Years ago when I first began a spiritual practice I often used the mantra, “release and let go.” I’d say it over and over in my mind to help me let a sneaky lingering thought go. To release is to detach ourselves from something. To say, “I’m good, I got this. I don’t need this anymore.” But to let go is to make it final. To remove something we’ve let go completely out of our lives, both mentally and physically.
This past month there were many things for me to “release and let go”. The one that took me by surprise the most was my computer. In the waning days of summer, as I wrapped three lovely weeks in my home state of Vermont, my sweet momma accidentally ran over my laptop with her car.
I’m someone who is incredibly careful with their things. I also push the lifespan of most objects to their limits. This laptop was a mere toddler in my book, with years of life left to go. But there was more. I built my business on this laptop. Together we wrote countless client session notes, blogs, and emails. This little laptop was more than metal, it was my business partner. And as much as we are sometimes loathe to admit it, the technology in our lives becomes our friends.
After the shock wore off I took it to the store where I learned it would cost as much to repair as to buy a new one. And so its fate was sealed. And yet I still found myself needing to grieve. First, I let it sit in its usual perch, on the edge of the couch, for about a week. Then one day I picked it up and held it, and to my great surprise began to weep. In that moment I released myself from my little friend, honoring the emotions that came up, then doing a sage smudge and crystal cleanse for good measure.
Release is crucial, but if we want to really move on, we have to also let go. With the emotions gone, I found myself able to search for a safe and comforting way to permanently remove the laptop from my home. I found a company that would take it for parts, and just like that, I began to prepare it for resale.
The entire incident got me thinking about why we hold onto broken things. As an organization coach, I bear witness to countless moments where someone looks curiously at a broken or obsolete object and has absolutely no idea what to do. These moments are powerful, for the inability to physically let go of something no longer in use is at the core of why we end up with so many things in our homes.
At Maeve’s Method we teach our clients how to tell the story of an item. Telling the story allows an item to briefly come to life. For a broken or obsolete item, long tucked away and out of sight, this tiny resuscitation acts like a quick wormhole to our past. We get to jump back to the point when we stopped using it, then intellectually and emotionally remember why.
While some emotions buried inside our stuff do pulse strong, experience has shown that far more of our ‘back of the closet’ emotions have gone stale. Unlike newer items, where the emotional charge can be fresh (like my laptop), when it comes to broken or obsolete things, the reason why we released it but did not let go often long ago dissolved.
I was siting in the park when I had this thought. A tiny bird was splashing about in water in front of me. I watched it play, then take off, flying effortlessly into the air, not a care in the world (nor bag on its back). I loved how free it was, and present in the moment.
I’d like to be like that little bird, I thought, present and unburdened by things. I’ve grown enough in my relationship to stuff that I was able let go of my broken computer fairly quickly. But what about the rest of my home? What might I have laying around that I once released, but never actually let go?
Clothing swap season is upon us. I like to swap my clothes in October, but the little birdie inspired me. So, I went home and pulled my fall and winter clothing bags down off their shelves. I also pulled down a tub of memorabilia clothes, and a bag of rarely used shoes.
Inside the memorabilia tub were carefully stacked piles of tops, pants and dresses. I took a careful look and immediately could see that the stories of more than a few items I’d been preciously stockpiling for years had long gone stale.
The one that struck me the most was an outfit purchased for my cousin’s wedding in 1999. There was a silk burgundy dress and matching burgundy suede shoes. Back then I was still a corporate girl. I only bought dress clothes that I could also wear to work. The dress came from a fancy dress shop near Columbus Circle, and the shoes came from Bloomingdales. I remember feeling very clever and grown up that I had thought to go to Bloomingdale’s to buy shoes to match my dress.
The truth was, the shoes hurt my feet. And the dress, while once quite pretty, was long out of style. More to the point, it no longer fit. And upon closer examination, I saw that it was slightly stained.
Stored separately, each item said ‘You’ll wear me again one day, you’ll see!’ But looking at them together, the dress and matching shoes told the story of a young woman who felt bold and grown up shopping in New York. Seventeen years later, I no longer feel a connection to that story and just like that, I was able to let the outfit go. Seventeen years those items sat in my closet, and now they are in a bag, on their way to Goodwill.
The next day I took a walk and came across the loveliest fall flowers. I was struck at how the same color I had just let go in my clothes was there in nature. The truth is, if we look around us each day we see the world teaching us examples of release and let go. For these flowers replaced summer flowers, and soon will be replaced by leaves falling from overhead.
Release and Let Go Challenge
I’d like to challenge you to a little exercise. Think about all the broken or obsolete items you keep stored in your home. It might be furniture, electronic devices, or ripped or torn items of clothing. Find one, hold it and ask yourself, when did this item have its bad day? And for how long has it been sitting in my home, in a form of animated suspension?
Tell it’s story. Tell the story it was living when time stopped and it released out of active rotation in your home. See if you can pick that story back up. Then ask yourself, what am I feeling now? See if you can release and completely let go of one stuck object in your life today, and free up some physical and emotional space in your life.
What long lost item have you released and let go lately? Share in the comments below!
Photo Credits: Maeve Richmond