My lovely Serena has left! She represents a profound lesson for me about letting go. Over the past three years I have practiced letting go – giving many of my possessions away – finding a new home for dishes – donating items to the church thrift sale – downsizing in every way. I anticipated this change would require some time of suffering. I prepared for the sorrow of losing things. I entered my small apartment with the expectation that the empty spaces and cupboards where “stuff” used to be would leave sadness. I was wrong. Joyfully, lightheartedly wrong!! Instead, to my great surprise, the abandonment of materiality has left my heart with more space for happiness, freedom from attachment, less time to worry about what to do with it, how to manage it, what it might be worth, or its ultimate meaning. Rather than missing it, I have wondered why I didn’t shed these things earlier!! I have discovered a great truth that much of the world knows…..”stuff” does not represent the most important things in life.
Except for Serena. I do miss her, but now I know why. She was the pride and joy of my Mother….Serena represents our almost yearly summer vacations to Fort William and Port Arthur, Canada (now better known as Thunder Bay). My Mother loved bone china. She COULD purchase it in the housewares department at Dayton’s but it was much better to go to CANADA, that “almost British” outpost – where there were many stores with true royal dishes. In and behind the racks of postcards bearing Queen Elizabeth’s picture there were dishes – row after row of cups and saucers – Prince Albert Bone China. We searched the city for the best cups and saucers, and we always left with one or two. The highlight of these Canadian adventures, however, was the discovery of lovely Serena. With her delicate pattern of pink roses she stood out from the crowd. Her beauty was unparalleled. So we all fell in love, and traveled back summer after summer for another place setting, until there were twelve, and until we added a creamer, a sugar bowl, and several dessert bowls. We loved her, all of us, and commented at every family holiday gathering on her pinkness, her unique cups with both “Avon” and “Malvern” styles, and how we needed to be so very careful to wash and dry her without breaking her handles.
Ok, I am now thinking back and realizing that this is all a bit silly. Serena has been sold to someone else who will appreciate her uniqueness – who will enjoy her beauty and not leave her wrapped in paper towels in a box, hidden in the attic. She is where she belongs.
What I miss is not a dish at all – it is time with my parents, in a different and interesting country. What I miss is sitting down to coffee as a child – and listening to the neighbors discuss the world situation – while each neighbor woman chose a special bone china cup to use that day. What I miss is my Mother – who grew up with relatively few possessions – and who took such joy in a lovely dish. What I miss is hearing her discuss how to shed her unique cup collection in her last frail years – and her decision to give one to each family member and friend until they were gone.
The THINGS we have are tied to emotions – to relationships. They represent the most important things in life. What, sadly, is so true in our culture is that to most of us, THESE THINGS ARE MOST IMPORTANT. We tend not to learn this lesson until tragedy strikes, until a natural disaster takes our things from us, yanking them from our grasp, until we are forced to see and understand true value.
Serena comes from the word “serene” which means “calm, peaceful, untroubled”. That is a perfect description of a life that is not tied to possessions. It was ALSO a term often used to describe royalty…..you might greet the Queen with the words “your serene highness”! Oh the irony indeed!!
In a recent service trip, I was assigned to a home that needed painting and finishing. Our task was to clear out “stuff” from a living room, placing it all in another room, so painting could begin. As we worked I was struck by the accumulation of multitudes of items that were of no apparent value…..multiple tubes of cardboard – dozens of tiny “sample” lotions from hotels – myriads of small “collectibles”, trinkets gathered from all of creation. These items spoke of a deep need for ? What? I do not know….something more substantial that was missing.
I have discovered there is something wondrous about letting go of our stuff. Clinging and fretting and worry melt away. Spiritual and emotional room is created for the new, the unexpected. More brain space is opened up for creativity and joy. Thank you, Serena, for all you have given me over the years. Enjoy your new home.
*For more information about service trips, check out www.inourhandsadventures.com