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.