How do you know when it is time to let go? I recently had a most wonderful experience that has helped me answer that question.
Earlier this week, out of the blue or rather from across the lake, the walkie-talkie crackled to life with the words – Are you going to be home this morning? I’m bringing a friend and coming for a visit.
Guests arrived and didn’t leave for hours. The time flew by. I was introduced to a phenomenal woman named Helen, a university instructor from Perth, Australia who teaches new teachers what to expect when they get into the classroom. Helen does ethno-autobiographical research with Aboriginal youth. We wandered the place inside and out as we talked and talked and talked. So much we shared from our academic lives turned out to be common experiences. We finished each other sentences and had profound moments of being brought near to tears while the next second we were bursting into peals of laughter as we pointed at one another and said, “Yes, yes, exactly.”
In conversation with this vibrant, talented woman, I realized that she was here for a reason. Like scales falling from my eyes, I knew it was time. I jumped up and said, “Come and see the books I have.” We trooped upstairs to a large bookshelf filled with numerous expensive, hardcover research books. My passion in research was methodology and I spent lavishly to have my own copies of the books that mattered on the subject. I stood in front of this book shelf with Helen beside me and waved my hand as I said, “Help yourself to anything you can use.”
The look on her face told me everything. She understood exactly what this gift meant. She appreciated what she was seeing and knew what I was giving. It was an electric moment. At first she struggled to choose as the reality of luggage weight restrictions on her return to Australia filled her thoughts. Soon enough, a plan to ship the books was decided upon. Then it was no holds barred as books flew off the shelf and into a large blue tote.
At one point, Helen held up Denzin and Lincoln’s huge 3rd volume of the Handbook of Qualitative Research and said, “Are you sure you won’t want to refer to this again someday?”
I searched for even the slightest sense of regret. I had called that book my bible. It had meant so much to me at one point in my life. I found no regret. The time was right. Through prolonged conversation with Helen, I understood that research methodology is part of me. All I needed to know on the subject was right where it should be – in my mind and in my experience. Keeping a number of large books on a shelf to prove that to myself was no longer necessary.
In all sincerity, I said, “I feel liberated. I can’t tell you how excited I am to give you these books and know that you will actually use them and thereby enrich the influence you have on so many others.”
As Helen and my friend carried the heavy tote of books down the stairs to the beach, I waited for a sense of regret or loss to seep in. Nothing happened. The boat motor roared to life and soon enough my guests were disappearing into the glare off the lake as they zoomed away. Gone, my precious books with them. Still nothing. I continued to feel great and still do days later.
Long story short – I highly recommend openness to those magical moments when letting go is possible. Whether it be material objects, past experiences or emotional baggage – just do it. My hope is that you will feel as great as I did.
Though I missed meeting Helen, the power of this moment is so wonderful. I know what these books represent to you, and not just 8 or 10 years of your life at UVIC….. qualitative research as you have described it over the years (i.e. the validity and power of story) and the struggle and resistance in the university, educational and scientific environments to shift from mere quantitative research (numbers and standardized methods) as being the only “proper” way to research, discover new truths, and bring about change and transformation. It is not a wonder you ending up a writer of novels Fran… a natural progression. I think we will have to put on our list of retirement goals a trip to Australia to visit Helen. How about that? And we’re one step closer in clearing up some of book shelves!
I’m all for that trip 🙂 Helen quoted me something she had read – if I have only one book shelf clear, I can take a deep breath and know I am on my way to decluttering my life. Sounds good to me.
Dearest Fran and Bruce
The pillows are pumped, the tea is steeped, the pleasure of having you come stay will be all ours.
Happy New Year.
May 2016 be the best one yet!
Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: .
Many thanks, Judith, for the extra exposure 🙂
I need to donate all of my anatomy books to a new medical school that has just opened. The only ones I would save are one for reference and a couple with my name on them. Thanks for reminding me! I’d like to think of the good use they would get by the students!
I’m glad that this post could push that desire to gift away some valuable material, Noelle. I’m sure whoever ends up on the receiving end will be grateful.
It’s just so wonderful to meet with someone you click with immediately. Helen sounds like a fabulous person. I can see why you let go of the books because it isn’t a loss, it’s a gain knowing they will be useful and cherished 🙂
Indeed! I can now more completely out this wonderful woman. Dr. Helen CD McCarthy – Scholarly Teaching Fellow at Curtin University, Perth, Australia. When I wrote this post the other day, I didn’t even know Helen’s last name. Those type of details were certainly not important in the moment.
This is an excellent post, Francis. Filled with meaning on so many levels. When we let go of books or other physical objects, we’re admitting that we’ve moved on. It doesn’t mean we’re denying the importance of a past stage in our life.
People ask me if I still paint, and when I say “no,” they’re puzzled. What happened? Did I stop enjoying it? All I can say is that I enjoyed painting and now I’m doing something else. Both writing and painting require total dedication. In this time of my life I choose to write.
When my sister gave away her belly dancing costumes, she said she’d felt guilty, as though she’d given up. She later realized that she hadn’t given up, she’d just chosen to do something else.
Wonderful examples 🙂 There does seem to be this notion out there floating around that if we move on to other pursuits something was lacking or wrong with what we did previously. It has taken me some time to feel okay with how I’ve moved from one thing to another. I’ve been like your sister and her belly dancing costumes – guilt and wondering about all the paths not stuck to. But that gets in the way of appreciating all the varied paths taken. Moving on works for me and I’m happy to celebrate a milestone in the journey.
…this post I feel especially close to…..as you told me with your own words and breathe about the happiness, openness, connection, and contribution you felt with gifting these books to someone who truly appreciates them…… I, too, have 5-6 books about Public Relations, Media Interaction, Communications Writing, etc…. if you know anyone that could benefit from them… please let me know……. they are hundreds of dollars… but would love to gift to someone that can grow like I did….
Thanks so much for reading my blog and stopping long enough to comment. I’m pleased that my experience resonates. One of the joys of this unburdening is certainly in putting something valuable (personally, emotionally as well as monetarily) into the hands of another you know appreciates what is given. Maybe another is being ready enough to recognize when that person falls right in your lap. Good luck with giving away books. It sure made me feel good.
What a wonderful post about a wonderful example of true giving–giving away things that are so very special to you, to one who will truly use and cherish them! Those books that sit on our shelves always seem to be waiting for just the right person to come along and find them, and when that happens we can let them go, knowing they will provide happiness all over again. Helen will forever be such a person and always remember your terrific generosity. You are a very kind person to do what you did. Thanks for sharing this on your blog, Francis. 🙂
Thanks, Mark. I had seemed that those particular books were crying out for use and then along comes Helen 🙂 Some days, life can be so interesting if we open ourselves to the possibilities.
Well done Fran, a great story. You use the word ‘liberated’. Indeed I’ve found that occasionally questioning one’s long-held positions on various things can lead to jettisoning those positions, and with it comes a blast of wonderfully fresh air. This can only benefit oneself and others around one. No longer circling the wagons allows others in.
No longer circling the wagons – yes! I love that expression and it says exactly what this liberation felt like. Both my granddaughters sang a song in preschool that was all about opening the circle to let other children in because the more people we share with (our time, our toys, our things, ourselves) the better time we will have. Kids have all the best truths.