Thursday, April 18, 2013

Letting Go

When it comes to the subject of letting go, my reaction/response is simple: I can't. Not of things, not of those I love, not of memories, not of time. I cling to them with what I know many would consider an emotionally unhealthy desperation. This isn't a new obsession; I've had it all my life. To let go of things is to let go of part of myself. As I near 80...and I am amazed that I can even allow myself to write that number...I cling more desperately, because I have fewer years to cling to them, fewer years they will be mine. That's not being negative; it's simply a matter of fact.

Yesterday I broke one of my favorite pieces of I'd bought when I lived in Los Angeles. Will I throw it away? Of course not. I have determined to buy some glue and repair it. Will I, or will I simply keep the broken piece in a plastic bag intending to repair it, as I have the broken-three-years-ago piece of the ornate gilt picture frame in which my grandmother's photo sits, and the two pieces-of-felt “eyes” that came off Clancy, a rag-doll cop I bought for Ray, again while I lived in L.A.?

I have always treasured those qualities of a child (imagination, joy, enthusiasm) I've managed to...well, yes, cling to throughout my life. But doing so comes at the expense of constant conflicts with reality and the real world. Mostly it is not a problem and I manage to ignore those parts of reality I would have different. (When I see a beautiful man on the street, I am pleased to know he is gay. Whether he is, in reality, gay or not doesn't matter one iota. Chances are I will never get to know him personally, so what difference does it make?) It is the way I am, the way I have always been, and I cannot see any value whatsoever in letting go of it.

As to physical things, I make a direct mental connection between the thing itself and the person/people with whom I associate it. The stronger the association, the more difficult it is to let go of. To physically hold or touch something those I've loved have held or touched is a solid bridge to the time when they did hold or touch it, and as long as I have it, I have a part of them. Logic and reality mean nothing to the heart. We are each constrained by the limits of our own body and by the laws of society; they are the ground upon which we stand and to which we are affixed by gravity. But the mind and heart are the ski, where there are no limits at all.

Unfortunately, for me, not letting go of memories extends too often to all the embarrassing, stupid, thoughtless, hurtful things I have done through my life. I cannot get rid of them, no matter how hard I try and they will suddenly pop into my mind with no forewarning. (One just appeared: I was in my early teens, in downtown Rockford with my dad. We stopped somewhere and Dad bought me a bag of loose candy. It wasn't until I had finished the last piece that I realized I had eaten it all without offering any to my dad. Dad's been dead forty-four years, now, and this flash of memory still fills me with a real sense of shame for my selfishness.)

Eastern religions teach that the more one can let go of things, the more free one is, and I do not question this for a moment. I have friends to whom things mean very little, and who can casually throw out an old jacket they've had since college, or piece of furniture they've had for years without a second thought. I cannot. I will, perhaps unfairly of me, leave it to whoever will deal with them when I, as we all eventually must, lose my grip on the window ledge of time.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

You know what? To hell with convention. If something has brought you pleasure and continues to, keep it. What harm does it do? What point is there in having to go through the mental anguish of wondering if you should or shouldn't keep something. It means something to you, so let it.

Marilyn Levinson said...

I'm letting go of some books--bringing them to the library for the next Friends of the Library sale. Of course i haven't gotten down to the books I really love or the ones I know I will read--eventually. We keep what we love, and why not? It's difficult to let go of what we truly value.

Dorien/Roger said...

Good point, Marilyn. I do find it easier to let go of things that I know other people can use/value. As I was getting ready to move to Chicago, I sold the Lionel Electric train my father had bought me in 1938. I loved it, but realized that someone else could actually use and appreciate it.