Of course I have been saying that for a while now. But with me, because I am much too sentimental, I have a problem with the process of letting go.
Somehow the material things of those I love are proxies for them. This isn’t all that unusual, the issue is that I take it to new levels of which I am about to prove to you.
First it was Jake’s stuff in 2005. Unfortunately he was a pack rat, like me. Deployed to Iraq, we kept the APO busy. Every week he had me send him something. Everything from his baseball mitt to guitar strings. It only makes sense that on his return, he would have to load several footlockers to bring all that stuff back.
Then there was my Mother’s move from her garage apartment into my home in 2011.
Before Silent Bob left, he had helped me unload Mother’s apartment, which had moved from collecting pretty things to full on hoarding. We shoved everything into the garage. It was stacked to the ceiling, occupying every bit of available floor space. With my attempts at disseminating over the last 6 months, the contents have now vomited out the garage into loosely organized heaps of crap and junk under the carport. However, interspersed within those piles of broken vases and Creepy Dolls (youngest son’s proclamation), there are notes that have recorded every gift her family ever gave her, a couple of notes herself that chronicle a memory loss and her worry, as well as a personal add for a male companion who liked to travel. And more than one gold necklace.
It has not helped that lately, when she wants to be depressed, she watches the Hoarders. (It is conversely sad that despite the convicting nature of Hoarders, it is a welcome distraction from the Great British Baking show. Even old women apparently like the bad boy. And one that bakes… For heaven’s sake, Paul Hollywood, find another job.) Now every time Mother limps through the carport, she looks at all of the piles accusatorially, calls me a hoarder, and suggests I should get ‘help’.
Then there was this year. My Silent Bob didn’t really collect much, which as it turns out make this ‘letting go’ crap even harder.
I am at the point where I wonder if Heaven won’t be boring because God is going to put me in charge of everyone’s crap and the difference will be that I am going to like it. (Since I know I am not going to Hell, and Paradise has no tears, I will count this possibility as one of the more profound mysteries of God if it turns out to be true because its kind of hellish here now.)
So I am rummaging around in the 1970’s era bar in my house yesterday, which is an absolute disaster because somebody has bought way to damn many dishes (me, there is clearly a trend here), and found the wine rack SB made out of a cardboard box that has his handwriting on it, and I am trying to figure out the meaning of life, my brain chemistry literally reeking of sentiment, and I find the ‘gumballs’.
Sixteen years ago, or maybe it was seventeen, my Jake decides that besides instituting proportional responses to the rock throwing, bare footed, skinny little kids that met his convoy in Iraq, he was also going to hand out candy. Or gum. He figured out they weren’t interested in the MREs he’d previously tossed their way unless there were cookies.
Jake, always the progressive, had already figured out online shopping and ordered 10 pounds of gumballs from China. The problem was China wouldn’t deliver them to Kuwait, but they would to Sunstone.
He warned me.
“When you get them, will you just mail them to me?” he messaged me on AOL. (I may be the only person who still remembers AOL messaging with fondness.)
I mailed them. (Well, thats not exactly true. Like all the time in my life, people have come to my rescue, helped me, aided me, befriended me.. and in this case someone mailed that 10pound package across the pond and beyond.)
When Jake’s trunks came back from Iraq, and he’d gone on to glory, I made my first attempt to get rid of stuff. The trunks smelled like an army surplus store, various camo jackets and pants, worn boots, a broken Mercedas hubcap, a concrete mile marker, a British MRE …and the 10 pound box of gum balls.
I had ceased to be surprised at what I might find but I did wonder why he hadn’t distributed them. I remember slitting the thick green tape, thinking I could almost ‘see’ his hands securing the box, as I flipped the top back. Brightly colored still, packed tightly in the box, there they were, no little plastic sleeves surrounded them individually, just naked, dirty gumballs with bits of desert clinging to the ones closest to the seams of the box.
I might have laughed. No, probably not. I more likely cried.
So yesterday, what do I find at the bottom of the pile of way too many freaking dishes in the bar, but those damn gumballs. To say they were nasty is an understatement. I flipped the top back and it looked like some had sort of had mini eruptions, sugar pimples you might call them, scary coloring making them appear sort of angry and malignant. What was shocking was that no roaches or ants scurried from out of them, there were no mouse droppings. Yeah, all signs pointed to some really scary ingredients housed in those mostly hard now, candy shells.
I have been having a time with the raccoons getting in my trash every night so in a moment of getting back-ness, I decided I would put them near the garbage can and let them eat those fricking 15 year old gumballs for their dinner. Sentimentality will drive you to these thoughts. To me, still under the influence of brain chemistry provoking sentimentality, it was a bit of paying homage to my Jake, proportional response and all. Okay, maybe not. I hoped they would eat them and die.
When I got up this morning, one, ONE had been removed from the box and left with a tiny bite taken out of it. There those damn gum balls remained, waiting for me to do what I should have done long ago. It has NEVER paid for me to indulge in evil intentions!
I threw them away today, the garbage men will pick them up tomorrow and they will go out to a landfill the day after, mixed all in with the garbage collected on my tiny little side of this planet. (They probably have a half life of 1000 years or something and somebody will come across them after we have colonized Mars…)
So why am I telling you this. It’s not a confession of how nutty some members of my family are although that clearly is a thing. It’s mostly to help me parse though this whole letting go process. What I know is that if you are sentimental or even not so much, there is a time to stop ‘collecting’. There is a time to shed the material reminders of those you wish were still here. Or maybe its time to just clean up, so your sons won’t have the burden when it’s your turn to hit the Pearly Gates and streets of Gold.
But it also applies to the emotional things, the psychological things, the mental things that weigh us down. This past year has been very hard. The reality is that its been very hard on each one of about 8 billion people. It’s been hard on my Mother and my neighbor. It’s been difficult for my church and the Mexican restaurant I love. Starting fresh means something very different this new Year coming up. So it is important to take the time to examine what we need to get rid of. Time and viruses and fear take no notice of one year turning into the next. And gumballs, piles of useless collections or my Bob’s golf shoes (okay, never mind I am still keeping those, in his car), definantly have an expiration date. For a lot of us, the time of letting go of the past is December 31st. Its not real, it’s a manmade milestone sorta dictated by our sun, but I think it’s a good one. It makes a time where we take inventory. And get rid of what we need to.
Here’s what I have figured out lately. Sometimes its the clutter, the collecting, that once its gone, you get to see what you kept. And what we choose to ‘keep’ is way more precious, and in some part just that much more valuable because we can see its value more clearly.
My love for Jake hasn’t changed. My love for Silent Bob hasn’t changed. My life has changed. But I see who they were and are and what my life is more clearly. And I see John and Josh in ways I hadn’t before. Letting go of some things is right. And keeping the good things is just as right. I am better at this than I was 17 years ago.
I pray you can let go of whatever this year has weighed on you. I pray for hope and joy in ways you might never have expected because you can fairly evaluate the precious people that are yours. I pray that you revel in the creator who made you and if you don’t know how to revel in that, well ask me.
And by the way, my Silent Bob, Happy Anniversary. Sorry for all the times I might not have been the wife I should have been, but today I might let go a little bit of that and remember the aging love that we came to because that was really quite precious in the end and very much worth holding on to.