I woke up on Labor Day morning, happy for the day off. My husband and I had worked on Saturday so it was great getting an extra chance to sleep in and not worry about being late for anything. Like work. Or church. Or 6:30 a.m. drop-offs at school for my son.
I luxuriated over a cup of Ceylon Orange Pekoe tea (thank you, Laura and Justin!) and made slow movements toward getting ready.
I picked up the cinnamon pecan muffins that I had made the night before and went to my friend’s house up the road for breakfast. She made a fresh pot of coffee and we sat on her back deck.
Ferns under the pine trees gleamed green while a hummingbird zipped by. It was just my kind of morning: friendship, caffeine and eating outdoors with a breeze and sunshine.
We talked about a little of everything, such as the dysfunctional relationships our pets can have. Her kitty jumps at the pet snake in its enclosure then the dog barks at the kitty. They seem to be driving one another a little crazy. The kitty could ignore the snake and break the cycle. But where is the fun in that? Don’t we all have something we could ignore, but we choose to get involved with instead?
What stood out to me was her haircut. She’d cut her hair short. “It’s so great! I just wash it and it dries in two seconds.” It looked cute but also daring. It was hair that was ready for anything.
As I drove home after a morning of ponies and laughter at my friend’s place, I thought, “Why do I have long hair? I don’t do anything with it. I always want the focus on my face so I keep it pulled back.”
“For more than a decade, I’ve thought of myself as a person with long hair. But what if I’m not?”
“Why do I need this hair?”
I realized I didn’t need long hair anymore. The afternoon of Labor Day, I had it cut off. (The last time I cut my hair short was 2000, in sympathy to my sister when she was losing her hair because of chemo. She’s been cancer-free since, hallelujah!)
Most interesting comment about my new hair so far? I look “less tall.”
What should we hold on to? Only the most valuable things. What will still mean something to you ten, twenty years from now? At the end of your life?
In my life, I’m an expert at holding on but a reluctant amateur at letting go. I have come from a proud line of keepers. Art, broken electronics, books, stuffed animals, cheap cubic zirconia jewelry, china, photos, assorted “things that might be useful/worth a lot of money someday”. Each of us cared about different things and kept what we found valuable whether anyone agreed with its value or not.
In the end, it’s all stuff. Stuff that has to be dealt with after the person collecting it is gone. The remaining family members try to sort through it. Is this piece of paper valuable? A decision is made. Good. Only one thousand more to go.
What should we do with this furniture, this painting? It exhausts people to have to organize a deceased loved one’s belongings during the midst of grief.
To have and to hold, to let go and be bold
As I learn to release, I’m working to be someone with an open hand who can let go with joy. Life and death, gain and loss, health and illness will happen, no matter how much I own and how many things I have surrounding me.
I want my clothes, my belongings and even my hair to reflect that I trust in God’s goodness.
Even if I’ve held on to it (grown it out!) for years, I’ll practice letting go of what I don’t need.
Long hair, old identities, habits no longer needed, unhelpful relationships, things that don’t matter (be they resentments or excessive material goods), all that can go!
From now on, I’ll just be a person, instead of “a person with long hair”.
I’ll ready myself—empty myself—so I have space to receive the good things to come.
I’ll travel light. Do you want to join me?
What will we keep? Visits with friends.
The next blessings coming our way.
We can collect moments of kindness. Let’s hold on to hope and faith! We’ll see what that brings us.
I suspect it might bring peace.