As far as “stuff” is concerned, there are two types of people in the world: keepers and purgers. At the time I started practicing yoga, I was very much a keeper. I had collections of little knick-knacks displayed around my house. My attic was filled with tubs of tiny baby clothes kept simply because I could not part with them. I could open a drawer or cupboard in my kitchen and pull out gifts from my wedding shower, not because I used these things but because I’d received them at my wedding shower. Better yet, in my dresser drawers I still had shirts from fraternity formals and college basketball seasons. Clearly I, a mother of three, wasn’t sashaying around town in these.
Now, after nearly fifteen years on my yoga mat, I am most definitely a purger. Clutter sets my teeth on edge. Picture frames have been culled, collections packed away, kitchen drawers and china cupboards emptied of all but necessities. I prefer my “quaint” (i.e. tiny) closet to have more space than stuff. Outgrown kids clothes get promptly handed down. Outdated clothes from my closet go directly to the church for its second hand clothing sale. My once powerful urge to hold onto “stuff” as a way to hold onto the past has all but faded away.
Or so I thought.
My beloved old Suburban, Big Blue, has been failing for two or three years. This isn’t surprising as I’ve driven her for close to 200,000 miles since 2002. She’s taken our family on countless trips. I leaned into her back doors to load kids who now outweigh me into and out of bucket seats and booster seats. She’s been packed to the gills with cousins and friends for hours of fun. She’s witnessed bickering of the sort that only happens on long road trips. She’s been covered in mud and filled with stinky cleats after a hundred games and tournaments. She’s taken our polished and primped children to their first dances. It was in her seats that we had surprisingly deep conversations about sermons on the way home on Sunday mornings, that we cried after funerals, and that we shared those intimate moments with teens that seem to only happen in the car.
It turns out that Big Blue had become a thing – a big, big thing – that I was holding onto for very sentimental reasons. The thought of parting ways with her actually hurt. I said to my daughter when she suggested a new car might be a good plan, “I’ll never have another car that carries me through as much life as she has.” When my son suggested that her brakes were somewhat quirky after he drove her, I leapt to her defense even though he was right. When my husband announced that there was a three year old Suburban at the local Chevy dealer that we should go see, I felt like throwing up. When the salesman called an hour later, and the price was right, I actually cried. My other daughter looked at me (slightly mystified) and said, “Mommy, we’re going to fill the new truck with memories too.”
I’ve learned on my mat to let go. I’ve learned that it’s perfectly normal and OK for a posture I’ve worked hard to attain to suddenly disappear. I’ve learned that success in a posture one day doesn’t mean I’ll have success in that posture the next day. I’ve learned to let go of fears. And I’ve learned to let go of my ideas of what I can and cannot do. After all, things that once scared me are now no-brainers. Things I wasn’t able to do, I now can. And vice versa. Change on my yoga mat is dramatic and constant. Sometimes it’s sudden and sometimes it’s gradual – but the one thing I can completely count on in my practice is change.
All this intimate and incessant work with change has been yielded two powerful gifts. The first is that I’ve learned to hold things with open hands. As I do over and over with ideas and fears on my mat, I’ve learned to let things go when it’s time for us to part ways. The second is that I’ve learned to live fully in the moment – gratefully embracing what is, without wasting a lot of energy on what was and on what might be. When I allow both of these gifts to work within me off my mat, I move more lightly through my days. I am much more open to the shifts and changes of life. I am so focused on my experiences that I have much less need to accumulate stuff.
It is this practice that, over the years, lead me to change from a keeper into a purger. It hasn’t always been easy. In fact, it’s taken a lot of hard work. But living lightly and openly is, I have found, much easier. Which is why, in the end, I could see my attachment to my beloved old truck for what it was. And I could see that it was time for a change. As I rode the waves of my surprisingly emotional good-bye to her I realized that feeling so deeply and remembering so much did not mean that it was a bad choice to trade her in. Instead, it was a way to honor the huge role she played in our young family.
As I’ve found on and off my mat, all change is easier to navigate with an open heart, open hands and an open mind. It was my daughter’s words that opened me up to this particular change. While I didn’t keep Big Blue, I will always keep the memories we made in her. And we will indeed make many more in our new family truck.