Holding On and Letting Go

I’m sitting in my friends’ shady patio, listening to a silence broken only by the birds and the light fall breeze. I’ve been in California for a month now, and like every time I’m down here in what was once my home, I dread leaving. Despite living in and loving Vancouver, the Bay Area wil always be a lifeline and a refuge for me. I can’t – no, I won’t let go.

It’s not unusual for people to hold on. How many times have we clung to family and friends at the airport or train station, cried at going-away parties and grieved at memorial services? We hold on to dreams, we hold on to hope. But sometimes, we hold on too long. We reach a point when we have to admit that it’s time to finally let go. I learned that with my late husband Dave as he suffered through a long battle with heart failure and finally died. And I’ve just gone through another painful process this wek.

For too long I’ve been storing many of my most treasured possessions from my time living and working in Silicon Valley. I’ve been paying too much keeping my previous life within the concrete walls of unit 3103, hoping against hope that some new job would come along, that at my age I’d still have the chance to obtain a work visa in the US, that everything would be the same again. But of course, nothing will ever be the same again. So I’m finally, painfully, letting go.

Two junk trucks have been and gone. Dear friends have taken some lovely and useful things. I’ll be shipping some treasured books, bells and old photos back to Vancouver. And there’s nothing left but an empty storage unit that will soon be filled again with the remnants of someone else’s life.

It’s been hard. Only Dave’s illness and death, and my mother’s declining health have been harder to bear. I’ve shed many tears sifting through box after box. So many reminders of so much… But it’s done, and it is not only necessary, but it will eventually be liberating once the ache in my heart goes away. I will soon cherish my memories without forever clinging to a life that won’t happen again. And I’ll also be strong enough to free myself to look forward and make new choices, follow new paths, and embrace new adventures. Lucky me:-)

But I’ll still cry every time I say goodbye.

What are you holding on to?

unit 3103

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9 thoughts on “Holding On and Letting Go

  1. What a lovely, heartfelt and honest post. I am very touched by it and felt like I was there with you cleaning out that locker.

    Leaving anything for me is always a difficult thing to go through. Even spaces that I may have only been in for a very short time such as a hotel room. I get a strange feeling when I close the door for what is likely, the very last time.

    I think leaving things and places and especially people, reminds us of our own short lives and how we will one day soon have to say goodbye to it. Gee, all that from leaving a lousy hotel room, but it’s what I feel.

    I have recently left a life in Vancouver for a life on Hornby Island. That wasn’t so difficult because it was a clear going to something. The harder leavings are the ones we don’t choose such as the loss of a loved one, friend or family member.

    Thanks for writing such a beautiful post, Cathy.

  2. I had some help letting go, in the form of break and enter artists. When I realized that a lot of what they took (as attested to by blank spaces on my shelves) I couldn’t recall, let alone resent, I realized perhaps it was time to divest.

  3. Gosh, that’s a hard thing to do. Much sympathy and warm hugs to you that the emotions run their course and you find calm for your little pink heart.

    I sometimes feel like the queen of letting go…well, maybe the princess of. The older I get the more people and possessions I have to let go of, but, for me, this has been happening my whole life since I left the Czech Republic and everything behind in 1969 and then years and years of moving countries ensued, so it’s hard to stay attached to things…except my children (who aren’t things at all, but you know what I mean).

    Vancouver has been home base for about 20years off and on, but is now being left for longer and longer periods in England, and even my lovely house and garden isn’t keeping me here anymore. I think that, if it wasn’t for my children, (and possibly my dinosaur mother), I’d self exile to a life of Bohemian wandering.

  4. Cathy,

    This is a fantastic post. For the longest time, I held on to Vancouver, and to a life that was, for the most part, unsustainable. I was fragmented again, working full time as a professor AND as a blogger, and feeling as though I was failing at both. Feeling always worried that I would be missing a deadline and letting down someone who expected me to blog about them. Worrying about my ageing parents and thinking “will I have a chance to see them again?”. So, I let go of Vancouver, and I could not be happier.

    *If* I decide to come back, I’ll come back to friends who love me, students who miss me, faculty colleagues who would love me to work at UBC again. But I certainly won’t be back to the social media world in Vancouver. I won’t be back to the “OMG I’m missing an event because I have 4 posts to write, and 2 journal articles, and OMG I can’t do everything”. I have shut down my blog, for the time being and possibly forever.

    Letting go is an amazing skill, and I for one salute you for having the courage to let go of the one thing you kept as your anchor: California. But life works the same everywhere: you’ll always have California.

    Much love from Mexico.

  5. Dear Cathy,

    This is a wonderful post. We all face it sooner or later – thanks for the advice.


  6. I’m holding onto the last of my parents things. It’s been 6 years and I’ve gotten rid of their things in phases. What I have left is the things that remind me the most of them but they are not things I personally love or can use, like my father’s cowboy boots. Getting rid of these things feels like I’m disposing that part of their life. It’s not easy but it feels more like weight than joy which is an indication that it’s time to go.

    Thank you for sharing this difficult time all of us go through.

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