I crack open the book and smile. Fuzzy bumble bees look back at me, each busy on a different flower. I flip the page and see a map of that species’ distribution in the United States and an exhaustive collections of all the body color patterns that particular bumble bee might carry. Yes, it’s clear why I bought this. What a great tool to identify bumble bees.
My brow furrows. If it’s so great, why haven’t I used this in the past few years? I read the description of the bumble bee more closely. This species has a cheek (ocular mandible area) that is as long as broad, and the midleg basitarus has a back far corner that is acute and rounded. Riiight. So to identify my fuzzy friend, I’d have to capture and probably kill it. No way. I have no interest in killing insects I admire, nor do I want to muck around in leg length or cheek shape. I throw the book on the pile to donate, and consider the next one.
Welcome to Spring, the time to clean out everything unused and unneeded. This spring marks the first year since my injury – more than 5 years ago – that I have had a surge of crazy spring energy. It buzzes through me, shouting at me to do something with my body, to move forward and act, to engage the world. It is the energy of creating change and getting things done. Since it is spring, that takes the form of cleaning. Cleaning out, making room, getting rid of everything that doesn’t serve me now. As luck would have it, Mary’s in the mood to clean, too, and together we are whittling down the excess in our lives.
Everything I own, every possession I have, takes energy. Psychic energy, mental energy, whatever you want to call it. It takes energy to see it on the shelf, it takes energy to have a place for it in my home, it takes energy to interact or not interact with it. So, in that way, every possession I have requires a little bit of my soul.
With every book I throw in the donation pile, a whole set of stories about myself is ripped away. Stories I’ve told myself about what I would do because of an item, or how owning it meant certain things about me, or how this particular bit of information was vital to who I am. Every item, a story, conscious or unconscious. Every item donated frees more space in my mind and my life for what is actually going on. I am releasing stuck, wasted energy and redirecting it to serve me now, in this life.
Take yesterday, for example. Mary and I were cleaning out the garage. I have a bicycle that I haven’t ridden in years. I keep meaning to get it tuned up, but I don’t. My brain injuries changed my balance and visual perception. The ground rushing by me as I ride is difficult for me now, somehow, and my brain fatigues quickly. My balance is much less reliable, and I’m not safe to ride in traffic. Add in no easy place to ride it away from cars where I live, and the bike sits in the garage. Periodically, I move it from one spot to another as I rearrange things.
Not anymore. After much prodding, I let Mary wheel it to the edge of the road and put a free sign on it. It was so hard not to run after her and reclaim it, putting it back in the garage for another year. Instead, I walked away so I didn’t have to see it sitting there, waiting for it’s new owner. It was gone this morning. I had that bike for over 15 years, and it has a lot of life left in it. It is so hard to let go of something not broken that I might want in the future.
Yet, I don’t need it. My current reality is I’m not biking. I have no expectation I’ll suddenly start biking. If I move and have a safe place to ride, I can always get another one – probably for $50 or less. I remind myself this repeatedly – I am only keeping what serves me now, that reflects the life I lead, now. Not the one I use to live, not the one I would like to live, not the one I think I should live – the real one, that I live every day.
The hardest to part with are the gifts given in love. My now ex-husband bought me the Compact English Oxford Dictionary – a monster of a book with thousands of pages, each detailing word origin, meanings, and when a word was first used in writing. Compact means not that they winnowed down the information in the full dictionary, no. It means they shrunk 20 volumes into one book, each page in the compact dictionary actually containing 9 full pages in microscopic writing. A very nice – and necessary – magnifying glass is included. I was deeply touched when he gave me this gift almost 15 years ago. I see myself as someone who would have the Compact English Oxford Dictionary at home, someone who would pull it out and read about this word or that word that comes up in conversation. The reality? Not so much. I rarely used it, and I haven’t pulled it out in years. I remember Evan’s love every time I see it on the shelf, but I have other gifts from him that I do use – like a sharp, handmade knife from Finland. Time to let this one go.
All told, Mary and I donated two full car loads of stuff to Goodwill. I got rid of over 50 books and a mountain of other things that have been sitting around for years. Spring is here. Spring is happening. I welcome Spring’s gift of letting go and making space for new things to flourish.