When my dad died last year he was 74 and I was 37. I’ll wait while you do the math.
My grieving process over the past year, in combination with the realization that this is probably one of the middle years of my life, has shown me how easy it is to let go of old (sometimes toxic) ways of being.
Letting go is not something I have ever been good at; I seem to cling voraciously to habit and routine, thinking that these patterns will keep me “safe.” It’s a fairly common cognitive bargaining tool. It’s also complete crap. Nothing can keep you safe from loss.
So this year, instead of adding a bunch of aspirational goals to my life in 2019, I’ve made a list of all the things I’ve let go of…with a sincere hope to add more.
Being an athlete. I played sports until college. Like many privileged people with leisure time and money, I’ve joined gyms, taken classes, and bought expensive running shoes that gathered dust. Now I’m giving up on this idea for good. Not interested. My goal for this year is to walk my dog every day. Be able to shovel snow and rake leaves.
Focusing on what I eat. I have already spent too much of my short time on this green Earth pondering, agonizing, and calculating what to eat. It sounds silly, but thinking about the latest diet plans or health sensation is so ingrained in my cultural milieu, that professing my complete lack of interest feels counter cultural.
Volunteering for kid stuff. Working and playing volunteer hero mom is something I no longer do. I put in years of running bake sales and chaperoning trips when my son was young and I wasn’t working, but now I just can’t. I will send in (store bought) cookies for a party or donate to a walk-a-thon, but no one gets my time.
Hanging on to sentimental objects. Seems like this would’ve gone the other way after losing my dad. But the fact is, I have learned that no physical object can offer comfort or solace to the loss of him. This realization offered relief. I’m not maintaining a museum to him or any other part of my life that is in the past. I’m living now. So a lot of things have been donated or just thrown in the trash.
These are just a few of the big ones. They all seem pretty mundane, but letting go of each has freed me up tremendously – in terms of time, money, and head space – to create space to consider how I actually want to spend the second half of my life.
Cynthia Ransley, MA (’15) is the Communications Coordinator for MSP.