“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” – Joan Didion
I have an aunt who loves beautiful things — paintings and music and furniture and even well-plated food — in an exceptional kind of way. Like my dad and their other eleven siblings, she has both an eye for art and an artistic streak herself, and this is evident in everything from the way she speaks to the flair with which she dresses to how she sips a glass of wine. Time with my aunt is colorful, vivid, passion-filled and abounding with ideas and inspiration. She seeks beauty whole-heartedly, and when she finds it, she reaches for it — to hold it, to relish it, and if at all possible, to take it home with her.
In her love of beauty, my aunt has filled her home to overflowing with paintings and tiles and clothing and dishes and sculpture and art books. And as her shelves, closets, counter tops and cupboards have runneth over, the elegance of each individual item has been lost to clutter and distraction.
With her deep appreciation for exquisite design, color and texture, it is easy to understand my aunt’s longing to hold on to item after item. But too much of a good thing is precisely that: too much. This is true when regarding objects, and it’s true in other areas of life as well.
Personally, I have a hard time letting go of vocational aspirations. I find working in Faith Formation at a church meaningful, enjoyable and life-giving, but I could also see myself returning to hospital chaplaincy at some point, or maybe Campus Ministry. I hope to be a stay-at-home mom for some period, at least, and I envision a life as freelance writer. Simultaneously, I have a pipe-dream of returning to school one day to become a therapist, and there’s a part of me that hasn’t let go of my once-held aspiration to become a social worker. I also always wonder about my childhood ambitions of teaching at a middle or high school level, within a classroom instead of a church hall.
There was a time when I might have pursued any of these paths, and there is a place for staying open to the twists and turns of life. I truly believe that each of our lives hold possibilities that we can’t yet fathom. But there is also a time and place for letting go, for losing touch with the people I used to be — including their dreams — in order to fully become the person I am now.
Unlike the Spanish-tile coasters, buried, or the grey silk blouse, stuffed away, I don’t want my potential to positively impact the world and my ability to enjoy the present moment to be lost — overcrowded and, ultimately, trapped by too many other good things. There’s a time for relinquishing the antique Delft bowl, and resisting the Moroccan silk curtains. Alluring as they are, there’s no room for them, and they’ll take away from the beauty of what already is.