Letting Go of the Past, Embracing the Future
Fifteen years ago my Aunt Eleanor, told us she was preparing for her death. “Hold on!” I thought at the time, “What is this morbid plan, and what is she up to?” Strangely, this announcement did not have to do with the usual reasons, sickness, old age or loneliness. It had to do with too many books.
Eleanor’s library was remarkable. The biggest in the family, it was a combination of my grandmother’s books and her own, it easily filled 100 boxes.
However, she had moved a number of times recently and had come to look on her most prized possession – her library – as her biggest burden. It was the heaviest thing she owned and the most expensive to move. After this last move, she decided it was too much. Holding on to all these books was doing more harm than good. It was time to give away her library.
Initally pained by the thought, Eleanor had come to sees letting go of her books as an opportunity to come to terms with the first part of her life and prepare for the rest. She was not morbid about it; she was excited. She was eager to be free from all the weight and burden that she had created and carried around for her first sixty years.
First, she took out her most essential books, those that formed the DNA of her library and those which she would keep. She limited herself to one box. Then she gave small selections to every member of our family, before inviting close friends to come over and take a book for themselves. The rest of the collection was given to her local library.
Giving away the books was just the beginning. Eleanor also decided to clear away all the emotional clutter with friends and family. Over the next year, she had a number of intense and gratifying conversations with her children, ex-husband and other family members. She also met with close friends and spoke truthfully with them. To finish, she straightened out her business affairs, and sold off investments that had been languishing for some time.
Having made these changes, Eleanor’s life entered into a new phase. She was happier and more active than ever. And her discovery and the powerful act of giving away her possessions, made me look at my life differently at a much younger age.
Today, I love books, but I keep my collection small, and regularly work at editing my shelves. Due to Eleanor, I learned that we don’t need books as much as we need what is in them: their inspiration for the future.