Today I sold a pair of earrings and I wept afterwards. It is a strange moment to explain, but there I was letting go of one of the last connections I had to my dead mother.
Dead by almost 15 years.
I had held on to these gold earrings for a subconscious last ditch effort to control the world around me. You see, life has not exactly turned out the way I anticipated. I never thought I would lose my childhood home in a wildfire. I never thought I’d move to and live in Las Vegas for 13 years. I never thought I’d watch my mother die when I was in my mid twenties and just finally starting my career, the same she encouraged me to pursue.
Life doesn’t turn out as you plan.
So I stood there, almost shaking, my words jumbled and mixed in my mouth for my mother’s ghost was in my hands in the form of her earrings. I watched closely as they passed from my hands into my buyer’s hands. The money placed in mine felt weightless, meaningless. We parted, and I sat in my car for a few minutes, shaking, a creature pressing into my chest so I couldn’t breathe, a sudden influx of anxiety consumed me.
And I realized why quite quickly. It was just that: flux. An unexpected upheaval of my life again and again. That isn’t to say something awful happened recently, but my mother’s ghost is still with me, and flux seems to follow me ever since. I never let her passing go for I was too busy trying to control my anguish and loss; letting go of her ghost today was the best lesson I didn’t know I needed.
If you defined your life in one word, what would it be? Most days I would like to answer happy or adventurous. But the truth is that underlying all that is flux. Loss is certainly a repeated theme of flux in my life: my house, mom, grandmothers, dog, friend, two students, gone and all in my twenties. Later, I moved from everything stable to a new state and a new life for a job I later lost.
“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” the poem goes. Yet though I am good at losing, I am not good at accepting loss.
My jobs now don’t pay well- yet- but they are jobs that fill my soul and that I know will soon enough pay what I need: part time English teacher, part time ski instructor, part time freelance writer, part time coach and tour guide. Yet I worry constantly that I won’t be able to cover myself next month. Trying to control the uncontrollable feels defeating.
And so goes the rest of the story, trying to control my life and know where I’m headed. I feel powerless most days, not knowing what my romantic or friend relationships will be tomorrow, or if I will ever have the things I have dreamed about my whole life like a house and garden or family of my own. I worry that the children in my life will somehow vanish at the hands of their parents or disinterest. I wish I could put in Google Calendar the dates I would like all my dreams to happen and magically my stable dream life will appear. But today reminded me that the more I try to control the past or the future, the less power I have. I feel powerless because, ironically, I can’t let go of control.
I take consolation now in knowing I cannot control where my relationships or jobs or dreams will go, but instead that this moment and the next are all I need to care about. It really comes down to just one other word: fear. I fear putting my heart into a world that might take away again. I fear if I do not wrangle with the powers that be, that nothing I desire will come to me. But my lesson is just simply this: less control and being more present will allow me the one thing I want most: to live happily.