I have a hard time throwing things away. Newspapers, magazines, letters, stuffed animals, photos, etc. I like to hold onto the hope that some day I will once again come to appreciate them as much as I did before. I save them for my hypothetical grandkids to see. When I move I take them where ever I go. I post pictures of them occasionally for other people to be as amused as I am – even though I already know they exist and they take up too much space in my life. For some reason it’s as if I can’t prove their value without them physically being there.
Recently I stopped and asked myself why. To whom is this relevant… and to whom am I proving these things? I am the only one who cares and the only one with the added burden of clutter consuming my life. I understand hoarding. If I didn’t detest chaos I would probably do it. The funny thing is that I can’t say that any of it matters in the grand scheme of things. If I have those things or not I am unchanged. They don’t define who I am, where I’ve been, or what I will do going forward. I guess it comes down to the question of: Do I have these things or do they have me?
I am the total opposite when it comes to perishable items or damaged goods. Take food for instance…one of my great loves! I will let it spoil right before my eyes. If it’s damaged or less than perfect I have little desire for it. In this, I concluded that I can be fickle. I don’t always take advantage of things when they are most readily available. Instead I let them go bad. Chances are I picked them up in a moment of impulsivity. I never really committed to them. I’m totally fine seeing them sitting there every day, idle, until I am forced to get rid of them.
Reflecting on this behavior, I realized that the same can be said about relationships with people.
Some relationships are perishable, immediately tossed out without realizing their potential. Others we treat as non-perishable, even though they really add little to no value. We couldn’t dare let them go. We hold onto them because they too remind us of our past – places we’ve been and experiences that shaped us into who we are today. They fill a void. They allow us to have something to validate ourselves in front of others.
We can’t throw people away per se. But we can move on from our “damaged goods” relationships. We can acknowledge that maybe in a particular space and time they meant something to us. But that isn’t always forever. It is possible to let go of what once brought us joy but no longer offers purpose in our lives. It is possible to stop defining ourselves based on the stored up relationships that no longer add value.
What’s the point? I long ago stopped participating in damaged relationships. I simply, quite literally, don’t have the time.
I’d rather have peace in moving on and letting go. I learned to be okay, knowing that person didn’t love me any less because they are gone. I didn’t need them to define me. We didn’t have the space or capacity to add value to one another. No harm, no foul.
I think that’s a better alternative than being quickly drawn in only to be cast aside in bitterness. People aren’t meant to be treated as an afterthought or an impulse. If you’re fast and loose, entertaining relationships for gain (and only until you’ve found something seemingly better…) you might want to leave them be. Ask yourself if you’ve fully matured and committed to your choices. Look at the things you have around you for clues to how you handle relationships.
I encourage you to be honest enough to acknowledge the types of relationships you facilitate. Realize when people are treating you as perishable or damaged goods. Guard yourself. Ask yourself if people will quickly cast you aside for some other cause. And why you allow it? You’re more valuable than that!
Recognize those relationships you’ve outgrown and may be holding onto in vain. It’s okay to cherish their memory – but do not allow them to take up valuable space that can free your heart and mind to focus on what the future holds.
Hold onto the ones worth keeping. Preserve them with integrity and put them on display. These relationships are reciprocal. You have them and they have you.