Letting Go

I spent most of yesterday sorting out a few boxes in my storage unit. I have no idea why, but I woke with the feeling that I needed to start getting rid of more of my stuff. I got rid of half of everything Jeff and I owned when I left our home, and a third of what was left when I left my father’s house, but I still have way too much stuff for someone who is somewhat of a nomad, moving from one temporary place to another.

Although I hadn’t intended to, hadn’t even remembered I still had them, I ended up tossing out my grief journals and the letters I wrote to Jeff those first years after his death. I’m sure there was much wisdom in those pages, but there was also too much sorrow and too many tears. No one needs to keep that sort of grief-laden memorabilia. And anyway, if ever I am interested in my thoughts back then, I have hundreds of blog posts and of course, my book Grief: The Great Yearning.

It’s odd, but I don’t feel anything — neither relief that the sorrow is thrown away nor regret that I got rid of the journals. I suppose that means I chose the right time to let them go.

I still have Jeff’s ashes, but it’s getting close to time to get rid of those, too. It might be nice to take them with me on my May trip, and sprinkle tiny amounts in all the places I know he’d love. (Shh. Don’t tell. It’s illegal to dump human remains without a permit, but a teaspoonful here and a smidgeon there spread over hundreds of miles shouldn’t upset the ecology of any area.) Still, the trip is still months away, and anything can happen before I have to decide.

I also threw away the handwritten versions of my books (the first four were completely written by hand, and even parts of the more recently published books were handwritten). I’d been saving them for . . . I don’t know . . . posterity, maybe. But posterity has passed me by, and so far I haven’t needed them to prove my claim that I wrote the books, so it was time to let them go, too.

Some things I did not throw away, such as the binder filled with maps and information about places I’d planned to visit on my cross-country trip two years ago. The most astonishing fact about those pages is that so many were about long-distance hiking trails, including maps. I vaguely remember planning to hike and backpack in the various national lands along the way, figuring that when I hit North Carolina, I’d be ready to hike part of the Mountain to Sea trail. Unfortunately, by the time I got to North Carolina, I could barely walk up stairs. (I’d wrenched my hip in ballet class before I left, and the hiking I did in the beginning and all that driving only made things worse. I’ve been doing piriformis muscle stretches ever since, and maybe this next adventure, though shorter, might be more active.)

One piece of torn paper that I tossed in the trash yesterday while working was picked up by the wind, and so I went dashing after it. (Although I might not have a problem with littering the wilderness with Jeff’s ashes, any other sort of littering is anathema to me.) I have that dusty, wrinkled bit by my side as I type this blog. It was a quote I’d found and jotted down with pencil:

“Let go, trust and just take the first step. The pathway will unfold before you.” That advice comes from The Peace Pilgrim, a 44-year-old woman who set out to walk for peace carrying only a pen, a comb, a toothbrush, and a map, trusting to those she met to supply what she needed, though she never asked for anything. I wish I had her trust, her courage, her zeal. Could I ever just head out on foot with nothing and wait to see what happens?

It’s one thing to let go of possessions that no longer have value, but another thing to just . . . let go.

But maybe . . .

Someday . . .

Meantime, most of my stuff still needs to be sorted, and more gotten rid of. Do you notice I’m using the passive voice? That’s because I don’t want to have to face the reality of who is going to have to do all that work.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.