Adamant about getting her Christmas tree down before the New Year rolled in, my friend enlisted her six year-old daughter to help. During the process, her daughter asked, “Mommy, why do we have to take the tree down? Can’t we leave it up a little longer?” My friend explained to her that it was bad luck to bring old things into the New Year and that they needed to toss the old things, like the tree, out. Her daughter’s reply: “But mommy, most of our stuff is old. Does that mean we have to get rid of all that stuff, too?”
And the grasshopper becomes the teacher…
This sweet little girl had just exposed the delicately nuanced fact that it doesn’t make sense to get rid of ALL the old stuff. And yet, the New Year is typically all about fresh starts and leaving the past behind.
I must preface the rest of this post by saying that long before the arrival of the New Year, I had been on a mission to get rid of some things in my life that no longer served me. And they ranged from the mundane (that watch that I’m never going to get a new battery for) to the complex (a friendship that had long since reached its expiration date).
So rather than providing you with a laundry list of resolutions, which I rarely make because it’s too much pressure, I thought I’d offer a little insight into ‘auld lang syne,’ if you will. In other words, here’s my approach to letting go in 2014.
My friend’s daughter makes a great point. Not all the old stuff needs be tossed. Look, we all have some old, presumably unhealthy or bad habits we’d like to get rid of, but I think it’s important to hold on to the lessons learned from our past. There are some life lessons that I’ve had to learn more than once, but the insight I’ve gained is invaluable. And not everything that’s old is bad for you. Seriously, think about all of the wonderful old memories with friends and family that we cherish and take with us from year to year. Where would we be if we threw all that away?
Holding on to something that you don’t really need, don’t use, or that doesn’t fill you up, takes up space in your life and often prevents you from receiving new, even better stuff, both literally and metaphorically speaking.
Give me some space. Letting go of the old can be scary, even painful. In some cases, whatever IT is may have been around so long, it’s like a member of your family. (That can be good or bad.) But sometimes IT can become a crutch. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve struggled with letting some situations go because I just wanted to make them work.
But here’s what I know. Holding on to something that you don’t really need, don’t use, or that doesn’t fill you up, takes up space in your life and often prevents you from receiving new, even better stuff, both literally and metaphorically speaking. You want a new job? You’re probably gonna have to let go of the old one. Trying to improve your relationship with your partner? You might have to let go of some of his or her past mistakes. Ouch.
Right now, I’m trying to create some physical and mental space for my writing to prosper. This has proven difficult, in part because my office at home is a hot mess. It’s become a breeding ground for my daughter’s discarded school projects, things I wish I hadn’t bought, and papers I’ve had since college. But there ain’t nothing like a good ‘ol fashioned purge to shake things up and make room for what you really want. Check back with me in a month and see how that’s going.
I hate cold turkey. When it comes to letting go, going cold turkey may not always be the best approach. Whether it’s changing bad eating habits, dissolving a well-worn relationship, or taking down your holiday decorations, it might be easier to implement change in stages. Sometimes, even when we know it’s in our best interest to dispose of something, our psyches just may not be ready to do it. And we may make several attempts to ditch our old ways before we’re successful. Timing really is everything. So, we should be patient with ourselves, start small and not beat ourselves up along the way.
The whole ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is really just symbolic of change. And you know what they say about change… it’s the only constant in life. And each New Year simply brings the opportunity to deliberate about exactly what kind of change may be necessary in our lives.