Important Places

The images of Notre Dame on fire brought tears to my eyes. It was terrible and stunning to see such a pillar of history and testament of faith burn so aggressively. I know what it is to stand outside and … Continue reading

Home, Sweet Home

Dear Home, I miss you. I miss what you used to give me: shelter, warmth, and security. I miss running up and down your steps—taking the stairs two at a time and always jumping down from three up (much to … Continue reading

My Christmas Memories

In conjuring up my earliest Christmas memories, I’m taken back to when there was just mom, dad, and me. We were living in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. And I was still eager to point out that my birth had transformed my … Continue reading

Another Fire

“Please, Lord, not another fire—not this again.” That was all I could say Monday morning as I saw the fire trucks lining our block and smelled that the blaze was near. Looking up towards the sky I could see glowing … Continue reading

Letting Go

Isn’t it strange how difficult a seemingly simple thing like letting go can be? Even when we know someone is there to catch us, it’s hard. Even when the thing we are holding on to hurts us, it’s difficult. Sometimes what we would gain in letting go is much greater and sweeter than whatever we’re clasping in our figurative hands, and yet we’re still resistant.

As a creature of habit, letting go—even of something I don’t want to hold on to—can be challenging for me. There are things I feel obligated to carry. It’s difficult for me to put down a responsibility, even if it doesn’t belong to me. Guilt is sticky. I try to let go of it, but it clings. I’m uncomfortable disappointing the people I love, even when it’s necessary or healthy.

I’ve had to learn how to let go of many things: relationships that are mutually destructive or benefitting neither party; dreams; worries; misplaced anger; counterproductive jealousy; friendships that are waning (or dying); expectations and ideals that are unhealthy. When my mother passed away I had to let go of deeper things. That’s a different type of letting go—mourning.

Letting go can be challenging. It’s admitting that the steering wheel you’re gripping with both hands isn’t attached to anything. It’s that moment in rappelling down a wall when you have to sit back into nothing. Letting go can feel impossible and scary. So many of us are afraid of failing, falling, or changing.

As a recovering perfectionist and chronic control freak, for me letting go means trusting that someone else will do something the way I would—or that they’ll do it a different way and nothing will implode. When I got married, in addition to letting go of certain freedoms that are linked to being single, I had to let go of expecting everything to be done/cooked/cleaned to my specifications in my—our—home. My husband came with a set of habits and preferences all his own. Sometimes letting go means compromising—navigating a roiling sea of needs and wants with another person.

When my husband and I lost almost everything we owned in a fire, I learned new lessons about letting go—especially of material possessions. We were fortunate in that we were able to save a lot of sentimental things (photographs, letters, my first teddy bear). We also didn’t loose any important documents (diplomas, passports, marriage and birth certificates). But we did loose a lot of commonplace stuff—furniture, clothes, electronics, and linens. Oddly enough, some of the things that survived I wish had been destroyed. At the top of that list is my wedding dress. It’s something I have no use for, don’t want to own anymore, but can’t seem to let completely go of. (It hangs in the basement at my in-laws.)

Life after the fire in our building was a seminar in letting go. I had to let go of certainty, privacy, comfort, and control. We spent ten months living like nomads. Each stop had its perks. Some had their disadvantages. In some spaces we had privacy, in others we did not. Sometimes we had space, other times we felt like we were living in a closet. We slept on a futon, the floor, an air mattress (that one our cats eventually punctured), and a twin-sized bed. And each time we moved, we had no idea where (or for how long) we’d live next. I could not control the amount of time we’d be displaced. We didn’t know it would be ten months at the onset. I had to let go of my impatience as home became a moving target.

I’ve had to learn how to let go of stuff. A lot was destroyed in the fire, and living nomadically meant paring down what remained of our belongings to the portable necessities. Options were a luxury. As we began the process of replacing our lost possessions, with no permanent home, we put most things in storage. I had to let go of being sure where anything was or when I’d see it again. Some things went to a professional storage facility; other things went to the homes of friends and family. Where any specific thing was at any given moment was rarely known with a complete certainty.

I’ve learned some important lessons through letting go. It gives me a better perspective from which to see things for what they really are. Sometimes bad things seem good when I’m holding on to them because I’m too close to see their flaws and negative consequences. Other times letting go of something good has reminded me that I can survive and thrive in the midst of loss or change. It prevents me from making any one thing my everything. A few times letting go of something good has made room for something even better to takes its place. Letting go of something good can free me up to reach for something great.

I can’t say that I’m particularly good at letting go now. I’m a bit less attached to stuff, but I’m still a creature that finds certain changes grating and most habits comfortable. I resist letting go of my routines. I like to sit in the same seat at church and any place I go regularly. I eat one of three things for breakfast most mornings.

I hope I’m better than I used to be (and keep improving) at letting go when it’s necessary, healthy, or right for me. I don’t want to cling to things, habits, or people that are damaging. Hard as it sometimes is, letting go is a natural part of life. Change is the only constant I can find.

Six Things I’m Thankful For

In no particular order… 1. My Fantasy Football record. 5-6 might not seem all that impressive, but if you knew the number of injuries and under-performers I’ve been saddled with, you’d be impressed too. I really expected my week 2 … Continue reading

The Fire & Us: Being Home

We’re home now, but there are still areas of our lives (and our apartment) that aren’t quite back to normal yet. We still have possessions to replace (like a broom and dustpan), some of our clothing is still in a friend’s closet, there’s still one piece of our sectional couch that has yet to be delivered (it comes on Tuesday), and we’ll be sleeping on an air mattress for another two weeks before our bedroom furniture arrives.

I’m a bit worried about that last one because starting Monday (and for at least three weeks), our elevator will be out of commission for “modernization…” to quote the memo we got yesterday. So we will essentially be living in a fifth-floor walk-up when our bedroom furniture gets here—and we went for the platform bed with built-in storage (sigh). So I’m just hoping the deliverymen (or delivery-women) can get everything up the five flights of stairs and into our apartment, because I really want to be able to sleep on a bed again. And it would be nice to live out of drawers instead of suitcases and duffel bags.

But in many ways, it’s beginning to feel like home. We’ve had our first meals here, we’ve woken up and gone to work from here, and (perhaps the one that makes home feel most like home) we’ve entertained a handful of guests here. Somehow no matter how many things we unpack and/or assemble, no matter how many times we brush our teeth here or fall asleep in front of the television, it is the welcoming in of family and friends that most makes it feel like home again. And it is good to be home. There’s no place like it in the world.