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A Widow Releases Personal Belongings, Sells Her House, Releases the Roles That Died With Her Husband
When my husband died, I had to make the decision to continue living in our house or to sell it. For 3 and a half years, I reflected, talked with my children, meditated, prayed and waited for the clear answer. Flying from Maryland to California for a conference brought my answer.
I was sitting on the plane with my eyes closed and relaxing. Suddenly, an image appeared in my mind. A mid-size U-haul sat in my driveway. The words “Clear your house like you’re moving across the country” came to mind. My eyes widened as I thought, “Am I moving across the country?” No clear answer. The words “Clear your house like you’re moving across the country” kept swirling around in my head.
I got the message. Clear your stuff. Get rid of everything you cling to that no longer fits into your life. I had cleared my husband’s things, now it was time for me.
I started with one coin. My goal was to clear things out of this room for 3 days. Wake up in the morning, make the coffee, pull a few boxes off the shelves, and spend an hour evaluating before you start the day. Lunch time came and I spent another hour; after dinner, another hour. I kept hearing the words, let go, let go, let go. It has become my mantra.
Here’s an example of my process: I had four huge storage boxes full of cake decorating supplies. I first thought of memories and times when I had used the supplies. Then I wondered, “When was the last time you baked a cake?” Answer: Four years ago. Question: Do you still need 20 cake pans?
I sorted them, called a friend to see if she wanted supplies, created a space for an indoor garage sale, posted the information on Facebook and Craigslist. After a week or two, whatever was left was loaded into the car and dropped off at the Salvation Army. I went through this process with everything in my house. Craft supplies, books, clothing, papers, furniture, tools, kitchen equipment and everything in between.
After three days in the first room, the next inspiration came to me. Sell the house. I spoke with Hannah, my youngest daughter who still lived in the house with me. We agree. We were both ready to let go. I called a property manager and we made a plan to go through the house and put it on the market in 4 weeks. I was in action mode. I woke up every morning with the question. What action should I take today to free the house? Clear next steps emerged every day. Every week, layer after layer after layer, the house was taken away.
As part of letting go of the “stuff”, I was also letting go of parts of me. I had to let go of the woman who brought craft supplies to the beach for her nieces and nephews. I had to ditch the Girl Scout leader, the homeschool mom, and the woman who created community events with crafts for kids. With every step there was an internal push-pull within me. I loved the life I had led for 10 years. I loved working with our homeschooling community. I loved my house. I liked everything!
I felt like I could stay in my community and do this job forever. I would continue to work with the children of the community, then one day with my grandchildren. But, something inside me had changed after my husband died and I had to let go to find the next path on my own. In case I had any doubts, the outside world reflected that it was time to let go too. Many people in my community were moving on to other aspects of their lives. It wasn’t just me closing the door. I felt like God was playing a cosmic joke on me.
God: So you think you’re going to be hanging out in Baltimore in the same house doing the same thing.
Me: Yes, why not. I love this life and I have made a difference here. I want to stay here. What else would I do?
God: (Big warm laughter) Oh, honey, you have to let go of all this before I reveal your new life. You are so precious… Wait and see…
I developed a weekly routine. On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I mourned the loss of everything I just posted. I played John Denver songs, like Maybe Love, and sat up in bed crying. Who would I be when all the stuff was gone? Who am I without the titles of the roles I had played? Will I still be loved? Would I have value?
The biggest thing to free was my house. My heart and my soul were in this house. When we bought it in 1998, it had three crumbling ceilings and 27 broken windows covered in plywood. There was graffiti all over the house. We worked on the house for 5 months before moving in to continue renovating. We paid someone to install the windows and update the fuse box with a new circuit breaker system. The rest we did ourselves. Every weekend for 5 months, we sanded and refinished the floors, repaired and painted the walls and ceilings. So many memories were in the walls of the house. I thought this was the house I would grow old in and my children would come to live here when I was too old to climb the three flights of stairs.
I cried and slacked off until somewhere in the middle of cleaning and preparing to sell the house, meeting with home school groups to finalize paperwork for Hannah’s 10th grade, and thinking about new stages for the book of conscious choices, a series of new ideas have arrived.
Move to California. With the release of all my belongings, there were dying dreams that gave way to new dreams. Hannah said we would move to Los Angeles when we visited the city in 2005 and 2006. For the first time, I felt that too.
A willingness to let go will open the door to endless possibilities.
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