“But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”~ Khalil Gibran.
When my mother died last year, we found ourselves going through stacks of correspondence; piles of papers; items that had not only been transported from Jamaica to England when my parents retired, but may also have been carefully packed up and taken from England to Jamaica in 1963! So if I find myself holding on to all manner of unimportant yet significant (to me) mementoes, I can always blame my mother. I am sure that in her own way she felt that she was the unofficial historian of my father’s life. There were copies of his sermons (first and second drafts); copies of papers and articles he had written; original and carbon copies (and these are real carbon copies of typewritten papers); copies of orders of service that she had designed and printed on the old gestetner copy machine. She held on to official letters, bank statements, a lifetime of clutter which was sorted and bundled in her own organized way.
My parents had moved several times in their married life in England: three times in the first decade before they moved to Jamaica. But after that they lived for 23 years in two homes in Jamaica (one was right next to the older manse) and then they retired to the home they lived in until my father died. Shortly before that, my mother moved by herself to a retirement home, and her vast array of papers, magazines, books, artworks, photo albums, tea towels and place mats moved with her.
I have lived in the same house for the past 37 years. I have had very little need to downsize, to sort through and discard the debris of my life. There are times when I recognize the need to declutter, and I have to get brutal. But how do you throw away random works of art created by your children? How do you discard letters and cards sent by people you have loved, who may no longer be here? I feel my mother’s pain, her need to hold things as precious and valuable, when in fact they may have no particular meaning. Does a thing have value just because someone else has been unable to throw it away? These are hard decisions to make. It is a little easier with books and ceramics and various items that others may admire or appreciate. But sometimes we hold on to things just for the sake of holding on to them.
I remember reading that the way you live your life may discourage new things from entering it. When you hold on to too much ‘stuff’, you may be blocking the possibility of making way for new opportunities. The woman whose bedroom is cramped and crowded with her belongings is sending a message that she does not have room for a man in her life. It is an interesting concept. Do we create room for romantic possibilities by creating physical room?
We have been bombarded recently with people who seem to want us to create more divisions in this world, to put up walls and barriers. We are hearing the hateful rhetoric of people who seem to want us to live in fear, to huddle together in a locked room. On the other hand, open spaces makes me think of nature, of the national parks which invite us to think big, to see the big picture. Visiting these wide open spaces help us to remember our place in the universe, reminds us that the problems we obsess over will be gone in the twinkling of an eye.
Sacred spaces are places that allow for the mysterious and special to happen. Sacred spaces help us to connect with the divine, with the universal. I read recently of a family who were watching their mother slip away. They were trying to cope with the dying process, and were at a loss. The writer described the role of the nurse in coaching them. She provided enough information to help them make decisions without overwhelming them with too much detail. She helped to prepare them for what would come next, and encouraged to go through their grieving state without appearing to judge them. The writer described this as ‘holding space’ for them. And in this space they could accept and mourn and grieve.
I love this concept of holding space; of allowing others the space they need to grow and discover for themselves. Like watching kids explore their own world, keeping them safe without suffocating them; permitting them to fall down, to identify their limitations themselves. How often do we give others the space they need to learn for themselves? They say that the ‘helicopter generation’ has been hampered by overprotective parents who swoop in at the first time of danger. Instead of learning to stand on their own feet, this generation is forever looking over their shoulder, checking in, expecting to be saved from their own mistakes.
This weekend I hope you can hold space for those you love, so that they feel free to make their own mistakes free from being judged. I hope those you love similarly hold space for you to do the same. And I hope that you are stronger than me when it comes to clearing out clutter, and making room for new experiences to enter your life!
Have a wonderful weekend Family! For those who are used to my FMM coming early, I apologize! Perhaps I should start a Friday Evening Message!
I went through this (with my brother and sister) after our mother died (the year after our Dad). I am not the hoarding type, but I found myself clinging to small things that she loved, and that reminded me of her. My brother and sister didn’t seem to feel this. I am very glad I still have some of her beautiful little scarves and jewelry (and still wear them) and the family photographs. But yes – space is important too.
Yes, holding memories is also good!
I have found it comforting. My sister thinks it’s weird…