[On Sundays, Career Calling ponders work & life in “Sabbath.”]
Hanging On – Letting Go
Later today I’m going to go buy a new robe. The robe I’ve owned for several years is old and torn beyond repair. I’ve hung onto the raggy mess because I convinced myself that it was still useful, that I could squeeze out another month. My office computer is a similar story. It’s now seven years old and works just fine as a tool for word processing. However, as my clients move to Word 2007 and 2010, I will have to buy a new computer and software. There’s a time to hang on, and a time to let go.
As a culture we are really messed up when it comes to these two activities and the thoughts that should underlie them. We’re told to buy the latest electronic gizmo, and people line up outside the Apple Store. The old computer or phone is pushed aside, still functional, but not the next new thing, not the thing you want other people to know you have. Does what you already own work? Does the new model give you something that you really need? We don’t ask those questions in the world of now and wow.
What we seem to hold on to is less tangible. Think about Oprah Winfrey Show and all of the things that people want to change about their lives. We hang on to wounds from our childhoods, insults from school days, the relationships or jobs that “could have been.” My parents lived through the Depression and World War II. They were experts at forgetting and moving on. Some psychologists might say they were repressed. I prefer to think about such people as being realistic and tough. Bad things happen to everyone. The sooner we move on from the pain, the less it hurts. But that’s not the good story, especially for the kind of people who enjoy watching others expose their pain.
Earlier generations lived by a handed down wisdom that let them know what to keep and what to let go of. They didn’t have the big screen TV and 500 channels, but they knew stories and songs that they learned from their grandfathers and grandmothers. We recycle movies that probably should not have been made in the first place. We want information and the correct answer instead of asking why we need to know what year a film or actor won the Oscar.
Letting go and hanging on is a matter of choices. For me, it’s time to give up the old rag and buy a new robe. It’s time to think about buying a new computer for the office. I also want to let go of pettiness and jealousy in order to embrace healthier emotions of patience and compassion. What will I hang on to? The things that matter most: friends, work, creativity, and values, all the things that don’t have a price tag or an expiration date.