Monday, September 7, 2015

Daring to Let Go

Pulling open the hall closet doors reveals fifteen years of accumulated memories. I start slowly, making piles of school supplies, arts and crafts, photo books. There's all the old stencils that I never got around to using and three new boxes of crayons. Half a dozen old school binders that only a thirteen year old would love.

We've decided to put this house up for sale in the new year.

It's a conversation that's been happening for a couple years now. Without kids in the house, where do we want to live? What kind of place do we want to call our own? What does our life together now get to look like?

We've always agreed that first things first - we'd need to move on from this home and make our way towards another one.

Selling the house is the easiest part of the equation. Letting go of this home that is permeated with so much love and joy - and some teenage angst that ruined the carpet in one bedroom - is harder to do in real time. Talking about it has been fine - actually packing up the photo books - that's been tougher.

In order to sell a house, we have to depersonalize all the living spaces. The jumble of framed pictures collected over the last twenty years has to be sorted through and packed away. Some of the pictures have stuck to the frames and need extra help to keep most of the photo intact. There's a pile of old gilded frames heading to Goodwill while the photos go into an archival box with the hopeful aspiration to scan them all and make sure everyone has copies.

Why does this matter to me?

There is a sense of holding tightly to the snapshots of bright eyed children, wedding photos and the required holiday pictures in front of the fireplace. I'm reminded of how thick the woven tapestry of this life of mine is, how it has been built on relationship bonds and shared experiences that hold me, ground me - and in some ways do not release me into the future.

I've written about what it has meant to me to live in the empty nest - that sense of retiring from the particularly long and amazing career called parenting. Moving out of this house is daring me to live into that statement - to release my children to the world, to give priority to how Andy and I - it isn't just me making these decisions - want to live our lives.  The decision also impacts my parents and my sister; friends and work partnerships. Escape velocity - mucking with the family homeostasis - is one of the hardest things I've had to do.

Leaving this house is daring me to not only accept change but dive straight into the unknown.

But first we have to box up all the albums and trinkets and hand-made Mother's Day gifts that seem to be stuck in just about every corner of this house. I cry over pictures, blubber over handwritten notes to the Easter Bunny and lovingly find places for these precious items in boxes that may or may not ever see the light of day again.

Over the years, I've come to honor the grief that accompanies any change. I have to grieve what I am leaving or releasing, and in this case, it is a house - a way of living - that encapsulated some of the most incredible years of living that I have had. We intentionally built this house as a container of joy and love. And so it has been. May it continue to be so.

The cleaning out of cupboards and the decisions about which piece of furniture is going where is easy. Processing the end of an era needs time and gentle attention - and lots of tender love. From me, for me - while holding a vibrant excitement about what is next.


  1. Packed up my youngest and pretended to be brave alone as I left him in the dorm just weeks ago. I've listed the home I raised 3 children alone. It's a difficult journey. You are fortunate to have a partner by your side!

  2. Ah Caroline - You may have felt like you were pretending but I think you've had to be incredibly brave and courageous to be a single parent. Difficult is a word that doesn't even begin to describe what that journey has looked like, right? And - hurray for that last child who has been supported and loved - and has landed in college ready to figure out his life.
    Best wishes and blessings for the next phase of the journey!