I have survived many forcible dumpings of my life into the bin labeled “The Past”. I would not have chosen to delegate the friends and family I loved into the file called “memories”, or to push some of my most treasured experiences and learning back into the yesterdays of my mind. This unexpected and sudden hurling of my present back through time, rendering it the past, often happened with enough force to make me almost immobile for a time, and left me struggling figuratively to regain my breath in order to go on with life. Many events literally knocked the wind out of me for a time, but I had little choice other than to get back up and to go on, somehow. Life happens, as we all know, whether or not we agree with, or like the directions it takes.
In the past week I have been tackling something I have procrastinated on long enough. Many of you know that I chose, along with my board of directors, to close the licensed adoption agency I founded and directed for about 30 yrs. Getting all of the records re-packaged, categorized (some files were torn and deteriorating) and sent where they must be stored indefinitely,has been a formidable task. I made the really tough and emotional decision to end the adoption agency chapter of my life mostly because I was ready to move forward with the new chapter of building my coaching practice, and with my own writing. I also wanted to leave behind the large amount of stress that had become an everyday part of running a non-profit adoption agency. I had the best of intentions to start the enormous chore of getting my case files out of my office, even though they were safe here, and maybe safer than at some storage facility . Still, every day seemed to bring new projects and challenges I was more interested in tackling than I was in getting to the task of the files.
Then there are the business files. My treasurer, a great person who supported me for all the years of the agency’s existence, apparently was more of a pack rat than I knew. In 2013 he decided he didn’t need all of the bins of accumulated paperwork in his own basement, so he gifted them to me one day without much warning. I learned that in his desire to be careful, he had saved every bill, every invoice, every check, every contract, every scrap of paper, every post office receipt I sent him, and on and on. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.
Some of these bins were deposited into my upstairs front little den, where we sometimes used to meet with clients because it was a more cozy setting than the downstairs office. Some were deposited in my actual office, already filled with about 12 big filing cabinets and other furniture. Some of the bins migrated to my downstairs guest room, but that was taken over by some of my granddaughter’s toys, so some files managed to “find their way” to the master bedroom, and to my closet room that was once a bedroom for two different kids at different when they were very young. So not only did the adoption agency dominate my life in some very good ways, and some other not-so-good ways, but in a sense, it still does.
This past week, as part of my action plan to get to some new and some old goals, I began to get serious about clearing space, and finally getting the physical remnants of the agency out of my world. It has taken me a long time, for a lot of reasons. There has been the usual family stuff, illness, deaths and just plain overwhelm. Sure I help others to tackle their heart’s desires, and to climb out from under unnecessary overwhelm, but sometimes it’s easier to help others than to do it ourselves. You know what they say about the shoemaker’s children going without shoes!
I thought I remembered so much about my agency’s history, and its ups and downs. I surely remember the emotional and wonderful highlights, the successes, the family parties, our fabulous 20th anniversary celebration, and our final and bittersweet closing party. I can’t forget the many meaningful gatherings with representatives from a variety of other countries, and my trips to many of those countries. I remember the thank you notes and I have many still, from happy clients, as well as many photo albums of the kids at different points in their lives, and some even of the next generation (their kids).
What I had more or less blocked from my mind were all of the battles, the program launches that did not succeed for one reason or another, the dreadful stress of preparing for our regular relicensure inspections, the long, tiring board meetings, the fund raisers that I never enjoyed doing, the bureaucratic glitches and the traumatized families when a process was delayed or something went wrong (and how their anger was at times displaced onto me, though fortunately not often).
Though I have filled up many huge trash bags over the last two weeks, and shredded documents till my little shredder cried out in pain, I have also spent considerable time, getting sidetracked and reading through board minutes, reading my old newsletters, my fund appeal letters and lots of other things that took me down memory lane. I am now well on my way, working on this delayed project in earnest, finally, and chomping at the bit to get it done. I recognize that having it unfinished, no matter how many valid excuses I had, has held me back. I recognize that no matter how much I said I was ready to move forward, ending that chapter of my life was very, very difficult for me, even with my great enthusiasm for my coaching work.
So as I continue to discard and shred, I also continue my process of goodbyes, of remembering and of honoring the wonderful accomplishment of that previous phase of my life. I can shred and throw away the remnants of it that do not now serve me. I can discard the stress and the memories of things that sometimes did not go well. I felt that stress for too long and it is time to let it go. I cannot and should not shed the pride of what I did, or the meaning that the agency, which I began with my late first husband, had in my life, or in the lives of a multitude of others.
I believed I was ready to move on before this, but now I am really ready.
How about you? Are you chained to the past in some way that keeps you suffering, or that keeps you from giving your all to your new goals and dreams? Do you believe that unchaining yourself from what was, is somehow diluting or dishonoring its memory?
REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR READERS:
…Are there things in your own past that you have had a hard time letting go of?
…Have you expended a lot of energy avoiding taking care of finishing up whatever it was, which energy might have been more productively invested in a new venture?
…Has letting go been painful for you because your past had a lot of emotional meaning and connection for you?
….Have you ever been afraid of letting go of your past?
…Are you afraid right now?
…Do you think letting go will in some way be a betrayal of someone you love, or of something in which you were deeply involved?
…Do you believe that moving on means forgetting?
…Do you sincerely believe you deserve to be happy and to begin a new chapter of life?
…If you have closed one chapter and begun another, what helped you to do that?
…If you haven’t closed your old chapter yet, what are three simple steps you can take to begin?
Why not comment right on this blog, and let us know? We want to hear what you commit to, and more so, we want to hear when you accomplish your goal. If you don’t choose to post, feel free to email me privately, but I hope you will comment here. Are you ready to stop the pain and to find new peace and purpose? Do you have a goal you have almost been afraid to admit to yourself? I want to help you.
ARE YOU A FRIEND/REGULAR READER WHO DOESN’T USUALLY COMMENT? I KNOW SOME PEOPLE ARE INTIMIDATED BY MAKING COMMENTS ON BLOGS, BUT COMMENTS HELP BLOGGERS, SO PLEASE TRY. I THANK YOU.