He always used to tell me that I was too attached to “things”. Clothes, shoes, books, cars, furniture, etc. All those “things” that I used to define myself, and my life.
It was different for him. His family had lost pretty much everything they owned. Twice. The first time in a military coup, where the only things that were left were some of his mom’s jewellery which they had hidden in a plastic bag in the toilet bowel. No joke. And the second time when they moved to Canada with 6 suitcases for four people. My books alone wouldn’t fit in six suitcases.
He also lost a brother, who at the age of 18 died of heart disease. He lost two grandparents in six months. He lost his own innocence when the responsibility of looking after his family fell on his shoulders.
He’d been through a lot. I get it. And with all the accumulation and then loss of so many “things”, he often stressed that I would probably be a lot more relaxed (read: happier) if I could just let go of my attachments to things.
“Anne, they’re just THINGS. They aren’t what’s important. PEOPLE are important. RELATIONSHIPS are important. Being at peace within is important. You can’t get that from your attachments. In fact, your attachments will make it harder to find. LET GO. Let Go. let go.”
I know he was right. Intellectually, I get it. But emotionally, I still can’t let go of all of these “things”. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why. It makes no sense. If intellectually, and even spiritually, I can understand why these attachments will always hold me back, why can’t I just let go?
The past week gave me a couple of good lessons in this. First, it was the pen.
The first gift he ever gave me was a Lamy fountain pen, for my birthday, three weeks after we met. I had mentioned to him a couple of weeks before how much I love fountain pens, and I still have that pen, to this day. Over the course of our relationship, he gave me several other pens, nicer, and more expensive. My favourite one was the Pelikan. I loved that pen. It had a nib that was perfectly suited to my writing style.
Last week, I lost that Pelikan. Actually, I think it was stolen from my bag. But either way, it’s gone.
I was so upset. So, so, upset. Partly, because it was such a beautiful pen, and not the kind of thing I would go out and buy for myself. And also, because it is one of the few physical things I have left of that relationship. When I left, I didn’t take many physical things with me. But I took all of my pens. To lose one was heartbreaking.
I called him and told him. I was hoping for a little sympathy, and understanding. He knew how important those pens were to me, and what they meant to me in terms of our relationship. I don’t know what I was thinking. He said it gently, and kindly. But it was the same story I’ve heard a thousand times, “it was just a ‘thing’. Let it go. It’s not memories. It’s not our relationship. Let go of attachments.”
Today, I let go of something else. I took my engagement ring to a jeweller to get the stone reset into a necklace. I guess it’s only half letting go, since I’m keeping the diamond. But it wasn’t easy to leave the ring and know it wouldn’t be there when I got back. But I knew it was time. I want to wear it when I run the half marathon on May 11. I want to stop thinking about the first time he gave it to me, at the Rainbow Room in New York City. I want to stop thinking about the second time he gave it to me, on a quiet Sunday night at home. I want to stop trying it on with my wedding band, and feeling sad because it looks so beautiful, and then having to put it away again.
I know they’re just things. I KNOW. But it’s hard.