What We Keep

I like the practical. Knickknacks are not my thing. I suppose, if I am to be perfectly honest with myself, I have some, and they are precious to me. My knickknacks are not part of a collection in which similar items are gathered together. They are more of a gathering of items that feed my soul in some way. To give you an idea, there are the giraffe bookends that belonged to my mother, a life-like dragonfly which reminds me of my sister, a stately yet delicate blue crystal candy jar, a thick green bowl that reminds me of fake fruit and my childhood, and this heart-shaped bowl (pictured, and a gift from my sister) that contains two sock darners that belonged to my mother’s mother, a round rock just because I think it’s cool, and a camellia seed from my mother’s tree that I meant to plant but didn’t.

Who’s to say what’s important to us? What we should keep? What we should toss? What we should display, or hang, or leave lying around? Who makes these decisions for you? Is it whether or not the things you display are decoratively fashionable? Is it whether or not you feel you have to keep them because somebody important (and touchy) gave it to you and expects to see it when they visit? Or is it (and I hope it is) because you like what you display and you don’t care what anyone thinks?

Which leads me to my final thought about what we keep and what we toss, knick-knacks aside. Sometimes we keep ideas around because somebody else (a parental figure, an influential adult from our childhood, a religious figure) told us the thought was important, that we should keep it close, nurture it, take action on it. Many times, these ideas, especially if we have not followed through with them, are sources of great guilt and regret. Perhaps we have held onto a belief that we simply must attend church every week, or that we should plant a garden, write a novel, cut our hair short, or write handwritten thank-you notes. Not one of these things is bad…but left to fester inside of a person who does not define their spirituality by how often or even whether or not they attend church; has no green thumb whatsoever; does not have any desire to sit and write for hours on end; enjoys long hair; or does not think that a thank-you note is invalid if it is spoken or e-mailed, any one of these things can waste a tremendous amount of energy and goodwill (towards ourselves).

If you can think of at least one thing that you think you should do because somebody else thinks you should do it (phew…that’s a mouthful!), then I challenge you to let it go. Have a ceremony where you break plates in the street, die your teeth chartreuse, get a mohawk, or some other thing that makes the moment really memorable. And then, tomorrow, do the same thing. The following day, and the next and the next and the next…do the same kind of “un-shoulding” until you can stare at yourself in the mirror and realize that you are you, not someone else’s version of you. Keep what you want. Toss what no longer serves you. Then take a deep breath and catch the fresh scent of authenticity.

2 thoughts on “What We Keep

  1. Your photos are wonderful. This one, along with the post, especially speaks to me. Periodically I feel the need to purge the closets, the shelves, etc., where too much has accumulated and lay hidden for too long. In the process, I discover things I’d forgotten about, some of which issue a resounding, “Let go.” And on the subject of discovery, it was your comment on my latest Smartly post that led me to your blog. Thank you.

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