Your life is like a comic strip, my mother-in-law said to me this morning.
We were driving back from the Toyota service department, where I had just dropped of my Toyota Prius to have the horn repaired. You may recall reading about my husband’s and my recent journey from Arizona to Washington, which involved a near miss in Las Vegas. The accident was avoided by my husband’s super intense honking on the horn, which resulted in the horn getting stuck and honking non-stop. I think we caused a bit of a scene when we pulled over by a compound yard and my husband tried to figure out which fuse to pull out to get the horn to stop honking while I sat in the car trying to hold a contraption between the horn and the steering wheel that was comprised of a nail file that had been broken in four pieces that were folded together in order to keep the horn from honking. Any slight move I made and the delicate balance was knocked off, causing the horn to blare non-stop once more and my husband to yell from beneath the hood.
I spent the next week arguing with our auto insurance company that this was collateral damage from a missed accident and should thus be covered by our insurance plan. I eventually won, but it took my “Put your supervisor on the phone” voice and a lot of crossing of fingers and hoping for the universe to hear my pleas.
There is always something going on, my mother-in-law continued. I had already been joking that I was going to drive her to drinking with the seemingly never-ending litany of stressful events she had been vicariously experiencing since my husband and I arrived at her quiet home in a community just north of Seattle.
I agreed with her on the comic strip front. The trouble is, I think I would find it a lot funnier if I were reading about someone else’s life. My hope is that someday (hopefully, someday soon) I will be able to laugh about it all, especially when the royalties for my very successful book start rolling in.
I have spent a lot of time and energy finding creative ways to let go of my attachments. This is no easy feat because I get very attached very quickly to all kinds of things—human and otherwise—in my life. I joke that I could have easily written the book The life-changing magic of tidying up because I have literally been living that book for the past six years.
I have gotten pretty good at sending my possessions, and even some furry beings, on their own journey. Each time I enter into a larger life transition, however, I eventually hit a wall where I cannot seem to let go of anything else. In the Belgium or bust life transition, I am pretty sure I hit that wall a month ago, if not more, but still I have to find a way to sever several more tethers to my former life.
The next tether will be my car. As soon as the horn is repaired, which could be any moment now, I will drive back to the Toyota service department, pay for the repairs, give my car a hug and a thank you for taking care of me, and send it off on the next stage of its Prius journey.
Maybe you are like me, and you grow attached even to inanimate objects. At least, we think they are inanimate. Have you seen 2001: A space Odyssey? Can we know for sure?
I have never named any of my cars, but I still feel a bond with each one. This Prius and I have shared many miles and memories. It has kept me safe and surrounded me in its vehicular embrace through many tears.
Maybe you are thinking, it is just a car, and you are right.
It is just a car.
I am also just a human, albeit a very sensitive one.
I remember a friend telling me that I had set myself free to do anything with my life that I wanted. I was sobbing into the telephone at the beginning of my separation from my first husband.
I wanted to believe that my friend was right, that I was free, but I still felt so raw from the process of detaching myself from the tethers of a life that did not make me happy that I could not imagine the freedom and possible joy that might lie ahead.
Several years ago, I wrote a song with a friend, who shared the story of how painful it was the first time she left her newborn child in order to have some precious moments to herself out in nature. The chorus of her song began with the phrase, “Leaving was a severing, then the greatest joy.”
I recognize that shifting away from one path brings so many others into focus. It can be easy to get swept up in the comfort of familiarity and to grasp desperately onto anything that offers a sense of stability. I do this all of time and especially when I can feel the ground begin to shake and open up beneath me. No one wants to be swallowed whole.
On the other hand, I do not want to be owned by my stuff. I really do feel lighter with each item I send on its way. I also recognize the privilege I have experienced to even be writing about the challenge of letting go. I have been gifted a life where I have been able to choose what to hold onto and what to bequeath to someone else.
Nearly a year ago, I let go of a little part of myself when my husband and I decided to ditch our middle names in order to replace them with our given last names. We had taken the step to become a married couple in front of friends and family, and we wanted to create an even stronger feeling of being a team.
My maiden name became our middle name, and my husband’s given name our last name. It took me a while to decide how I felt about it. I was the one with the different last name, after all. How many people pay attention to your middle name?
As I have been writing about all of this letting go in order to transition from life in one country to another, I realize that there are some tethers worth holding onto.
I made a call to the Toyota service department to check on the status of the horn repairs to my car. As I told the receptionist my last name and spelled it for her, I realized how much it truly meant for me to share a name with my husband. Speaking the name and having it feel like a part of me, I was reminded that we really are a team, however far apart we may be right now.
I deeply I treasure the bond that has been created and nurtured between my husband and myself. It can be fragile and tenuous at times, but it a bond that we have both sacrificed and fought for.
So, while I prepare to part with my wee Toyota, I am thankful for the perspective this severing brings.
Hold on tight to what is worth holding onto. Be thankful for the gifts you possess, but do not let them possess you.