Just one week ago I closed the doors for the final time on the family home in New Jersey where I was born and raised – the home that has been in our family for 62 years. When my Dad died two years ago I inherited the house; I desperately wanted to keep it – and to keep the physical manifestation of those 60+ years of memories. However, after two agonizing years, I finally accepted that the most manageable and realistic choice was to sell the house.
For me, it isn’t simply the sale of the “house” but rather it also feels like the loss of “home”. So much of my life, my roots, my identity, my memories, all that formed who I am today are connected to that place. It’s an extremely unsteadying feeling to lose that. Now, not only am I an orphan at age 60, but I’m also homeless – even though I live in a lovely home in Vermont with my husband and haven’t lived full time in the New Jersey home in almost 40 years. I feel like a rudderless boat floating at sea – the significant things of my past that have kept me grounded are all gone.
Of course, this is a normal process in life. My experience is not unique, although my level of sentimentality may be different than that held by others. Yet the fact that this is a normal part of the human experience doesn’t make it any easier.
The challenge now is to find a solid footing on which to move forward so that I don’t get hung up on the memories of the past or the losses of the present.
This experience is much like the unforming process in the Journey of Transformation – the unsettling time of letting go without quite knowing what’s in store in the future. Somehow the future has been easier to face when I felt shielded with the protection offered by all that this home represented. The invitation now offered to me is to actually embrace my future – with realistic optimism, faith, hope, excitement, energy. The sooner I can adopt that attitude, the sooner my identity can transform into a much broader sense of self that goes well beyond the Melita that grew up in New Jersey.
For all of us, choice or circumstances move us into this place of letting go – and we can fight it or embrace it. I believe that for over two years I have fought it; now I must see if I’m up to the challenge of embracing it. How can I both hold on to all of my wonderful memories and at the same time open myself up to the possibility of uplifting and gratifying experiences to come? Can I see my world as spacious enough for both? Am I willing to consider the possibility that the future can mean as much to me as has the past?
These are big questions that aren’t easily answered; but in the end it comes down to attitude and choice. I can choose to dwell in the past with an attitude of mourning, or I can choose to embrace the future with an attitude of gratitude for all that has been and an attitude of hope for what is to come.
I know the journey isn’t simple and straightforward but rather it’s two steps forward and one step back. Therefore, for the moment I’m going to choose simply to embrace the present with a “one day at a time” attitude of cautious optimism as well as kindness to myself while I learn to let go. My hope is that in doing so I will create the space for my expanded sense of self to emerge – much like my empty house presents the space for its new owners’ memories to be created.
Stay tuned. . .