I think I inherited my inner hoarder from my mother and I think she got if from her depression-era ancestors. Something in us tends to be afraid that we will need those things somewhere down the road. I have a few pallets of stuff in the garage that I haven’t looked at or touched since we moved here 5 years ago. I assume, it must be important because we expended the energy to drag it along from our previous address, right?
Actually, hoarding probably isn’t the most useful term. We generally see this process more as preserving. In essence, we seal things up in box or container hoping to preserve it for future use. We do it with our treasured physical possessions, we do it homes and automobiles, and unfortunately we do it other areas of our lives.
Preservation is somewhat necessary for survival, but it can also become a problem.
The issue with preservation becomes a problem when we assume everything we have is worth saving. We assume that everything we have is beneficial and useful (or might be some day). Even our belief systems fall prey to these practices. We not only feel that our theologies and philosophies are right, we generally assume they should be defended and ultimately preserved.
In my book, Apparent Faith, I began with the question, “What if I am wrong?” Spiritually it was similar to what it would be like if I cleaned out my garage. I would pick up each item and ask the question, “Is this still necessary in my life?” or “Do I still need this?” If not, I would try to sell it or give it away. I would then sweep out the untended corners of the structure and wonder why I didn’t do this sooner.
But, recently, I have taken this exercise a bit further. I spent the last few days grieving. What I was grieving was that I needed to change my attachment to certain relationships. This doesn’t mean that I’m discarding people. But, it does mean that I’m disconnecting from certain aspects of our relationships. I no longer need their approval and it’s okay if they don’t understand or we just don’t have the same familiarity we once had. It’s okay!
Trying to preserve everything we have can lead us down unhealthy roads. Not only is it impossible to keep everything the same, it is also unnecessary. I don’t believe in being wasteful not do I promote a throw-away mentality (especially with relationship). But, I do believe relationships and possessions sometimes are not eternal and sometimes preserving them only creates more problems.
I just had a conversation with my youngest daughter, Lily, yesterday. I realized the only way it’s possible to preserve our relationship is to allow it to change and mature over time. She actually helped teach me this when she was still in high school. We have to incorporate new beliefs and new ways of seeing the world as we grow or the relationship becomes like the boxes in my garage.
The parts of my life that are richest for me right now are the parts where I have let go of things that don’t serve my greater good and accepted the parts that actually need to be released. In one case, it helps me to unfriend a high school buddy so that I can enjoy memories I have. Trying to preserve this relationship as a I remember it would be detrimental. In another case, it seems life-giving to maintain a friendship of another classmate.
Please understand: people are not expendable, but often the nature of our relationship MUST change.
Beliefs must become more organic and grow with our maturity and understanding.
Relationships have to evolve and sometimes they have to end.
Possessions can be helpful to our journey, but only if we hold them loosely.
Preservation is necessary to our survival, but if we don’t know the limits, it can also be harmful.
To people like me, letting go seems like giving up. But progressively I am leaning much better discernment and finding the freedom to evolve as I continue on my journey. “Is this helpful for my journey?” may become the question I most often ask before proceeding.
I understand these kind of thought experiments are hard — It IS a lot like grieving.
But, grieving is a necessary part of life — it helps us find joy and purpose and meaning! It’s worth the effort!
Be where you are, be who you are,