remnants of a past life (note 7): letting go of what no longer works

decluttering by letting go of an object, a feeling, a friendship, and a dream ...

remnants of a past life (note 7): letting go of what no longer works
Photo by Maarten Deckers on Unsplash

It's been three months since I wrote one of these #remnants of a past life posts. Clearing out had slowed down in the meantime, but this morning KrA and I set about putting away our winter gear now that it appears the warmer weather is here to stay.

With all the clutter gone, the closet in the entryway feels so open and pleasing to the eyes. I feel like I can breathe easier now.

It always feels that way when a task weighs heavy on my head but it takes me a few days to actually get around to doing it.

An unfinished job almost like a desperate ghost that keeps on haunting me until I attend to its needs!

In the meantime, much decluttering has been happening, just not all of them were tangible objects.

letting go of an object: the bakfiets and childhood memories

One of the things I managed to pass on after many years of sitting on it and merely thinking of passing it on some day was our much cherished bakfiets!

a bakfiets (Dutch cargo bike) parked in front of a soccer field
a ride to remember

We bought this in late 2018, shortly after we moved to Burlington. I didn't have a car driving license then, so this seemed like a great means to ferry Dhruv around and take him to the local parks and play areas.

Little D, a little more than 2 years old then, never took to a stroller. But he had a ball of a time sitting in the basket in the front, and we had amazing and delightful conversations during our bike rides to places far and near.

We are so lucky to live near the centennial bike path, and we rode on it almost every day except when it rained and in winter. This creek beside Elwood Road was one of our favourite spots to pause and watch the water and ducks and squirrels. D called this spot the 'rusty bridge', which is what it essentially is.

Little D sitting in the basket of a cargo bike parked on a rusty bridge, looking out over a creek.
a place to pause and reflect

We got the bike serviced in March, which was another adventure in itself, as the shop we had bought the bike from said they no longer had a technician to service the bike. Then began the hunt for another person who could help, followed by a bike ride to that service centre, and getting the job done.

(Btw, if you're in the area and are looking for an excellent bike technician, I highly recommend George Lusa at Bent Rim Cycle. He was clear and upfront about what he could/couldn't do, and his prices are extremely reasonable.)

After that we put it up on Kijiji and now the bike is in the home of a lovely young family who has a 2-year-old, the same age that D was when we got the bakfiets.

So bye-bye, lovely bakfiets! Thank you for giving us such wonderful memories.

letting go of a habitual feeling: self-criticism and regret

As I was clearing out our winter gear this morning, the first few thoughts that entered my mind were one of criticism.

Good Lord! Why do we have so much clutter?

How come we have so much garbage?

Why can't I keep things organized?

Why didn't we get around to doing this earlier?

I even found an entire basketful of receipts dating back to 2022, which caused another barrage of similarly critical thoughts to erupt.

And then I wondered, aren't I cleaning these out now? Why am I cursing myself for not having done something that I'm attending to dutifully now?

Could I approach this task joyfully? Feel some pride at finally getting around to doing the work instead of cursing my past self for not having been able to do it?

I've been reading This Book Won't Make You Happy: Eight Keys to Finding True Contentment by Niro Feliciano. She talks about shifting from the expectations that our 'should' statements impose on us.

Instead of saying, "My house should be cleaner," if we can think "I wish my house were cleaner," or "I'd like a cleaner house," we release ourselves from the imprisonment of expectation that the first statement confines us in. The latter statements expresses the same desire while also acknowledging and allowing for the limited resources of time, attention and energy we all have as human beings.

Catching myself in the moment and shifting my thought patterns made decluttering a very pleasant task indeed!

letting go of a friendship: standing up for ourselves

There's a new kid on the block. At first, we were excited when we saw them move in two months ago. They have a child the same age as D, so imagine how excited we were at the prospect of finally having a friend in the neighbourhood for little D!

Even before D had met the child, he said to me, "I think he and I will be best friends for as long as he stays here."

Everything was great for the first 2—3 weeks. D and that child (let's call him C as that's the letter his name begins with) used to get together to play every evening. D would eagerly come back from school and wait for C to come back so they could play together.

And then things started to go downhill. Every time D would say 'No' to something, C began to retaliate angrily. Calling names. Threatening. Shouting.

Once D had a new robot toy he wanted to share with C. When C came home, he started to run the toy into walls, on the carpet, on D's beyblade stadium, despite D's repeated requests to not do so.

Finally D forbade him from playing with the toy.

C threatened to leave and go home.

And guess what?! D was perfectly fine with that. He simply said, "OK."

That must have surprised C, because he tried another tactic. He turned around and said to D, "You know what? I really want to play with that toy. But you're not letting me do that. That's why I'm leaving."

And darling D stood his ground and quietly said, "Sure. OK."

C had no choice but to leave.

Scrabble letters arranged to read 'Courage does not always roar.'
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

A lot of C's rude behaviour was taking place in the absence of grown-ups. Luckily for us, D would come back home and share with us what transpired. (I'm so grateful our child considers us safe havens to turn to.)

It caused us to have a lot of conversations with D around what constitutes a healthy friendship. We also tried not to intervene too soon in order to give D a chance to stand up for himself, which, I'm proud to say, D did. And when C's mean behaviour would continue, D would call out to us for support.

I always tell him he has a 'quiet courage'. He's not a loud child. He's very tolerant and accommodating, but he's also discerning and reflective, all qualities that came in handy over the past several weeks.

More often than not, after an outdoor play session with C, D would come back feeling bad about something C said or did.

The day before yesterday, a third child (J) in the neighbourhood joined D and C. He seemed nice, but C was at his rudest behaviour with D.

Finally, D decided he didn't want to play with C anymore. We also decided to have a conversation with C's parents—KrA ended up talking with C's mom briefly about the child's rudeness.

As KrA says, "Our lives were just fine two months ago before C came along. Sure, he didn't turn out to be a good friend. We can put this behind and move on. Our lives will be just as fine in the future too."

I think I slept really well last night for the first time in several weeks, knowing that D had made a good choice to stay away from a bully. Yesterday we saw C goading J into chasing after a moving truck on their scooters and trying to tap it while the truck was still in motion. I'm very happy for my child to have nothing to do with that kind of reckless behaviour.

letting go of a dream: writing and productivity

This is probably the hardest one for me to write about, which is why I'm coming to this right at the end.

I've been struggling to write for a while now. May has been particularly difficult, as we've had several errands to run, appointments to keep, not to mention the above trouble D was facing with the bully in the neighbourhood.

Being unfazed and serene no matter what's happening around us is an ideal we try to achieve.

For the most part, I was able to remain unfazed and serene when helping out D. But it does take effort on our part. Effort, thought and reflection on KrA's and my parts, as parents.

Time to pause and breathe and gather courage for the disappointments that came our way and up our strength to carry out the myriad tasks we had to.

For a long time, I tried to keep my morning writing hour and space isolated from the goings-on outside, but I had to eventually admit that I'm only human. The anxieties that kept me awake at night, worried for my child, did take its toll on me, come daytime.

Even though I opened the manuscript and stared at it for half an hour, it just couldn't hold my focus on most days.

Instead of giving myself guilt over not being able to write, I decided this morning that I'd take a break. D has a 4-day weekend coming up starting tomorrow, and we have friends visiting and some travel plans, so trying to force myself to write when so much is going around us was a sure recipe for emotional outbursts.

clusters of balloons flying away in a blue sky
Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

I've been thinking recently — we consume art and the works of great artists stir something in us, inspire us to be more kind and empathetic, loving and compassionate, towards others and also towards ourselves.

Creating art also serves the same purpose, isn't it? What's the point of writing if having so many things on my plate causes me to lash out at KrA or feel resentful every time I pick up D from school, solely because I haven't been 'productive'?

The instant I told myself I could take a break for a few days, an entire season even, I felt immense relief. It was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

I can now enjoy what the next few days bring without the burden of guilt that I haven't been able to write. Everything has its season of flourishing and prospering.

And if there's anything I've learnt from the events of the past few weeks, it's this:

Patience—the ability to wait in acceptance and surrender, in faith and trust—eventually paves the way ahead.