What must I let go

I met a delightful woman last summer when our family went up north for vacation to Lutsen, Minnesota, along the shores of the beautiful Lake Superior. Her name is Marcia Hyatt and she runs Last Chance Art Studio & Gallery.

Her gallery sparkles with artisan-crafted treasures, and being the magpie that  am, I could not leave without a new pair of earrings. They're called intentional earrings, pieces of silver stamped with words, rolled like scroll, and antiqued. In my pair, one earring is inscribed with "peace" and the other bears the words "forgiveness and tolerance."

But there is more to Marcia than her fine ability to find beautiful artwork, wearable and otherwise.

She also runs a firm called Waterline Consulting and Coaching , and she offers personal retreats and peer coaching. As part of her business, she publishes a weekly e-mail newsletter called On the Waterline, which features a provocative question. I've signed up and I'm loving it.

On Sept 27, when EarthDoctor son turned 28, this was the question of the week:

"When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be"

~ Lao Tzu

What do I need to let go of?

It was a question I've been struggling with for weeks now. Why? Because in the period of 3 weeks, the last of two of my three fledglings had spread wide their wings and shoved off from the nest.

I've heard the cliches for years about empty nests, and it's not like the time wasn't right. For 25 years, one child or another has lived in the home I found for them in 1992, the place where they could each have a room of their own, and we could flourish as a famiy. The time was right.

But when PreciousGrrrlChild came downstairs toting a basket of clothes and announced that she'd be spending the night in her new place, said goodnight, and matter-of-factly closed the door, I gasped at the vacuum that suddenly filled the room and my heartlungs. My insides imploded with grief, emotional atelectasis. It took days to begin to reinflate that desolate place, and tears, lots and lots of tears.

Isn't this the moment we raise them for, to see them move their lives toward self-fulfillment? Shouldn't this be about joy? Celebration? Rites of passages?

Yes, of course!

So why does it have to hurt?

I've avoided peering into their rooms for days now, much like I've avoided the piles and boxes of my mother's belongings that have filled my basement for 4 years since her death. I know that the scents and trappings they left behind will touch off something deep and primal and flatten me again. So I do my best not to look, not to breathe in what nature has us know by heart. And I know I cannot do this forever.

Like the arrival of a child, which utterly turns one's life upside down in ways no one can prepare you for, the departure of children into independence and adulthood has, for me, unsettled my nice cozy midlife place of comfort in ways I did not expect.

But I also know that traveling through such passages, if i listen carefully, watch attentively, feel with willingness, brings unexpected joy and discovery.

I do know what I must let go of.

I do not know what I might be.

But once again I see the imperative to turn this question over to The Great Unknowable.

(Good thing I like surprises.)


So tell me, what do you need to let go of?


Image by Chris Bruzell - "Empty Nest" 2007 - Claudia Marr Gallery
Image by Nicola Slattery - "Restful Flight"


Sande said…
Expectations on what life should look like
Alix said…
I should like to let go of insecurity and the need to be continually reassured. In its place, I will grab up inner trust and self-confidence, and hang on for dear life.

I think we grieve the loss of our children when we see the finality in their leaving. But really, we should rejoice! Only the ones that cannot stand on their own two feet deserve to be wept over.

Beautiful post. Thanks you for asking us to think.
I need to let go of tomorrow and just live for today.

Remarkable post.
Derrick said…
Hi Kathleen,

Just wait until one needs to 'borrow' $100. They'll soon find their way back home! You could always rent out their rooms and get some new company?!

(Don't mind me, I'm just heartless)
ellen abbott said…
I never really suffered empty nest. I didn't cry when they moved out. I did stand around in their empty rooms. I missed their presence, but it wasn't heart rending. I gave each of them a period of time to come back and then I started converting their old bedrooms to other uses. this house is too small (1250 sq ft) to let rooms go unused. They both came back for different periods of time, but not to their old rooms. the Girl moved into the studio house next door (she and her family now own that house), the Boy was in and out in between his explorations of life until he finally got an apartment.

But back to me...what I need to let go of. I think I have been doing that this past year of not working in the studio on the cast glass part of what I do. Once we started getting some notice for the pate de verre, I decided I didn't want to do etching anymore and to make the switch in income to the cast glass. It didn't happen, it hasn't happened. The work doesn't sell that well and as I began to meet and make friends with gallery artists who were selling, it became very stressful for me. I lost some of my self confidence, maybe even a lot. Even Husband commented on it. Every major show we did and then didn't sell anything while red dots were sprouting all around our work only depressed me more. I was not having fun. and fun and self fulfillment was the reason we started doing the pate de verre in the first place. So I'm letting go of the desire/expectation of being a gallery artist. I am thankful for any work we get...etched glass or the occasional sale of a cast piece. And the cast work does sell, slowly, eventually.
Joycee said…
Spread your wings and fly too, dear Kathleen! I know what empty nest feels like, two daughters who left and returned after divorce...then left again to start living life again. We are Mothers all our lives, they will forever be our children but there is so much more. Grandchilden of course but life that WE haven't started living. Pray they will be happy and safe, and then put Kathleen at the Tippy-Top of the things-I-want-to-do list!
J said…
Fear, lack of self belief, talking myself down...and overthinking, always finding an excuse to wait.
Janie said…
I let go of my children without too much difficulty, maybe because they all lived within easy driving distance at first.
I need to let go of my innate resistance to change, and my innate desire to control things, and allow my life to flow as it will.
♥ Braja said…
Attachments are like that....while they are one's life's duty---the raising of family---then at a point they become the thing we must let go of. Not the person, per se, but our mood of enjoying them....

And it looks like Charlotte has to learn to let go of that ball :)))
Oh My Goddess said…
I gave you one of my Goddess Awards. Please accept it with my best wishes!
Ocean Girl said…
Oh My Goddess sent me here.

We go through phases of our lives. I do not think we can let go of anything, but things that are important to us will leave us along the way. Either that or we will loose them, sooner or later.

I guess we just have to live and let live and learn to acquire new joys.
Anonymous said…
What a lovely post. I do hope that you'll find the ability to let go and then find something to replace it.

I'd like to let go of the idea that I can be young and superfit like I was 20 years ago.

PS. I'm visiting from Oh My Goddess. I'm glad I found you.
A Mom on Spin said…
Now I know why comedy goddess chose you for her first award.

Loved it!
Hilary said…
Very lovely post. My nest is still occupied by one of my two sons but I can feel the pull happening. It won't be long before he flies too. I think the hardest part about seeing them leave is not in the missing them (we do, of course) but in the realization that we're not needed in quite the same way as before. True that's a good thing. It means we've done our job right. But it redefines us. And that's part of what we're left with. Who are we, if not primarily "Mom?"

This is a great food-for-though post.
Erin Davis said…
As you know, I so relate to your feelings, even though my nest is not nearly empty yet. When I wrote the poem "Caught Looking" earlier this year, I was attempting to capture some of the emotions you present so beautifully here.

What do I need to let go of?
Renee said…
Kathleen your blog is an absolute treasure.

I am so happy to be here.

Renee xoxo
Jeni said…
My nest emptied of all three of my children, then I left the nest, came back to it and eventually, my younger daughter returned to the nest bringing with her a husband and step-daughter. Then she presented me with two beautiful grandchildren to love and cater to -along with the grandson older daughter had six years earlier (but they live about 35 miles from me.) Now, I finally have the chance to watch and enjoy, totally enjoy, these little ones grown, learn, mature and all -something I didn't get to do much of at all with my own three children. And letting go -hmmm -right now, I'm hanging on and rejoicing in getting a second turn in this aspect of life!

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