Violà la dissertation...I am taking a break before diving back into editing. Between moving apartments and condensing this document, I find myself spending a significant amount of time considering more generally what to let go of and what to keep.
I wonder what words, books, clothing items and people will be there for the next chapter of my life and which will land at Goodwill, ebay, or the place to which the "delete" button sends things.
Fame can also disappear. Now you're famous, now you're not. This is true for popularity as well. I had no one to eat lunch with in the 2nd grade--it was terrible. I used to walk around the playground trying to fill up the time. My junior year of high school, however, I had too many friends to have lunch with them all. One summer at camp I had no friends and a few years later I was Queen. Rags to riches...
Companionship has waxed and waned since. It's fleeting and precious. Appearance of course our bodies will change, our faces will age -- gravity and sun always win against exercise and face cream.
Specific Relationships if you have been alive more than 5 minutes, you know that people can die, friends can "unfriend you" and lovers can unapologetically walk out the door. Others may simply move away or your interests and values simply pull you apart over time.
So What Stays?
Ok, sorry for that rather dour and quite buddhist reminder that all this shall pass. On the upside, here's what tends to stay.
Education: I realized that once I receive my PhD no one can take it away. My degree in conflict resolution stays with me even if I spent my whole life creating, versus resolving conflicts. Education, more generally, stays with us. My book collection may take on different forms over time, but the knowledge gained from reading those books stays.
Ability to love: I realized I cannot hold on to specific people anymore than I can hold back a moving train. What I can keep and develop is my compassion, generosity, kindness, and patience.
I remember vividly the moment I realized that if I can be loving I can always have love in my life. This thought comforted after a breakup. I wasn't going to put love solely in someone else's hands.
Skills: Sports, arts, languages...these all stay. Swimming, rollerblading, French and swing dancing all come with me even if I lose my blades, swim bag and dance shoes. This is reassuring. Oh incidentally, people say you lose languages. I just went back to France after not speaking much this year and had friends tell my I am as fluent or more than when I lived there. So, we can discard that myth. Sometimes you can get better with a break.
What to focus on?
So it's good to know what matters. But does this insight help me condense this 600-page document or decide what dresses to give away?
No, but it creates a peaceful context while I am going through the process.
Moving my home and shifting my work isn't that unsettling when I remember that it's just the visible things.
The trick seems to be to give up holding on to the ephemeral and focus on developing new skills or personal attributes.
For starters, I'd like to learn how to do this......
Sarah Federman, PhD
Enjoy these short blogs and videos designed to bring you a little cheer.
My other blog Language of Conflict addresses the importance of word choice and narration in conflict.
Finish and Flourish supports writers struggling to complete projects.