a little east of reality

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

letting go

As a follow-up to my post on validation & forgiveness, I want send some linky love out to 3 fellow bloggers. First is madeline's post on forgiveness: Oprah? It seems her main focus is past relationships, but the words ring true for every kind of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that things could have been different.

It's true. To forgive someone you have to look back and erase from your mind that voice that has been whining for years, the voice that laments : If only...
The second comes from Lewis, who also writes about letting go: On Forgiveness

It is wise to let such people go, along with all the anger and despair they cause us. It matters not one whit whether they deserve to be forgiven. We cannot change them. That is not our obligation.
Another post that discusses a different kind of letting go comes from Amanda: Looking at images from the tsunami. She writes about deprivation and voluntarily choosing not to have so many possessions.

...the more you have, the more deprived you feel when you end up having nothing. It's fairly obvious, actually. But it also makes you wonder; if, indeed, one chose a life of voluntary simplicity, and spent their time and energy on things other than the glittery lure of affluence, they would be far better off if disaster ever hit.
It's interesting, this idea of letting go, whether materially or emotionally. Again it makes me ponder why it is that we hang on to things so fiercely, even when they cause us grief.

My mother, for example, lives in a very cluttered house. She's a very organised, very orderly person, and I know without doubt that she would feel more comfortable and able to achieve more if her environment was more spacious and organised. She is often frustrated by the clutter and confusion, yet she struggles to get rid of anything. It was enlightening to talk to her about this and understand her motivations. She grew up in what was initially a very poor household. Though her father later became a very successful businessman, she was the first child and experienced the full extent of their harsh beginning. Like those raised in the Great Depression, she can't bear to throw away anything that has any material value. She often argues that ‘someone could use that’. She’s making more progress now that she loads up the useable things to drop off at a local charity op shop.

More interesting was her other reaction to my admonition to throw more away: “you think all my stuff is just junk!” There was a sense that what she had accumulated was somehow symbolic of what her life amounted to…and if it could all just be thrown away without a second thought, maybe she or her life were somehow insignificant. I find this idiotic ~ my mother is a smart, generous woman whose greatest achievement will always be the wisdom she gave her children ~ but it’s hardly a new idea. Plenty of people look at their BMW or their furniture to tell themselves that they’ve ‘succeeded’ in life. (Meanwhile their kids are in therapy, but anyway…) Yet another form of validation.

Is that the answer? Is letting go so difficult because we use the things we cling to as ways to validate our feelings, our choices, our lives? But what is the cost of that validation? Bertrand Russell said, way back in 1917 in his Principles of Social Reconstruction:

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.
Or as Chuck Palahniuk, a more modern font of wisdom put it in Fight Club:

The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.
We are even more trapped by the grudges we nurse, the hurt we nurture and feed. Isabelle Holland said:
As long as you don't forgive, who and whatever it is will occupy rent-free space in your mind.
More clutter, only this time in our heart and mind, narrowing our options and choking up our thought processes.

If letting go is so good for us ~ so freeing, so healing, so enlightening ~ then, ironically, maybe it’s the best way to seek validation. How strong are we, how calm and in control would we feel as a person if we had the courage and confidence to let go of the feelings and possessions we’re relying on to validate us? I still believe that people need validation, but wouldn’t that kind of experience provide validation in and of itself?