Loosening My Grip


I’ve just moved. It wasn’t the first time, but this time it was different. My first move was from my hometown in Pennsylvania to college. After staying around Philly for seven years, I left for California. Finally, in the early nineties, I settled in the Southwest. Most of the time, moving was typical: Pack up everything you have, fly or drive to your destination. Unpack. Add to your “everything”.

When my husband and I split in 2008, I looked at what we had accumulated in the 27 years together. There were a lot of everythings. After the divorce, I re-mortgaged the house and stayed there for four more years. One day, I was feeling particularly productive while cleaning one of my three garages. A thought popped into my head. “I wonder if I’m moving?” I had been doing a lot of this kind of sorting lately, and maybe it was an indication that another change was coming. I shrugged it off.

A few weeks later, a realtor friend called me. “Do you want to sell the house this year?” My mind drifted to the thought I’d had in the garage. “Maybe”, I said. Two months later, the house was sold. I was packing again. This time it was different. I wanted a smaller place…a rental, so I could spend less time caring for it and more time doing what I loved – speaking, coaching, traveling, meeting people. With half as much as I’d had in my house, my Lucy-cat and I made our way across town to a small condo. It was great. Cozy and different. But after a few years, it also seemed like more than I needed. I found myself cleaning things out again. What did I use? What did I really need? Why had I brought that with me? Could someone else be using it?

I got another phone call. This time, it was from a friend who said her husband might be getting an international job transfer, which would require them to move away for two years. They were deciding what to do about their home in the states, which they didn’t want to sell or rent out. We rolled around the idea of me living there. More questions: Could I do that? It was cold there! What would I do with my stuff? Should I put it in storage? Would I take it with me and store it somewhere there? I looked around. Just how small was I willing to get?

Really small. As I cleaned, tossed, sold and donated, I felt a weight slowly being lifted from my shoulders. Wow. I hadn’t realized my stuff held such power over me. Each day I felt more free. It was a little scary, but most definitely liberating.

In the end, my friend’s husband never got the job transfer. I, however, was ready to go. Somewhere. But where? My mom was in her late 80’s and living alone, 2500 miles away. I had been enjoying my summer visits there and for some reason, I was craving cooler weather and the change of seasons. So I left. In my car. With only the things that fit. Only the things I needed. I’m here now, three weeks later. I found a furnished rental house five miles from my mom. This. Is different.

Strangely, letting go of things I had associated with security (a long marriage, a large home, beautiful things) has left me feeling more secure, more willing to try unfamiliar things. With a lot less, I somehow feel more full. I’ll see how this goes for awhile. I don’t plan to live with nothing. Instead, I’ll learn from what is now clear to me: This was never about abandoning all of my things. It was about loosening my grip.

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