I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching of late and have come to the following conclusion:
Letting go and giving up are two very different things.
My family moved at the end of February and again at the end of April. The February move was rough, and it was the first move after twelve years of home ownership. A family friend took us in while we righted our formerly sinking ship and made a game plan. There is a certain level of deniability that plays into ‘short selling’ one’s home. We told ourselves we were doing the ‘right’ thing honoring our contractual and moral obligations by not simply walking away. To some degree, I still believe that, but the fact of the matter is, it would have been less stressful on our kids and on our marriage had we simply found a rental sooner and moved out rather than waiting to see if the sale was actually going to go through. Had we moved sooner, we would have been spared the need to coordinate with the buyers, agents, and inspectors etc. who could only see all the things that weren’t done to the house instead of seeing the $75,000 dollars worth of work that WAS done. In short, five months after we listed and contracted our home for sale, we spent several weeks seeing our twelve years of home ownership and maintenance broken down to ‘not good enough’ and ultimately, an overwhelming sense of failure, not just as a home owner, but as a parent and as a person. We failed at being good grown-ups. Crap! Are we even qualified to be parents?
I can honestly say that we never fully gave up on our responsibilities as home owners…not even when we received notice that the auction date had been set in spite of the accepted offer and back-up offers that were in place. We still paid all of our utility bills on time. We removed garbage and recycling from the premises every week. We even maintained the gardens. When we finally moved out, we spent three days cleaning/scrubbing the floors, walls, countertops, etc. as if we’d been tenants moving out of a rental and hoping to get our deposit back. We knew we wouldn’t see money for the cleaning, but we weren’t going to dishonor all of the good years we’d had there by trashing the house or leaving a bunch of stuff for the new owners to deal with. We even paid the movers to come back and haul out the last of the yard debris that accumulated over time. We weren’t the hoarder neighbors from hell…it wasn’t THAT kind of debris.
What I couldn’t have imagined losing when we ‘lost’ the house was a chunk of my grief that had me holding on to physical things that belonged to the two family members who had passed away during the twelve years we’d lived in that house. Really, if I stop to think of it, I can say that the highs and lows of the 12 years balanced out. I became the mom to twins the same day we lost my grandmother. A few years later, we lost my brother, so gained two, lost two. In losing the two, we gained quite a few of their belongings.
I think its human nature to try and physically hold on to the things love ones leave behind. Like others before me, I developed sentimental attachments to so many of my brother’s things that I personally had no use for. His clothes were too small for my husband to wear. His shoes were too big for me but too small for my husband. Most of what I received of his was clothes. I think it was easier for my folks to send them to me (two states away) than to donate them themselves and risk seeing other people wearing his things. When I opened the first of the boxes of Matt’s clothes while unpacking in our new rental home, I was surprised to feel nothing. The two months of all our stuff being in storage physically and emotionally distanced us from it, and, it was as if a HUGE weight had been lifted. I looked into the box and all I saw was clothes. Clothes that didn’t fit anyone in our home. Clothes that someone else could use happily. Clothes that Matt didn’t need me to keep for him any longer.
Of my grandmothers, I had furniture. I inherited a beautiful antique davenport worn thread-bear in the spot where she always sat. We hadn’t had room for it since moving into the house, so it sat in my office being used as a storage space for boxes and art supplies. In our ferret ownership years, two of the bad weasels burrowed through the thread-bare spot to play in the springs, then burrowed their way back out creating several holes in the seat. We didn’t have the funds to reupholster it, so there it sat, in condition that would have made my Nana cry. Both the boxes of my brother’s clothes and shoes and my grandmother’s davenport moved with us in February. First to storage, then to the house we found to rent. The house, by the way, is almost twice the size of the one we owned for 12 years and the rent on it is over $200 less than our mortgage was on that place…but I digress. In this house, there is no natural place for the davenport, so it sits in the garage, on end, where my husband put it. It’s not improving with age, and certainly isn’t improving being improperly stored, so I’ve decided it’s time to let it go. Nana would have preferred that I send it on to someone who will use and care for it over my continuing to let it deteriorate. We’ve had it now for 15 years (it was shipped to us when Nana entered a nursing home). She’s been gone for ten years now, and I know she won’t be returning to collect her ‘things’, so I feel good about letting it move out.
The davenport is leaving my garage today. The person who is coming for it has the means and desire to have it reupholstered. She enjoys antique furniture, and, unlike me, it fits in with her lifestyle.
Allowing the clothes and the davenport to move on is the last step in my letting go of the emotional chokehold that my grief had on me. Will I still have the occasional weepy day? Of course! Heck, I reserve the right to break down and cry just because sometimes it’s the best release, but it won’t be triggered by things taking up physical space in my home. I’ll never give up my love for those people who have passed on, but in letting go of their things, I’m making room for new people, experiences and even ‘things’ to shape my future. The past is PAST. It has a place in my heart and my head. It is a nice place to visit, but I no longer live there.