Learning How to Let Go
I have a love affair with books. I started dating books when I saw Dick and Jane run after Spot in first grade.
I nurtured the relationship in third grade when The Scholastic Book Club let me order books from handouts my teacher, Mrs. Baker, would give us. I still remember reading The Furious Flycycle.
I married books in the fourth grade. Mrs. Fountain held up a sign and told the class we would get a certificate if we read something like 8 fiction books, 5 science books, and 8 non-fiction books. I read more than a hundred.
My love affair with books has lasted my entire lifetime and I probably have somewhere over 3,000 books now.
My wife often tells me I have too many books and I say, “No, I do not have enough bookshelves.”
I finally admitted I needed to start cleaning out my overflowing shelves when I began to stack them in piles on the floor. Early in June I started setting books out in a hallway on our floor for whomever might want them. I have kicked them out on their own.
I feel unfaithful to these books. I hope they find good homes.
Cleaning out these books has been an exercise in learning how to let go of things that are important to me. The principles that I have used could be applied to any attempts to let go of things in our lives–books, possessions, feelings, etc.
1. I learned letting go requires measurable goals.
I started out by setting a goal of removing ten books from my office. Once I removed ten books, I set a goal for ten more.
Like the books I am setting out into the wild my goals stacked one upon another until I am close to 300 books removed from my office. Since I originally planned to remove 100 books, turning loose of 300 of them is a huge accomplishment.
As you try to let go, start on the edges of whatever ever needs to go and work your way toward the center in measured steps.
2. I learned letting go is an emotional experience.
I can pick a book off my shelf and remember the chair I sat in when I read it twenty-five years ago. I can remember how it changed me, thrilled me, confused me, and even frustrated me.
I gave away some old books that were important to me a long time ago, but I have not opened them in decades. It was time to let them go because we no longer connected with each other.
I could not give away books given to me by someone else who had written a note inside. Those books tie me to specific people. I still have a relationship there.
As you try to let go, be honest with yourself about your emotions because they affect what you can and cannot let go.
3. I learned letting go takes time.
I thought I could clean my shelves in a week, but it has taken over a month.
Some of the books I have sent packing were picked up three or four times over the month before I finally could let them go. I had to say good bye to them gradually.
As you try to let go, give yourself the time you need to grieve and say goodbye.
I am just cleaning out bookshelves but our lives often become crowded with many things we need to release. Set some goals, embrace your emotions, take your time and let things go.
How about you? Do you have trouble letting go of things? What sort of things are you trying to let go?