The Gradual Process of Letting Go

I have made progress. I know I have because my eyes don’t lie. The many books, folders, and files that once lived in plain sight, in my office, are gone. It was time to create a new space, a space that would allow for new ideas, new learning, new ways of making a part-time living instead of one that zoomed in fourth gear. I knew all of this but deleting the artifacts of that life hasn’t been easy. It’s not like clicking on an email: poof, gone. So I cut myself some slack, stayed with the discomfort and resolved that moving these things out of view was a good first step. One by one, I piled them into sturdy Rubbermaid containers, the kind my holiday decorations live in, silent and tucked away for most of the year. Diagnosing Organizational Culture, Service Culture, Servant Leadership, Managing Change, Masterful Conversations, Difficult Conversations, People Skills – the titles rang like a chorus, a songbook that had been my career.

I parked the containers in the corner of my office, behind a large, carved wooden screen, a decorative piece that provides the utility of camouflage and cover. Out of sight but not out of mind, my space now felt empty, bereft of my old familiars. Rushing to fill in the emptiness wasn’t the answer because letting go was an inside job, one not suited to containers and lids. Quite the opposite: I needed instead to release a former version of myself that had served me well but had reached its natural expiration date. Was I okay with this, really?   Was I ready?

I sat with those questions for a few months. Not days or weeks, months. Background questions that settled in the backdrop of the day to day but were always quietly present. In time, I found myself slowly filling in those spaces where the artifacts of my former life once resided. I bought a cool, gurgling diffuser and filled it with water and essential oils. l found a lighthearted, joyful photo of myself from decades ago and propped it up, right where those books sat like sleepy sentinels, gathering dust. As I descended back down to my core, I had more than a few “Hello, You!” moments which my readiness had awakened. In descending further, I went into the garage in search of books I had acquired, but barely cracked while living my “in-fourth gear” life: Women Who Run with the Wolves, A Woman’s Journey to God, A Woman’s Book of Life, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, The Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, The Bedside Book of Birds. A reunion of sorts, I felt a quiet joy in welcoming these new-old friends back in. “Hello You!”

Letting go has been utterly liberating but not easy. My career validated me and made me feel that I mattered. But the cozy, and sometimes heady construct of work, title, and the “validation feed” that is its reward also tethered me to a limited idea of who I am. The gradual process of letting go of that sense of self has allowed me to see that, “Hello, You!” you still matter and the evolving you always will.

I recently moved those sturdy containers to the garage, just a few feet from the door. Little by little, I am releasing those artifacts much as I have released that former sense of self: thanking them for what they gave me and blessing them on their way.

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