The air was crisp. A bundle of maple leaves swirled in a funnel of color, lifting and dancing beneath the breath of an October breeze. And there it was: chameleonic changes of color; warm apple pie rising behind the glass of a heated oven; a sudden chill we aren’t ready for.
It was eleven o’clock on a Saturday morning and I was scouring the closets for my favorite scarves, boots and sweaters. Ah ha. There they were, buried under a layer of miscellaneous boxes, a few quilts and colorful throw pillows. Do you the best part about the cooler weather? It’s packing on layers to conceal the pounds that have packed on as a result of sweet summer and her hotdogs and her ice creams and her summer lagers and, darn it, why are you so delicious? Sometimes she’s sour. And then she’s sweet. Nevertheless, I certainly wasn’t ready for the change. Our walk-in closet was lined with maxi dresses and an assorted variety of flip flops (Well, at least my side). But I was excited. I was excited for the visual aspects of the season; and Halloween; and pumpkin flavored everything.
Speaking of visuals, this lonely tree stands in the parking lot of our apartment complex. Throughout the past few months, we have watched its leaves turn from green to this beautiful yellow –
And then we watched them fall.
As the leaves descend, I can’t help but see a mirror into our own lives. You see, the trees, they don’t cling onto their leaves. They don’t make excuses: I can use these next year. No, they let go. They let go because they have faith in the cycle of things. That letting go isn’t forever. It’s a part of everything.
So what about us?
A few months ago, I experienced a perfectly ironic moment when packing for our move to Princeton. I was examining the contents of a box labeled “old stuff,” the red colored letters scribbled in my eleventh grade handwriting. Certificate of Achievement Award – 8th Grade Math. The faded piece of cardboard smelled of mildew and memories. I couldn’t decide on the more surprising element: the fact that I kept an award from 8th grade, or the fact that I ever received an award in math. I think the latter, written as I punch fifteen-plus-five on an iPhone calculator. I tried to imagine a time when this aged acclamation would be needed. Well, perhaps when I want to reminisce about 8th grade math? Nope. Perhaps when I want to show my future children? Nope. It was safe to say, there may never be a time when I will ever need it. It will be stuffed at the back of a closet somewhere, moved from place to place, continuing to collect more dust and more memories. Now, I know you are dying to know. Where is the irony in all of this?
Well, an episode of Hoarders was playing in the background.
At the simplest level, movie stubs and receipts and, yes, even childhood certificates, serve as physical reminders that we hold on – we hold onto so much. We collect and we store things away, relishing in the comfort of knowing that our belongings are safe, tucked away somewhere inside an old shoebox at the back of Grandma’s basement closet, beside the gold Christmas ornaments with the hand carved reindeer, even if we never look for them again. Just the same, we hold onto feelings: old, smelly feelings. We pretend, a lot, that we let things go: Yeah, I’m totally fine. Yeah, I’m over that. Who, me? That didn’t bother me at me. The truth is, those bad feelings linger and swell and we walk through life burdened with the weight of years of grudges, disappointments and regret. Unlike the trees, we make the excuses which echo over time: I can use these one day or I can’t let go just yet.
Why do we hold on?
Sometimes, it’s because of fear. It’s for fear of accepting what comes after we let go. What it feels like to be alone. What it means to pick ourselves up and keep fighting. Sometimes, it’s because of stubbornness – that darn, dogged determination to refuse to change. Sometimes, we don’t have a reason at all – we just hold on because it feels better than letting go. Whatever the reason, letting go forces us to accept. And whatever the reason, holding on keeps us holding back.
Turn over a new leaf.
The phrase means to reform and begin again … a fresh start, of sorts. How about taking the fall as an opportunity to do just that? Just as the leaves fall, so can everything we cling onto; unnecessary things, beginning with the physical clutter and ending with the emotional kind. Regret, grudges and disappointment. Throw it all away.
Shed. Transform. Reinvent yourself.
Let it go.