Gratitude Sunday: The Light Of Letting Go

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Sunday Haiku
Ripe apple scent drifts
on lazy late summer breeze,
sweetly fills my house.

Sunday Musings

I’ve written about letting go in this weekly series before. Whether it is things; people; memories; especially memories of traumatic events (which sometimes won’t go no matter how hard you work at it); grief; or habits, letting go is hard for some of us. So is leaving things behind.

The last time I moved households was 19 years ago. At one point in my adult life I had moved 24 times in 20 years. No, I was not military, and none of it was my choice. All of these moves were at the whims of the landlords from whom I rented. I wasn’t the best renter, but I also wasn’t the worst. I definitely was not destructive, I just always struggled to keep everything paid, including rent. With the last move I was finally able to buy a house on a personal contract. I’m hoping to retire and die here. Wouldn’t matter any way. One more move will kill me.

The son was too small to remember the couple of moves we’d made when he was still a baby and toddler before this last move just after he turned seven. He had “helped” pack, yet when it came time to physically move stuff I had him stay at my mom’s for a weekend so we could get the bulk of it done. Our things were going into storage because we needed to be out of one house before the next was ready. We had to live in our 1965 GMC school bus for a few months waiting for paperwork and keys on the new house. Because of the space in the bus, toys were limited.

We moved into the new (to us) house. When the son got into his room and started unpacking, he came to me in tears asking where a certain Lego creation had gone. He had put it together in the old house and thought it got packed. We pulled out all his Legos and decided he must have taken the creation apart. He cried so hard, “but Mom, it was there, in that house, we need to go back and get it,” he stammered trying to find the words to describe his feelings of loss, and as if there was something magic about there and the creation only existed there. We’d moved into that house when he was four so most of his early memories start there. I had to remind him his old room was empty when we left. We could not get access to the old house to show him his old room with nothing in it.

One thing I’ve always done when I move is go through everything one last time to make sure no little thing is left behind. I’d had him go look through his old room, guided by me, when we were done packing and schlepping stuff out of his room, so the memory of the empty room would be there. Now we have the joys of digital photography and that would make things a lot easier when you have photographic proof. I coached him through his memory and taught him how to look at the room in his memory, and while he was thinking about the corners and closet of the old room he finally settled down. I suggested it would be a good time to try making the Lego creation again. It was hard for him to let go of the idea of leaving something behind, until he knew he hadn’t left it behind at all; he hadn’t left it behind, but other things had changed. So we set to building something new. He never let me build very long; he said I did it wrong. Perhaps I did; they were his toys. I doubt if he remembers this; I hope he has happier memories, so I am hesitant to bring it up to him because it was a sad and stressful time; he already has a history of anxiety, he doesn’t need more. Big surprise there. Generational poverty generally comes with anxiety.

This week I finally gave up on a plant I’d had for more than fifteen years. When I first started work at my last place of employment the organization decided it was not a good place to have plants that needed water, in case the water somehow escaped and caused damage, and they could draw bugs, not good for our paper items. We had five very large area plants, three umbrella trees, and two rubber plants. The supervisor wanted to set them out on the street to die or be collected by some scavenger. I offered to relieve the building of the four plants to be immediately dispatched, two of the umbrella trees and both rubber trees, and arrangements were made.

Oh, these plants were beautiful in my home. Filled so much lovely space, so green, so full of carbon dioxide, so lush. For a while. I have this oddly deadly knack with plants that utterly baffles me coming from a long line of gardeners and farmers on both sides of my family. It is a fluke if plants live under my tender loving care. Don’t hate me; I try.

I am lucky to have two of my paternal grandmother’s Christmas cacti, they are 32 years old in my care, who knows how old they were when I got them. Every time they bloom she is in my house. I have one plant left from my mother-in-law; it’s hanging on after 17 years with me. We’ll see how it goes. And when Mom died my brother sent me home with most of her plants; two of them struggle for life still on my window-side tables.

The last rubber tree kept telling me it wasn’t happy. I gave it water, I turned it in the sun, I fed it with plant fertilizer, but it was way too big for me to transplant it into a bigger pot, and I think that is what it wanted. In protest it would throw its crispy brown leaves onto the floor with great noise and clamor. The leaves dropping were so loud I checked more than once to see if we had uninvited critters in the house, or a resident critter where he wasn’t supposed to be.

Letting go of plants is a different kind of hard. They are living things we tend to, take care of, nurture to the best of our ability and knowledge. Like any living thing they can die, despite our best efforts; it might not have any thing at all to do with us and our care, or not. We might never know. However, there comes a day when you have to admit to yourself no matter what you do for this particular plant it is never again going to be a green and thriving thing. For me by then, the plant is usually shriveled up into a brown ball or reduced to a pot of sticks, way beyond the definition of plant death. I’m ever hopeful that this dose of water will do the trick. I let the plant tell me when it’s out of tricks.

The rubber tree looked like a Tim Burton Halloween. Dead, brown twisted branches went every direction. Tiny single brown leaves clung to the ends of branches. Cobwebs draped like Christmas garlands from the dried up branches, more cobwebs than leaves. Any clusters of dead leaves were held together with cobwebs and dust. When I brought it home the tree, as tall as me, had been covered with double hand sized, thick green succulent leaves. One dime sized speck of green remained in a cluster of little finger sized yellowish leaves.

I had to let it go. Time to reclaim that space and start over. But the task at hand. In my house moving any thing is a game of 14, where you must move 14 items before you can do the planned project. Then you have to piece it all together again rather like recreating a Lego creation. I love so much stuff. Slowly working on letting go of that too.

The Halloween rubber tree traveled out to the back patio this week after a little indoor pruning to make sure the journeying branches didn’t take any loses or wreak any other havoc along the way. The son helped, in fact, the son did most of the work with me as consultant and extra hands. Then the carpet had to be swept before vacuuming. It had become three-dimensional, fortunately still far from leaf mold, thankful for that, and it swept up nice and dry. Spiders were fleeing for their lives. The vacuum had to do a tour of duty, and everybody cussed at how poorly designed the crease tool is. We persisted.

Since the rubber tree lived by the front window, light being necessary to its existence, there is now a nice new open sun space in my living room next to my work space. And (wait for it) * gasp * a new pathway! One I can walk through and around behind the chair with easy access to water the plants in the window. The son asked me to not fill it up again. My goal as well. It just means three boxes that were hiding/stored back there are now sitting in the open part of the living room waiting for emptying and disbursement, which needed to be done anyway as they should not have been living there. Those boxes will take another week or so of work because of the ten minute work window I am capable of.

I worked really hard at letting the plant go and a friend recommended cutting it back to the soil to see if anything still flows down there and putting it into a different pot. It might be beyond me now to function that when I worked for months in my brilliant little brain to let it go. Who knows? I could change my mind. Change being the only constant, as it is.

We didn’t leave the Lego creation behind and the son learned a new method of memory storage and access in this human experience. If he put his mind to it he can go back to that room any time he wants. He learned a new memory skill. Did I learn a new skill? I let go of the rubber tree as I did the other three trees I brought home with it when they told me they were done with me. Letting go of a plant is a form of grief, the nurturing failed, thriving didn’t happen either. Self-accusations and self-blame occur; if it dies despite my best efforts, did I kill it?

Guilt is often a part of grief. Was there something I could have done to prevent the worst from happening? Did I give it my best effort? Years ago a heart sister told me the definition of guilt is avoiding responsibility. I’ve tried to apply that to my guilt feelings for not meeting the needs of these plants, and letting go of those feelings as well. Did I honestly do everything in my power to act responsibly in whatever situation I’m grieving, and if I did, I need to let go of feeling of the guilt.

Did I do everything for my son? As best I knew how with what I had. He’s fine, he’s an empathetic, honest adult who thinks critically, best that can be said for the circumstances of raising him. Did I do everything for the rubber tree? As best I knew how. The rubber tree told me I didn’t know how to care for it despite my efforts. I will miss the old beautiful rubber tree I brought home, but I doubt I will miss the Halloween version I finally let go of.

While I ponder this change and loss, I also look at my gain and planning my next cleaning project. I am focusing on enjoying the open space. Focusing on not filling the space up again as I unpack the three boxes waiting for new real estate. Focusing on mostly empty surfaces. Reveling in clean. Finding delight in seeing light.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Hoping this is the humble honeybee feasting on pale lavender. I love the bright clean purple and hot pink of fuchsias. My dad loved fuchsias and every summer had a hanging basket or two on the back patio. The particular shade of green of the catalpa tree. The long beans/seeds fascinate me, and the color of the light through the huge leaves gives me goosebumps. Spotted a late patch of pink and yellow honeysuckle. This bright sunflower head was wildly abuzz with critter business.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} Bingeing on random Netflix series. Raced through season 6 of Orange is the New Black (2018, rated TV – MA), a guilty pleasure because prison is so chillingly repugnant, but the characters and the stories are compelling. * Also binged through Kim’s Convenience (2016, TV – not rated), about a Korean family who runs a convenience store in Toronto, Canada, and the dynamics within the family and within the community. Much of the comedy centers on miscommunications.

Currently Reading – I am remiss in my education as holder of a bachelor’s degree in English Literature/Creative Writing. I’ve never read any Winnie-the-Pooh. As a child I read more contemporary stories like the Bobbsey Twins, the Nancy Drew mystery series, and later Agatha Christie. I didn’t read Pooh to my son when he was little, he much preferred sci-fi Star Wars kind of stories. I’m spending a few dog days with Winnie-the-Pooh, the original novel, technically the copy I have is The World of Pooh: The Complete Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner (1957, juvenile fiction) by A. A. Milne. The original Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926, when Milne’s son, Christopher Robin Milne, was 6, and The House on Pooh Corner shortly after in 1928. The timeless simplicity of the work and the thought patterns of the characters are superb, but imagine my surprise, when in the first chapter, we are told Christopher Robin always carries a gun. Now in all likelihood it is a toy gun or a pretend gun, but it struck me as such a boy thing (and in our current climate, maybe an alarming thing). For example, I limited the son’s exposure to guns when he was a child, but by the time he was two he was chewing his sandwiches or toast or slices of cheese into gun shapes and pretending to shoot. I had to teach him early on we never point guns at other people or animals even if it’s a pretend gun; maybe we’ve evolved now so the knowledge of guns and gun use is in our generational memory DNA. I am enjoying the simplicity and humility of the writing, and the simple logic of the characters is the perfect antidote to the non-fiction I am concurrently reading. * Raising Trump (2017, autobiography) by Ivana Trump. I am totally disconnected from the lifestyle the author describes, in which she and her family travel by plane as often as by car, who have five homes to choose from at any time of the year with nary an eviction notice at hand, and a whole world of extravagant vacation choices. Her definition of work involves deciding to apply gold leaf gilt and silks and brocades to furniture for her multi-million dollar businesses (mine involves washing toilets and sweeping floors; we are on vastly different levels). I understand wealth has its own set of challenges that average Americans never face, but her access and use of money is a concept most of us will never have a chance to embrace.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • The son helping with a project I was dreading.
  • We didn’t yell at each other while we worked on the project.
  • Patience, even when the calm I am projecting is forced and hiding anxiety.
  • Persisting with an open conversation until the core concern is revealed, with no bad feelings on either side.
  • Getting another box emptied and all items finding good real estate.
  • Old cardboard boxes going out to the recycle.
  • Getting some good suggestions on natural cleaning sources for my new clothes washer to prevent odors, considering all my skin sensitivities.
  • The smoke clearing in our area for a few days so I could go out and get some errands done.
  • The evening aromas portending the coming autumn.
  • Fat red Oregon strawberries.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

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This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Entertainment, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Homemaking, Housing, Nature, Parenting, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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