Letting Go



Decades as represented in photos.

In one way or another, most of us are influenced by, carried by, identified by, hindered by, or inspired by our past. It is amazing how big a hold it can have on us. This is evidenced by collections, albums, closets, basements, shelving, cabinets, garages, storage units, and even a compartment in our brain full of stuff! We are attached to our stuff because it is all we have of our past OR because it might be needed in the future. Neither past nor future exists. Think about that for a moment. We are living in this moment, and we have this moment ONLY; yet we conduct ourselves as if the past and future are who and what we are.

It seems that with each place I have lived, I have brought there from the last place, all of my stuff. Then, I continue to collect more. If I don’t know what to do with something, I, literally, « shelve it »…why? Because I have space and, I think, time, to put it away for some later date when I can decide what to do with it. Often, it is our children who end up having to do something with it, because we run out of time – the time we always think we have…until we don’t.

The decision of mine to go live in France has brought this issue of stuff front and center. Going to live in a foreign country means that you either get rid of everything, or put it in storage in case you come back, and it is a rare person who moves their stuff across an ocean. This has forced me to purge, purge, and purge some more. I am moving from a 3-4 bedroom home to a small furnished apartment in France. How much do I want to keep IF I might need it, and IF my children might want it? And how much do I want to pay to store it, especially if I don’t come back?

It’s been over a year since I began the process of « letting go. » The fun part has been finding homes for things I thought someone else might want. I have met many wonderful people through Facebook’s « Marketplace »; I have found a gallery that would love to have a piece of artwork that had belonged to my mother; and I took my father’s McDonogh school uniform to the alumni office who will use it during tours of the school to parents and prospective students, to name a few examples. I have sent dozens and dozens of boxes of clothing, bric-a-brac, kitchen things, books, etc., to charities who have picked up from my front porch. I will be selling or having auctioned most of my furniture, and farming out my mother’s art to friends and family who will keep it for me.

While I have not read the now famous book by Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I think I could write my own. That might be a good post for another time. Let me say, though, that it has been a part of this life change I am making, to embrace the letting go, to experience the grief of it, and then to recognize that in the letting go of something, we re-experience, or maybe experience for the first time, the true value of that thing, or memory, or memento. We acknowledge the value that it held for us at one time, how it served our life in some way. If it still serves, or as Marie Kondo suggests still brings us joy, then by all means keep it. And if its service to us is done, then we can take a deep breath, make a deep bow to what was, and let it go.


First Steps

How in the world does one begin to plan and execute a new big adventure? What is the first step, the second…third…. These are questions I have been asked and have certainly asked myself often during this past year or so.

The first step was to BREATHE…very important! For a long time leading up to this decision, I realized that I truly wasn’t breathing, and would occasionally catch myself deeply sighing, in a whole big body shudder. I think I had been literally, holding my breath while many events were challenging me to think outside the box….approaching 70 was one of them. I have welcomed every decade with new excitement and curiosity, and this one is no different…except for one thing. My mother died at 71, my father at 78 – each lived a healthy, vibrant life up until they got sick. And each died after a short illness. So the question I kept asking myself was, “If you only had 10 years to live, would this be how you would want to live the rest of it? Everything just as it is now?” The resounding “NO,” surprised and inspired me.

At first I started by thinking of the “small” things I could do. Downsizing in place at my home; or moving from my home to…what? An apartment? Condo? Small house? Tiny home? And where? Here in Frederick, MD? Baltimore where I was born and raised and where my oldest daughter and son-in-law live? New York where my youngest daughter lives? So, I looked at a condo nearby…beautiful once inside, and all I could think of was how much walking into the “lobby” of the building; getting into an elevator; winding my way through a maze of hallways to find my numbered door; passing everyone’s little chotchky on the shelf outside their door; and having to go through that exercise in reverse to get back outside; reminded me of the apartment building where my grandparents had lived in their Old Age…and I was not ready for that! I thought of  having noisy neighbors on the other side of the wall, above me, below me, and no, I was not ready for that, either. Frederick currently is not building the kind of housing I was envisioning…a “villa” set up, where 3 one-story residences are attached on one side, where each unit had its own patio/garden area, three exposed sides with views to the outside, etc. Frederick is not, so far, allowing “tiny” homes (or any homes under 1,500 sq. ft. to be built within the city limit, and I knew that was way more than I wanted.


I had never imagined retiring. As an acupuncturist with a small practice, I had not saved much. I had made a profit on selling my first home, and my parents left me with some money. I had invested that, but would that be enough? How long would I need that money to last? Unless one is a millionaire (and today even that isn’t a lot) these are the very real questions we must ask ourselves (and our financial advisors, if we have one) when considering this next/last transition in life. I have never lived on a budget, and believe me it was often suggested; and, though never a big spender, I live comfortably. Working until I could no longer stand at my treatment table was the plan.  When living in Frederick no longer seemed a viable option, my sights had to expand. My daughter in New York suggested coming to live with her, and I knew that while she loves me and meant that, it would not work…not now, not yet. She had a big dream to buy a small house Upstate where I could live and she’d come spend the weekends away from the big city. A good dream for sure, and I wasn’t ready for that either.


The political environment in the U.S., while not a real factor in my decision, was another of the events mentioned above which was challenging me to think outside the box. This box was getting smaller and smaller as I became sucked in by cable news, and each of the many daily “never before in the history of the Presidency” events began to cause me real anxiety! I had never experienced anxiety before and I was seriously beginning to think I had it…the not breathing thing, heat rising in my chest, sleepless nights, etc. I had thought of “leaving the country” many times, and this just didn’t seem possible or realistic. And I let the idea pass each time it came up. Now I realize, that was not the right reason to move out of the country.


My partnership at The Center for Mind-Body Therapies had hit the 17 year mark, and it has been a good run with wonderful partners, associates and friends that have become near and dear to me. However, we were coming up against the end of a 5-year lease and the need to sign another one.  Suddenly, the question was looming – did I want to take on that financial responsibility again? Did I want to commit to another 5 years? I would be almost 75 by then. This question hounded me. The answer continued to be no, I did not. So, then, what would I do?


Then, one day, it hit me like a beam of sunshine breaking through a cloudy day….I can live in France!!!! Of course. Always before there was something that was more important or more demanding: divorce, supporting myself, remarriage, children, divorce, having to “rehabilitate” myself (that was the real term for a woman in a divorce when the judge was considering how much and how long for spousal support…with time to “rehabilitate!!!” herself), divorce with 2 small children, acupuncture school, building a practice, etc., etc. No time. No money. This was it! My life long dream maybe could come true, and it was now or never!

INHALE….EXHALE! Yes. First step…decision made.