Recently, Steve and I did some major changes to the second floor front room of our house. Our business has changed to the point where we need an additional studio space for massages, private yoga, meditation and spiritual counseling sessions. Both studio spaces are on the same floor so it is the perfect answer. It is! But, the bedroom set in the front room belonged to my Mom. She probably bought it in the 1940’s, and it was her bed my whole life. It has always been part of this house as far as I am concerned. The house Steve and I live in has now been in my family for over 100 years. We are the present day custodians. This all sounds very cool unless you are a Capricorn who is very tied to family and history. Making the change to this room meant getting rid of the bedroom set – which seemed like amputating an arm.
Poor Steve; I fight him on every change he has wanted to make to this place. Everything he has done has only made it better for us. Every change has made 1108 Central more and more ours.
But even with that knowledge, I still hold back and struggle with each new thing we do to the place.
We affectionately call our place, the house of dead people’s stuff. We have my mom, grandmother and great grandmother’s stuff. We also have stuff from Steve’s mom, grandmother and great grandmother as well. It is lovely stuff but it is stuff none the less. The problem is not the “stuff” but our attachments to the stuff. This kind of attachment keeps us from moving it on once it no longer serves us.
I can be sympathetic to hoarding for sure but reality is we need more space. All the signs pointed to making a change in that room for our own future. The truth was we hardly went in that room. It was a bedroom, but not ours. If one of us was sick, sometimes we would climb into that bed so as not to keep the other one awake with our coughing or a fever otherwise it was used maybe 10 nights a year for visiting friends or for private retreats we offer in our home.
Our friend David is a master carpenter and has a great eye for design. We eventually asked him if he could put in a Murphy bed so we would still have a place for folks to sleep but it could disappear into the wall when not in use. “No problem” he said. “And, how about I make the whole front side a dry erase board for you to use for classes, etc.?” Now I was really excited. The room was going to be even more functional than I first thought. But what was I going to do about Dottie’s bed and the matching chest of drawers? Could I part with it? Ahhhh…..that would be NO! After an initial conversation about doing the renovation in April 2015, I dropped it. But as time went on it become increasingly obvious, we could use the extra studio. We were missing more and more appointments because we only had one work space.
I was feeling trapped by the actual material stuff of which I could not let go. I was attached.
I was immobilized.
When we returned from Hawaii earlier this year (2016), my middle brother called to check in and see how the trip turned out for us. In the conversation I asked how he and his wife Connie were doing and what was up. They always seem to have a project going on.
“Well, now with two grand kids we are thinking into the future and trying to decide what to do with the kid’s bedroom. Henry will be ready for a regular bed soon so we are getting ready to start looking.”
“Are you looking for kid’s furniture?” I asked.
“No we are thinking longer out,” said Dave.
“What about mom’s bedroom set?”
OMG! I offered it. The bottom fell out of my stomach.
I paused, “Yep, I need to figure out something to do with it so we can create another studio space in the house.” My heart was racing but somehow this felt right.
“Wow- let me check with Connie, but I am thinking yes.”
A little back story might give you a clue to my “clinging to history” nature. First of all, I have a MA in History. I have always been interested in the past and contemplated making a career of it as a History professor. Even as a kid I wanted to play out historical scenarios. The present day did not seem to hold much interest for me.
I also know when a major change is happening, I get highly emotional. I am talking about the last day at a job, moving from one apartment to another. I have to cry about it. Letting go is not easy.
I am pulled to the past and I hold on to it.
After my mom Dottie’s transition from this earthly plane, my “clinging” nature became even more blatant. I left her apartment completely intact for an entire year. I would walk through it daily and languish in how much I missed her. Steve and I lived in a fully functioning apartment upstairs so there was no pressure to do anything right away. Grief is personal and we all handle it in our own way. I was starting to wonder if I would ever do anything. Would I just claim this space as a museum to my Mom? Dottie would not be happy with that decision. Honestly, I started to hear her in my head and heart, telling me to move forward and let go. Then, on the year and a day anniversary of her passing, I invited my brothers to come over to go through the space and divide things up.
We were together the whole day and into the evening. Steve cooked all three meals for us as my brothers and I went through every drawer, shoe box and piece of her clothing. Those were “her” instructions, “go through everything thoroughly”. That is another story in itself.
That morning before my brothers arrived, I was in total angst! I had no idea how I was going to handle seeing her stuff cross the threshold on its way to my brothers’ cars. After breakfast the three of us began the process: we reminisced, cried some and laughed as well. When I expressed my fear of letting go of her things, they said, nothing has to leave. This is where it’s always been and if we need to see it, we will come over and visit. Gracious, both of them.
So except for a few small things here and there— Steve and I incorporated all the stuff from her life into ours, along with his grandmothers piano and great grandmothers buffet and a piece of art.
It is understandable why I had no idea how I was going to deal with her bed leaving the house. The day my brother actually took the bed and dresser I was with a client in the other room. When I came out, it was gone. The next day our friend David showed up to start the renovation. I was glad I had little time to mourn its absence. It all happened quickly. The metamorphosis was complete within a week.
I love the new space. I have been using it every day for clients or my own studies and class preparations. I love the dry erase board. A week ago I used it to draw up my class plan, both the poses and the information on the Sixth chakra which was the theme for my class. It was working so well! The class came and went. I really liked what I had written. I did not erase the board at first. I liked what it said up there and so I just left it. I was attached to what I created so I thought I will just leave it. This morning I needed the space for another class plan. I had the hardest time spraying it down and wiping away the words. With a couple deep breaths I finally wiped over it to find that it only partially came off. Even with the dry erase spray and Windex, there was a ghost of the images still visible. I could see words like “dristhi”, “envision,” “perceive”, which were all words that I wrote in connection to the sixth chakra- ajna.
I was disappointed that my attachment to something that was no longer necessary – last week’s class plan, was messing up my nice clean surface. The past was messing up the NOW because of my inability to let go. The ghost of what “had been” still lingered but was of no use to me at all.
My mom’s bed, my handwritten words; what else was I holding on to that no longer served me? It was not lost on me for sure.
I wrote out my plan for this weekend’s teacher training class right over the ghost words. I came back 2 hours later, rewrote it in my journal and squirted the whole thing down and wiped it away. It felt good. With each subsequent wipe down, the words from my first session continue to fade. It is all symbolic to what goes on inside when we hold on tightly to the past.
I am starting to understand the power of building and dissolving of Buddhist Sand Mandalas. They create something beautiful then let go of the attachment and wipe it away. They make space to create another.
Why am I so attached? I fear I won’t be able to create something as good the next time or I will miss something so much that I will pine for it. So far that is not the case with the bedroom set or all the past class plans I put on my new board. I believe it comes down to trusting the cycle of life and love. We are not meant to be static – we are meant to be fluid and become comfortable with change and even mini bouts of chaos.
How can we become more comfortable with change and letting go?
Try welcoming change in your life intentionally so you can flow with the changes that come to you without asking.
Letting go is not about getting rid of everything in your life but perhaps it’s time to take a good look at the things that surround you and decide what is serving you in the present. Is it time to let go to make space for new things? Maybe it’s time to move some things on which do not serve you but could serve someone else. Letting go can be good for us as a practice. Attachment along with aversion are what the Buddha said can be the biggest stumbling blocks to living our life fully. It is also OK to have things as long as they don’t rule our life or make us think we can’t live without them.
When we look at the things we have with appreciation and gratitude — then we are in the zone of experiencing and not grasping. There is a big difference.
I feel good about the changes we’ve made to the house and the space we made by letting go of my mom’s bedroom furniture.
I have already seen in my mind’s eye, my brother’s grand kids jumping up and down on my mom’s bed. In some way that bed connects them energetically to a great grannie they never met. A piece of her holds them tight when they lay to rest. Somewhere she smiles. So do I.