67: Letting Go and Moving On

67: Letting Go and Moving On

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Letting Go and Moving On

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

~Nelson Mandela

Each time I paced around my sizable home and realized how much work was ahead of me, I became over-whelmed. My heart would race, my head would hurt and I didn’t know where to begin — and so I didn’t. It had been just a few weeks since my youngest child left home to join the Air Force and in only three more weeks I was to make a significant move. Before that could happen, I had to dispose of at least half of my household goods.

After twenty years of single-parenting three children and equal time as a hard working pastor, I was about to embark on a new chapter in my life. The one thing I was determined to get was very simple: a good rest. It was time to simplify my life and begin anew with ample time for me to take care of me. I had arranged to take a sabbatical leave of one year, which I would spend at a spiritual retreat center in another state. I would live in a tiny cottage on the grounds and work a small number of hours to assist the retreat center in their work. My plan was to refocus and prepare for the next phase of my life — one that I hoped would still be full of meaningful purpose but at a slower pace.

Before I could accomplish that move I still had to deal with all that stuff. In the three weeks that remained, I had to be out of town for one. It was crunch time! There was no time to have a sale, so I began to give things away, even things I was reluctant to part with. Friends generously helped me and encouraged me when I found it difficult to wade through yet another closet. Day by day, it became easier to part with possessions while focusing on what I felt was most important to keep. Because I lived on a very busy street, I could easily put items on the curb and they were gone within an hour. Often a person would check with me as I carried more items out to be sure I wanted to give such good items away. As I saw their delight, I began to take vicarious joy in their discovery of a new treasure.

The time was rapidly slipping by and on one particularly hot day, I faced the challenge of giving away several items of furniture that I truly loved but knew I must part with. My family room was full of wonderful, if somewhat battered, mid-century furniture: a curving three-section sofa, blond wood end tables, a dining room table and chairs, and a favorite contour recliner. I knew someone would love them as much as I did and so we began to move them to the curb. A car with three twenty-somethings pulled into the driveway, and the friends began to talk about who would get which pieces. “Are you sure you don’t want any money for this?”

“Yes.” I was sure. This was starting to be fun.

As I moved the dining room set to the driveway, an older woman stopped by. She was so elated that she positively bubbled over. “I have dreamed of having a set like this since I was very young.” She thanked me over and over. She promised to return quickly with her husband and their pickup truck. As I waited for them to return, I had a flash of what felt like divine inspiration as I thought about this tall, beautiful woman who had so touched me with her sweet gratitude. When she returned, we loaded the furniture on the truck and I asked her to wait for a moment. “I have something for you.” As I carried the special gift to her and put it in her arms, tears began to flow down her cheeks. “No, you can’t mean it!” she said. It was a long, like-new fake fur coat that I’d had for years — one that had never flattered me but I had loved nonetheless. She ran her hand over the soft coat and slipped it on over her stately figure. She was stunning! We both wept as she proclaimed over and over, “You’re such a blessing, such a blessing.”

In that moment, I knew that my real “letting go” had truly begun. My one-year sabbatical turned into a three-year stay in a beautiful place that helped to restore my depleted self in every way. Although I still moved far too many things in my initial move, I continued to give away possessions until I only owned what would be useful in my 700-square-foot cottage. I kept the things I most loved and became very creative with how I used them. Several years later, I still live fairly simply and far more thoughtfully. Do I have a use for it and a place for it? And do I really love it, or would someone else love it even more?

~Kimberly Ross

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