Letting go is hard to do. Recently I experienced this first hand when I took my mother’s sterling silverware to an auction house to be sold. I had decided to let go of the silver because I HATE polishing silver. I had had to polish that silver every Thanksgiving starting about age 12. That was a negative association! I also don’t live a lifestyle in which I’d use it regularly, and I am committed to letting go of things I don’t love or use. Plus, converting it to money would be helpful to me.
What took me by surprise was the wash of feelings I felt when the woman at the auction house opened the box. I stood over it contemplating the action I was about to take. Memories of more than the burden of having had to polish the silver flooded in.
That silver was only pulled out for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I loved the holidays and the opportunities they presented to fix special food and spend time with extended family. Holidays were also times when Mom and I enjoyed working together to prepare yummy meals. I felt particularly close to her at those times. Now that I am losing Mom bit by bit to Alzheimer’s, it is that much harder to part with things that remind me of our times together. The silver not only held the negative association of having to polish silver, it also held the energies of those treasured memories in my childhood and of my special connection with my mother at those times.
What would you have done had you been in my shoes? Would you have grabbed the silver and run from the auction house? That certainly was one choice. I did run that scenario through my head when I felt a tug in my heart and a tear threaten to emerge as I filled out the necessary papers. But, my gut said, “Let it go. You won’t use it. It will take up valuable real estate in your small house.” I made the decision to sell it at auction. To ease my heart a bit I shared with the woman helping me that it was hard to let the silver go because of the memories it stirred in me. I also took several serving spoons that I knew I would use regularly to hold the energies of those special memories from childhood. Then, I left the silver behind.
When I was safely in my car I burst into tears. The process of letting go of the silver unleashed deep sadness that I didn’t anticipate. The sadness was not about parting with the silver. Had I gone back and reclaimed it, I still would have felt sad. The sadness was about those special times being long gone, and about the impossibility of having anything like them again. I didn’t need to keep all of the silver to hold on to my special memories. A few serving pieces would do the trick and would fit into my tiny house.
When you struggle to part with memorabilia that elicits strong feelings in you, resist the urge to automatically keep the items. People will do that to avoid facing the uncomfortable feelings. Check out the source of your feelings. And, consider whether there is some way to hold onto the positive energies of those things without keeping all of them. Some people take photos of items to hold their significance and memories. Others do what I did, and choose one or two of the best items to hold the memories and let go of the rest.
When I let go of Mom’s silver, I took a step forward in my life. Rather than blindly clinging to those things, I chose to honor the memories they held in a way that honors my current values and needs. This weekend I used the serving spoons and smiled.