pattern we wanted to release at the top of our list of disappointments, then folded our lists and placed them in a container where we could burn them. We buried the ashes in the soil. The gesture was powerfully symbolic. As I watched the paper disintegrate into smoke and ash, I felt like my whole body was exhaling, like I had cleaned out a closet in my being that was overstuffed with worn out clothes.
Of all the disappointments on my list, the one that made me cry as I wrote it was that I had given up on dreaming. This year pushed me more and more toward living life as a sort of call and response dance the present moment. I've learned to become more patient with not knowing what comes next and to be more adaptable in the face of change. I know these are important qualities for living through this transformational time (or any time). But imagination and dreaming are also essential. As the new calendar year begins, I'm trusting that letting go might create space for more dreaming.
Wishing you a week of ease and space.