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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday Festival: If the Way be Clear

Jules at You Win Some, You Learn Some shares wisdom gained through experience. How do you sense a way becoming clear? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

If the Way Be Clear

About 16 or 17 months ago, when my sense of humor returned after going through a rough spot, I was able to joke that I’d lost 5,000 pounds and been able to keep it off. It’s the kind of tongue-in-cheek joke a person makes after a loss of some sort: a breakup, a divorce, a job loss.  It usually signals that the person’s sense of perspective is beginning to return.

What followed after that period of concentrated self-awareness was a sense of being freed up–my time, my energy, my passion– for something else.  And a truth is that we are seldom able to be truly free while we are tethered to something or someone who does not invite us to bring the best of ourselves to the party.

In our house we are in the beginning stages of  preparing ourselves for whatever might come next on our adventure together, and one of the ways we are doing this is by paring down the stuff we have surrounding us in this house.  It has been a slow process, sometimes as slow as a single shelf or drawer a day, but I have tried to be consistent in my efforts as opposed to getting it all done at once. The goal for me is to create space in my life, reducing the amount of clutter that takes up my energy and focus.  I’ve also decided to get rid of things I don’t really love, or that have no meaning or purpose in my life. Why keep a couple dozen dishtowels when I consistently reach for the same three or four?

The other side of this coin is an effort to resist acquiring more stuff.  It does no good to clear out the clutter if it will soon be replaced. That is actually the harder task for me. Growing up without a lot of stuff, I found that when my economic status changed in adulthood, I suddenly had the freedom to acquire more. Which turned out to be the opposite of freeing.

Which is how I got in the situation I am in today.

Some of the letting go, freeing up, “releasing things back into the wild” has been painful. There is only so much memorabilia from my children’s childhood I can keep, and last weekend when we came across some simple tie-dyed t-shirts my kids made at a summer recreation program, I held them to my face and breathed deeply, as if I could still smell their sweaty little six- and-ten-year-old necks.  But they just smelled like basement. I released them, knowing that the ability to remember what that time in our lives was like was the real power of those t-shirts. Having them folded up in a box was no longer  the point.

While cleaning our home office  last weekend I came across some cards from an event held very early in my ministry.  They were cards that some people had given to us in celebration of our new home. In each card was scribbled the corresponding gift that we had received from each person or couple.  A couple of those cards were from people who are no longer among us here on earth, and reading those names brought a twinge of pain at their passing and a twinge of warm remembrance of the services I officiated to celebrate their promised resurrection.

I found, much to my relief, that the names on the cards that as recently as a year ago might have brought a stab of pain did not have that power anymore.  I think some day I will look back at my encounters with some of those people and it will be  similar to how I see old boyfriends or old acquaintances from college with whom I have no contact anymore. I kind of remember what it was like to have them in my life, but when the memory is given the “sniff test”, it mostly smells like basement.

By the way, with just a couple of exceptions, the gifts we received at that party have been released back into the wild.

“If the way be clear” is a term we use in the church. It is kind of a legalistic term, that means “If all the hoops have been jumped through and all the meetings go the way we expect them to, then X will happen. But we’ll reserve the right to not have X happen; and we’ll hold off our final approval. “  But I have kind of adopted it in a more existential way.

If the way be clear, if the pathway of my life is  decluttered and if the distractions of the past are allowed to go peacefully out  in to the atmosphere where they can’t harm anyone anymore, then there is room for vibrancy and purpose..

If the way be clear, and I am faithful and consistent in relinquishing that which does not serve my highest and best self, then I will carry less baggage into the next phase of my life.

Creating a way that is clear requires a complete change of posture, a sort of unclenching of  the parts of me that have in the past held on far beyond what was wise or worthy, out of fear or loneliness or distrust of what I am really capable of doing.

May it be so.


  1. I am in the midst of this same process, though for the more pragmatic reasons of needing to move on with a remodeling project in a room that has done nothing but collect giant stacks of stuff. Some of it I will keep, but it needs a home, which means moving things out of other parts of the house.

    I, too, have found it freeing to let go items that I thought I needed to keep; some I hold onto the memory, and others I take a photo and pass along the item itself.

    However, at least at this point, I've also found it helpful to give myself permission to keep those things I am not ready to part with, even if their purpose in my life is only evident to me. A perfect example came up this morning as I looked at a pillow one of my sisters made for me decades ago that has long been stored in a closet. However, I've recently restored a broken relationship with that sister in the process of our dad's dying...and for now that pillow is a tangible sign of our connection as family across time, space, discord, and death. Well worth the space it takes!

  2. You are wise.
    I am so grateful to know you just a little bit.

  3. Thank you for your lovely writing. The decisions of what to keep and what to let go of are so complicated. Some things do call to mind what we might forget if left to our own devices. Some are only weight and can be left by the path. I hope each of your decisions makes you lighter and stronger to carry the important things. God bless!

  4. I found great wisdom in your words... again... thank you <3

  5. Three moves in the last eleven years have helped us on this way. But I think the leisurely and chosen approach is probably better. Thank you, Songbird, for your reflections.

    Am going to chuck some dishtowels soon!

  6. RevAlli, just to be clear, these aren't my words! I'm just the chooser of posts. Click through to read more of Julie's writing.

  7. Lovely post. Thanks for writing it, Jules. Thanks for posting it, Songbird.


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