About two weeks ago, maybe even longer, I pulled about five storage bins out of the crawl space and into my bedroom. I opened them to look for the size 10 hand-me-downs for my younger son, who is five years younger than my older son. I found some. Though I also found many items that I found just weren’t his style or they were too broad because he has a slighter frame than his older brother. So, those clothes would never fit. By the time he grows that broad, he’ll be too long. In the end, most of the clothes I’d been saving for five years were just not going to work. And as I searched for them, the other four years’ worth of clothes, plus the smaller sizes I’d overlooked last year, exploded into my bedroom. Then came the task of trying to sort them – what to keep, what to donate. Two weeks later, my bedroom is still declared a disaster zone, unbearably cluttered with these clothes. I don’t have endless hours to do this and the clothes are everywhere. Everywhere. And amidst a busy schedule and some personal turmoil, I’ve made the very difficult decision to throw in the towel and donate the majority of the clothing to charity. Yes, the hand-me-downs are out.
I will gather up this explosion of clothes and try to contain it into large black, garbage bags. It will be picked up on Thursday. I won’t have many hand-me-downs for upcoming years. I will keep the things that we love, but only the things that we love, and that will be only a few.
I feel a mixture of relief and guilt. Certainly, these hand-me-downs could have saved us money, if the situation had worked out ideally. If he were the same body type, had the same taste, and I had sorted them all in a more organized, sensible fashion. But none of those things are the case. He far more slender, not as preppy, and I can’t sort well. I am not good at organizing and storing things. I simply am not. And at nearly 50 years old, I am going to hazard a guess that it’s not ever going to be my strong suit. I am officially over it. I’m going to not only let go of the clothing but also of the notion that keeping it would make me some better version of myself. Perhaps in letting go of the things and the burden of the belief, I will let in an unburdened peace.
Letting go, is not easy. It isn’t easy to do with tangible things, digital things, tasks or people. From day to day, week to week, and month to month my task list is always long and mostly stays that way. And while I accomplish things each day, it is sometimes hard to really get a sense of accomplishment when the list stays the same length. There is always something to do. Always more to do. And it is difficult for me to turn away, shut down, and take down time.
We have been brainwashed into thinking that our value is to be found in the things we have and just how busy we are. The more toys you have, the more successful you are. The busier you are, the more successful you are.
I’m sure that successful people are often very busy, but I love to look at Richard Branson’s (of the Virgin Group), Instagram account. He seems to smile and laugh and play more than any business professional I have ever seen, and, he is probably representative of one of the most successful business people I’ve ever seen. Now, I know I don’t know him personally and he’s unlikely to post his crazy, grumpy moments. And it’s possible he’s this jovial because he’s wealthy and successful, but research has proven that this is not a cause and effect phenomenon. Wealth does not make a person happy. There are plenty of mean and/or unhappy wealthy people. But what does hold true and is proven time and time again is that we cannot be our best selves, when we are on empty, no matter how much or how little we have. This is a fact. It isn’t good for our emotional, mental, or physical health.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to let go of things and hard to let go of the myth that we must always be busy. Letting go feels like relinquishing control. When we feel as if we’re doing all of these things and holding on to all of these things, we feel like we are in control. We are prideful of our busy lives, our collections of stuff, be it pens and washi tape or shoes and clothes, and our well-organized “stuff” overfilled homes.
But in this place in my life, wavering between hope and grief, what I miss and value most are the moments.
The laughter and the tears.
The eye contact.
The bear hugs.
The long phone calls.
The ridiculous “fart” jokes (I’m surrounded by males, boys, and men).
The hand-selected cards with the quick and sweet notes (I’m surrounded by thoughtful boys and men).
The heartfelt compassion.
It is in this moment that I am finding incredible clarity, even though I can barely breathe.
When I go to Whole Foods, I usually go to the same cashier, if he’s there. He’s this really handsome, Caribbean man, with a warm accent, who tells me to “Enjoy the moments.” The first time he said it, I was taken aback. I figured he was just trying to be nice. Here he was a cashier in a supermarket. What did he know about enjoying the moments? How unbelievably arrogant of me. I’ve been going to his line for about two years now, to connect with him, to reaffirm my belief in this philosophy of his. His words have proven to be a gift to me.
All this weaving and winding through my mind and heart to give this gift to you.
Keep it simple.
Embrace the nothing.
Value the stillness.
Enjoy the moments.