One of my Lenten realizations was that as I get older and live longer in the same house, I tend to have an easier time acquiring possessions than I do getting rid of them. In a sense, the material baggage is just a concrete example of spiritual/emotional baggage that is also difficult to let go of, so my life could easily become stuck in the quagmire of possessions. Like those emotional issues, I think many of us cling to our possessions because they are familiar and make us feel more secure—even though we know that the opposite is true. For myself, I am not usually conscious of how much I own until I go into the basement and take a look around! For many of the things kept there, I don’t know why I have them, I don’t know what value they bring to my life, and I wonder how to begin sorting through them. I have times of great purging, when I can fill the trash container or many bags with clothing that no longer fits, but there are other times when just knowing those things are in the house makes me feel comfortable in a weird, inexplicable way. Like most people buying something new has a certain pleasure attached to it, but almost never does the new thing satisfy my deeper longings for fulfillment. This Lent taught me that coming to the point of being ready to release all of my baggage and allowing myself to be vulnerable gives me a unique vantage point: I can see clearly that my possessions have a hold on me.
I hold on to some objects because I fear the emptiness that will remain if I give them away. This is especially true of things or souvenirs given me by people I love. To give those things away would feel like I was erasing a precious memory or part of my loving relationship with them. The gifts from deceased family members are especially precious because I don’t want to unwittingly erase the relationship. On the other hand, this makes it easier to convince myself that keeping all my basement treasures is a good idea because I might ‘need’ them someday or that parting with them will be an affront to my personal history. In reality, when my personal space is filled with objects, there is no room for anything new to enter and stay in my life. My collection of things has the potential of protecting me from the future’s uncertainties while holding me locked in the past. Holding on to unnecessary possessions often goes hand in hand with holding on to pain, anger, and resentment, and letting go of my material possessions may just the thing to help me release emotional baggage.
When I make a conscious decision to fill my personal space with only the objects that I need or bring me joy, I know I will be more open to spiritual growth. As I learn to have a more practical and temporary relationship to objects, my heart will open to the truly real things, and I will be able to perceive the blessings in all of my life—the good days and the hard days. To me, this is my own personal secret to resurrecting my life from the fallout of a good number of personal Good Fridays.