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The first truth of my walkabout

My walkabout is about freedom, so I am making changes to allow for more of this in my life. I weigh the excitement of new frontiers against my need for the safety and security — trying to find the right balance.

First on the agenda is getting rid of my material possessions. Sounds drastic . . . and it is. This is my second go-round of what I call “zen-ing down.” I am a regular follower of the blogs Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits . . . and I get it. I see that “My Stuff” slows me down. Cleaning it, arranging it and maintaining it wastes my time. It is a ball and chain that I am tired of having to haul around with me.

As I begin to sell and give away things, however, I am overcome with grief. I tell myself that change always brings loss, and I decide that this is the  first truth of my walkabout:

I will feel loss.

There is no one to blame but myself. I am instigating the change and I will be changed. Things will be left behind. People will disappear from my life. I will never go back to what I have now and all it holds. (And isn’t that what I wanted?)

I run across this quote by Jan Myrdal:

“Traveling is not just seeing the new; it is also leaving behind. Not just opening doors; also closing them, never to return. But the place you have left forever is always there for you to see, whenever you shut your eyes.”

I am not sure about the last line. I am not at all convinced that this place I am leaving will be there when I shut my eyes.

As I pick up each of my possessions, I relive the part of my life when it made it’s appearance. Some things trigger sweet memories. Some things kick me in the gut, and I wonder why I’ve kept them around. Other things set me musing for a long time.

I come up with criteria for keeping and giving away. If it makes me feel good, I put it in the “Keep” pile. If it brings up not- so-happy or neutral feelings, it gets put in the “To Go” pile. A pair of exquisite earrings from an estranged friend is tossed in “To Go”. A small plastic Santa salt-shaker, proudly gifted to me by my then 4 year-old daughter, goes in the “Keep” pile. Wherever I land in the future, I want to be surrounded by the treasures in my “Keep” pile.

I also see that it is not likely I will achieve the possession-less utopia of my dreams. I decide to get a small storage unit and this feels better. It tethers me to the earth somehow. I know a man who, during a romantic break-up, moved his things into a storage unit. He put his easy chair there and when he was feeling low – he would go to his storage unit, sit in his chair and look at his things. I understand why.

As I pack up my past, I time travel backward and then forward again, reviewing my life up to the present. I see my story from beginning to end; from landing 20 years ago at the Medford airport with my husband and three-year-old daughter– to now. Confused while living that life, I can now tie up most of the loose ends into a package that makes sense. I feel understanding and compassion for the people we were; our failings and the things we endured. I give myself credit for having worked it for all it was worth — and now it’s over. And this is profound.

A friend gave me a pair of earrings, each one a single spiraling silver wire that ends in a fresh water pearl. She tells me that the pearl is the symbol of a person’s essence. This is the first possession I own given in the spirit of my future.

I discover that the antidote for my grief is the excitement of anticipating my future.

So I put on the pearl earrings and it helps.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Carol, I’m 67 and living in the smallest apt since college too. Must be a trend 🙂
    Congrats, B. Every time I downsize (zensize), my daughter reminds me to “be ruthless” in letting go. Lets the blessings flow!

    July 16, 2012
    • Hi Karen – I think I will land in a very small studio apartment ultimately (which will be all art studio!) There is a season for everything . . . no? Thanks for your comment!

      July 16, 2012
  2. Following you, Betsy. Don’t know if I could do the kind of winnowing you are. I’m related to my mother – I’m sure you remember what she left behind. The truth is I don’t feel held back by my things. I’m actually celebrating them and their stories on my blog, Family Objects. Maybe once I get past that, I can more easily think of letting go.

    July 16, 2012
    • Hi Teri – thanks for following. Everyone has their own path to follow. With The Walkabout Woman Project I want to encourage women to imagine and live whatever works for them. I am loving reading your blog and hearing the stories associated with the family objects.

      July 16, 2012
  3. Becky Anderson #

    Thank you.

    July 16, 2012
    • Thanks for reading Becky. I can feel your support from Alaska way down here. Take care, Betsy

      July 16, 2012
  4. I enjoyed reading this, as letting go possessions associated with my past is still huge challenge for me. It helps to not let the inner critic have a hay-day. It helps to read about your process, and so far, I’ve chosen to not get a storage unit, but that needs to be an option as I live in 500 sq ft, less than anytime since my college years. And now I am 67!

    July 16, 2012
  5. WOW. Girl, you can write! This post was so evocative; I could feel what you described viscerally. I love that you are staying close to yourself: your full experience, your emotions, your yes and your no. You are not bypassing your feelings to be able to do what you are doing. To me, one of the things you are doing is rising to the challenge of becoming a fully feeling human being instead of trying to transcend your feelings.

    July 16, 2012
    • Marla – that gives me chills – “a fully feeling human being” – what better goal is that. You have been a huge part of helping on my way to not bypassing my feelings! Thanks you!

      July 16, 2012

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