December 29, 2017

Letting Go in the New Year

For months, I had been telling my husband we needed to get rid of our second car. We don't need two cars. He uses MARTA and I can walk to work if I need to. It was also getting to be too expensive to fix and had really been costing more than it was worth for years. It had it's moments and had gotten me to Boston from Atlanta and to Atlanta from Brooklyn. But, it died on me on the Verrazano Bridge (I successfully coasted all the way to the toll booths); it died on me in the middle of an off-ramp on one of the busiest highways in Boston; and on Christmas Eve several years ago, the power steering went out while I was trying to get some last minute gifts. The latest prognosis was that it would need a new transmission soon.

My husband had been hesitant to get rid of it because it had become his car on the rare occasions he needed one. I eventually convinced him that the cost of the insurance was more than getting a Lyft a few times a month and that it was time to donate it. He took care of the phone calls and the paperwork and told me to expect a call the next day from the tow company scheduling a pickup. When the tow company called me and said they were in the neighborhood and could stop by, I panicked. I told them the car wasn't ready and asked if they could come back the next day.

After I hung up, I realized I was definitely the one who wasn't ready. I forced myself to clean out the car and found myself crying as I emptied out the car's CD player with the same 6 CDs that had been in it for years. I cried as I peeled the stickers off that the kids I used to babysit stuck on my dashboard. I cried as I emptied out the middle console filled with mementos of the past eight years (I probably should have cleaned out my car more). And the next day when the tow company called again, I found myself wanting to say  "No, it's not ready, come back tomorrow." Instead, I took a deep breath and told them to pick it up. I definitely was not prepared for how upset I had gotten and it had me thinking about how hard it is to let go even when something serves no purpose and in my case, was costing me money.

The New Year always seems to be a time to let go of the old to make space for the new, but we often struggle with following through. Here are some tips to help you be more successful at letting go.

Be emotional.

Letting go can be so hard. Especially when that object or person or job was with you during an emotional or formative time. When I bought my car, it represented moving forward after feeling stuck. I had just graduated from college, ended a serious relationship, moved home, and was working a job that had nothing to do with what I wanted to do. It was a tough time for me and getting that car helped me feel like I was moving forward again. Over the years that car became my safe place that felt familiar and comfortable. When it was time to say goodbye, I had to give myself the space to cry, no matter how silly it seemed, and acknowledge all of the feelings that were coming up.

Be logical.

It's always necessary to make space for emotions, but we also need a balance of rational thinking. I had to keep reminding myself of all of the times this car had died on me and the cost to get it completely fixed. I also had to ask myself what purpose the car truly served. This helped keep my emotions in check so that when the tow company called (the second time of course), I had the strength to let go. Find those rational reasons to move on.

Give yourself time to make decisions.

It can be tempting to start the new year with a giant bonfire where you burn everything you want to move away from. Sometimes that can be healing. But, if you make those decisions quickly just because everyone else is doing it and don't follow steps one and two, you'll find yourself replacing those items, relationships, or jobs with the exact same item, relationship, or job a week later. Spend time thinking about why hanging on might not be the best or alternatively, why letting go might not be right for you at this time. Either way, give yourself time.

Find an accountability partner.

If you find yourself starting to go down the same path you just got off, phone a friend who will be able to validate your feelings and remind you of your logic. Or write to yourself your reasoning and save it on your phone or on a paper in your wallet and pull it out when you need to. It works.

Letting go of things that aren't serving a purpose in your life can be freeing and the new year is a great time to at least start evaluating what you can let go.

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