Retirement: : Week Three

“Blessed be nothing. If I had nothing, that’s what I’d have to worry about.”

My grandmother made that statement as she observed my older brother and his fiancé trying to fit their things in a VW “Bug” back in the 1970’s. It wasn’t all going to fit. Either the fiancé or the some of the stuff would have to be left behind.

I’ve seen enough poverty to know that literally having nothing is not a blessing. But I’ve also waded through enough of other people’s accumulated stuff – plus my own collection of stuff to know that too much stuff is more burden than blessing.

It fascinates me what we keep and what we let go when it’s time to move, downsize, or settle the estate of a deceased loved one. I rarely care about the alleged value of any item. I write alleged because any item is only worth what someone else is willing to pay you for it.

Personally, I hang to something because of the memory connected with it. It came from a specific person and/or a specific moment in life. A person who is no longer with me in the flesh but who lives on deep within my psyche. It’s not that I can’t remember them without the item. It’s more that the item was once held by them, cherished by them, and part of a time in life we shared. So letting go of the item is a bit like having to let go of them – again. It hurt enough the first time.

Yet, it is not possible – or at least it is not realistic – to hold on too long or to too much. It clutters up our living space. It clutters up the mental space needed for new ideas and experiences. It clutters up emotional space. It’s basic physics. Two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. One will displace the other. If my heart and soul are filled with memories of the past there is no room to create new memories in the present.

So, what to do. Well, for me it’s a lot like work. It helps to give things away – forgetting the value of the item. I just give it to someone who I think might actually be blessed by having it. Sometimes I give to various charities. Sometimes I give it to someone I know. The act I of gift-giving somehow releases some emotional energy to counter-balance the sense of sorrow of what once was but no longer can be now.

Sometimes I do sell things and designate the money for some special goal. Other items get recycled – in any number of ways. I actually find it therapeutic to pitch and reduce the amount of things requiring something from me – even if it’s only a space on a shelf somewhere.

Week three of retirement has been mostly about letting go of year’s worth of work papers, projects I admit I am not ever going to complete, and assorted reminders of some very happy times in the past.

As I approach Thanksgiving this year I am thankful that I have the time to do this sorting, giving, pitching, and remembering.

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