All my life I have been bound by nostalgia. Which, I am sure, is a product of grief.
I told myself that I must keep every letter or birthday card, I must capture every occasion in a photo, I must treasure every gift, I must hold every moment so that it can never be lost. Nothing must ever be taken from me again.
Which is no way to live.
Returning to the UK after 24 years in the States, I have been forced to confront all that I held onto before I left all those years ago. What in the world was I holding onto? What did I think I could capture? Was I planning for that day when someone else died that I could look back at their letters and think, "Oh look! There they are, how horrendously I miss them" ? Is that helpful, I ask myself. Is it?
The same thing with photos. Why on earth do I need (literally) tens of thousands of photos? What have I thought I could capture? What could not be mine unless it was somehow grounded in the temporal and the tangible? And what could I truly possess anyway?
Finding all these boxes has caused some weighty thinking and an epiphanic realisation. All that I have been through and all those I have met stay with me and have become a part of who I am. Those relationships and friendships, those adventures and events, those memories - my History - is inherent in the essence of who I am now. The odd photo and momento is lovely, but box after box after box of them? It is choking and binding to something that no longer can be.
So I decided to do something radical and trusting. I decided - after staring at them for several months - not even to go through them. Whom would it serve? I'm not the person I was even a year ago. Do I really need all over again to dredge through each painstaken memory, each life defining tragedy, each life changing trauma? Even the joyous stuff, can it be contained in the tangible more than it is already internalised in me?
So I burned them.
As I threw them on the fire, I pulled out the odd sweet thing but for the most part it was healing and freeing and cherishing to let it all go. And guess what? I am still Me without any of it. I have still been through all that has happened both good and bad.
For here is the thing: we are each much greater than the sum of our parts anyway. Even more so, within all that we are thus far today, lies the buds of all that we have yet to become tomorrow.
So let go.
Don't look back, be free: your story is still being written.
And remember this in your letting go: 'Though much is taken... much abides. And (though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven...) that which we are, we ARE. One equal temper of heroic hearts!
Made weak by time and fate but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find --
and not to yield.'