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Holding On and Letting Go

By Amanda Poppei

An array of glasses, bowls, and trinkets set on a table for a yard sale.

“There ain't no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it.”
―the character of Gloria Dump in Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo

It's spring cleaning time, and all around me people are asking what sparks joy in their lives. I love this approach—and I can't possibly utilize it in my own house. You see, I live with two elementary-age children and their bar for hanging on to something is not "Does this spark joy?" but rather Is this shiny? Did I once make this? Did I once play with this for at least three and a half minutes? And most importantly, Can I cram this onto my dresser?"

Living with magpies—hoarders of the shiny and the sparkly—has its advantages: I never have to face a day without glitter. But an uncluttered house is not one of those advantages. As someone who likes clean surfaces, it's hard for me not to throw things away when my children aren't looking. Surely they won't remember the rock they picked up four months ago on the way home from school?

Sigh. They always do. So I've learned to ask, "Are you ready to let go of this?" I, of course, like the question because it assumes they'll be ready someday. They like the question because it doesn't assume that day is now.

Isn't that always the way? We have all kinds of things in our lives—things that no longer spark joy, memories that make us sad, anger we're holding onto. Sometimes, I know I'm hanging onto a part of my life that I'll eventually need to let go of...but not just yet. I can give myself the gift of patience, waiting until the moment is right to say goodbye to that old rock. There will be more space on the dresser top, then, for something new and glittery. Or just for the smooth surface of possibility.

Are you ready to let go of this? This third grade book report? This broken pink headband? This grudge, this sorrow, this particular hope? When you're ready, you'll know it. Until then, it's okay to keep it just a little longer.

Prayer
Spirit of life and love; spirit of holding on; spirit of letting go: help us to attune to what our lives whisper to us—both the sweet words of commitment and the sweet words of release. Help us to know whether it’s a time to hold tightly, or a time to let go. Help us to learn that in each moment, there is beauty. May it be so.

About the Author

Amanda Poppei

Rev. Amanda Poppei is a Unitarian Universalist minister serving as clergy at the Washington Ethical Society, a humanist congregation with roots in the Ethical Culture movement (which is also affiliated with the UUA). She lives in Maryland with her husband, Peter, and their two children....

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