How the process of letting go can help you be more of what you want.
My partner and I are on the tail end of a big move. We downsized from a house with a three-car garage that we used to store our stuff, into an apartment about half the size, with one room for storage. We’ve let go of a lot over the past month to fit into our new place, and it has been HARD.
For me, the big thing I let go of was BOOKS. Between the two of us, we have released at least 60 boxes of books. That’s about 1200 books. Now, don’t think that we don’t have any books left. Right now, I’m sitting in front of a bookshelf that’s holding about 250 books. And I have another 30 books in my office, and my partner has about 100 books in his office. So we still have books!
But letting go of so many books was a process that involved a few significant shifts in thinking:
1 – Releasing Shoulds
Many of the books that I had, represented things that I felt I SHOULD know, learn or do. Releasing those books meant acknowledging to myself that I’d probably read all that I was going to read in them. And even if the information held in those books had the potential to be amazing and life-changing, I didn’t have the time to read them all.
2- Accepting when a book was a past interest, not a present joyful desire.
At one time I may have wanted what was in the books, but now I wasn’t interested anymore. Accepting my shift of interest wasn’t an easy process.
3- Acknowledging that the way I learn now is DIFFERENT than it used to be.
When I was growing up as a working class girl in Philadelphia, books were the way I could access different viewpoints, lifestyles, and time periods. I didn’t have as much access to people from different walks of life and vantage points.
Decades later, I have built a life that allows me to connect to and speak with all kinds of people – and I love to talk to people, to learn from them directly. So while I still learn from books, I also prioritize learning from and interacting with people so that I can have more direct experiences relating to the things that I’m trying to learn.
4- Books can be dated.
Information moves quickly and ideas are constantly evolving. Books seem static to me in a way that they didn’t used to.
5- I’m a kinesthetic learner.
I learn by doing, by touching, by writing, by drawing, by visualizing. Just reading books doesn’t give me the full-on sensory experience that I need to feel connected to the topics/ideas and experiences that I’m trying to cultivate and absorb.
As an artist, I’m now cutting up books and magazines created by others and weaving the images, pages and words into my own books, creating works that help me to understand what matters to me. Creating artifacts that help me to EVOLVE.
Now that I have fewer books, I can really hone in on what the books I kept have to offer. I don’t feel as scattered. I feel as if the books are here to serve me, not me to serve them.
Books weren’t the only thing that I let go of. I let go of art supplies that I bought for classes, but realized that I didn’t really enjoy using. I let go of clothes that haven’t fit for years, releasing the idea that someday, I’ll wear them again.
I let go of notebooks from various jobs, artifacts and samples from work that I’ve done over the decades . . . constantly reminding myself that I don’t need these artifacts as proof of life, proof of my worth and what I have done. I know what I have done, I know what I can do, and I know that I am constantly evolving and changing.
One of the things that helped ease the process of releasing emerged through dialoguing with an image of a jeweled serpent in my visual journal. As I looked at the image, I asked the question, “What does the serpent know?” The response? “You must shed your skin to GROW, to expand, to realize your vision.”
Previously, I had been thinking of letting go as important to becoming smaller, more nimble. Now I could see that shedding was actually the key to growth and stepping into my power.
What must you shed to grow?