Elizabeth: Letting Go

life-is-a-balance-of-holding-on-and-letting-goI never know from week to week what is going to spark an idea for a post – a piece on the news, a conversation, or maybe a snag I’ve hit in my story. This week it was two Facebook posts by best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert that provided my inspiration.

The first was an announcement that she and her husband are selling their successful business Two Buttons. It was her answer, when asked why they were selling, that caught my interest and made me think.

“It’s been a glorious ride, and we have loved every bit of it. But now it’s time for us to move on to the next chapter of our lives. Why? Because our favorite chapter is always THE NEXT CHAPTER! ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

It was similar to the answer she gave in 2014 when talking about the sale of their Frenchtown, New Jersey home.

“We poured a lot of work and love into this house as if we were going to stay forever, but the truth is, neither of us stay anyplace for very long. Now that we’ve made everything perfect inside and outside, it’s time to go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Her answers fascinated me because they are so very different than my own thought processes. I come from a long line of family that plants roots and stays put when it comes to both jobs and houses, with change accomplished under duress more often than by choice. The Gilberts’ letting go and moving on philosophy seems both frighteningly risky and appealingly freeing.

The second post that caught my interest was entitled Throw it Away.  It talked about the freedom of getting rid of old letters and photographs and diaries that were relics of failed relationships or bad times. It was talking specifically about not keeping things around that turn your home in to Museum of Grief, but it also carried the broader message of not keeping things around that serve no purpose or don’t bring light or happiness.

I did a purge of my own house years ago when I installed hardwood floors. The process required me to completely empty out each room and, when I was done, I made a conscious effort to only return those items that I really loved and/or needed to the rooms. Everything else wound up forgotten in a pile in the garage. A few years later, the garage pile expanded as I cleared out my parents’ old house after they passed. There were things I thought were important enough to keep, but they never seemed quite important enough to warrant space in the house.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate unnecessary to that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hoffman

I suppose I kept the things because they might be of use someday, but in reality all they’ve done for years is clutter things up and make it hard to get to the things that really are useful. So, it is now the season of “Letting Go.” Some things have already made the trip to the Goodwill Store and several others are ready to go. A few boxes of books are on their way to the local library (just in time for their annual book sale), while a couple of things are out on the Freecycle site they can find a home with someone who can put them to good use. Change is not my forte, so the pile won’t disappear overnight, but I’m resolved that something will go every weekend until it’s all gone. I feel lighter already.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

Everything seems to have something to do with writing. In this case, the posts gave me great character insights. For example, the “moving on / new challenges” philosophy is very helpful when it comes to thinking about my heroine Abigail. As a Regency woman, with a father who gambled everything away and then had the indecency to up and die, it is exactly the mindset she had to embrace and she walked away from everything she had and started anew. For my hero Michael, “letting go” is the philosophy he needed to employ. Not necessarily letting go of physical things, but rather letting go of the past and expectations. For my antagonist, on the other hand, the inability to “let go,” both emotionally and physically spells his ultimate down fall.

So, about you. Are you good at letting go and moving on or do you have more of a tendency to grow roots and hold on?

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Letting Go

  1. Like yours, my family is (was) risk adverse. The bought their first house (a starter place that was fit to raise 1-2 kid, not 5), set up camp and lived there until they died. Raised in that atmosphere means that my sibs and I (save one) have had a hard time taking big risks. For me writing was a huge risky step. Sharing what I wrote–another big step (and so on). So I guess you could say I’m a reforming/ed root vegetable.

    • Kat – sounds like we have a lot in common. My folks never moved from that “starter” house they bought after the war and my siblings and I are all pretty risk-adverse. I’ve reformed my “root-vegetable” status when it comes to travel (I love do do that), but am still working on other areas.

  2. One of my parents kept everything, and the other kept nothing, and I think I’m split exactly in half in that gene pool. Sometimes I can move everything out that I don’t need, and sometimes I can’t. But my place isn’t that big, I don’t have a garage or a basement or even that much closet space, so I can’t hold onto a lot and still walk through the apartment. And most of the time I think I should try to get by with less, because stuff that doesn’t let you breathe doesn’t let you live. But I agree—the keeping or giving away, the arc of it—all good for characterization.

    • Kay – small spaces can be a good motivator for letting go of things. I generally have a “one thing in, one thing out” philosophy at the house, though I don’t *always* follow it.

  3. I’m going through a phase of reducing “stuff” and letting go of things that felt like roots but were more probably anchors. Every time I throw out another big item out of my garage, I feel better — less anxious, although I’m not sure why clutter should be so anxiety-producing. I also faced the truth that the fruit trees in the backyard were water-guzzling eyesores that hadn’t produced edible fruit in years. Putting transitory (and drought-friendly) blooming flowers in their place is going to make me feel better every time I go out back.

    And any keepsake that only makes me sad every time I see it… that’s something to be put in the charity-donation pile.

    • There is some evidence that there is a clutter – anxiety correlation. If nothing else, less stuff means it (technically) is easier to find what you’re looking for, which is helpful. As for sad keepsakes – those were what Gilbert’s Throw it Away post was focused on. Burning Getting rid of them seems like a good idea.

      p.s. Too bad about the under-performing fruit trees. Hope the flowers fare better.

  4. I don’t know how to categorize myself. I crave new experiences, and I love my dayjob, where I often wind up in a new workplace every couple of days. I love the freedom leaving the crap behind. It is sad to say farewell, but I enjoy saying hello again when I complete the circuit and come back to that workplace again.

    At home, it’s very hard for me to throw anything away. I have this false idea where I think that as soon as I throw something away, I will find a use for it. And it’s true, this often happens. BUT, the only reason I even know that I had that thing is because I was cleaning. If I hadn’t been cleaning, I wouldn’t know I had the thing, and I would have done without or bought a new one anyway. Very hard to convince myself of that, though.

    The lucky thing with writing is that the unnecessary seems to get automatically forgotten anyway. And when something is necessary, it either floats to the surface, or I go look for it and create it anew. (-: My computer, though, has an excess of bookmarks and unfinished ideas and thoughts and files.

    I guess I can see both sides.

    • Michaeline – I know just what you mean. I’m always sure I’m going to have a use for something as soon as I get rid of it, even if I haven’t used it in years. It’s nice that you have the “change” aspects at work and “root” at home. Sounds well-balanced to me 🙂

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