Unstuffing / by Michelle Cowan

Why do we stuff our lives with so much?  What holes are we trying to fill? Or maybe I should ask why do I stuff my life with so much? 

It's a reaction to a feeling of scarcity I've carried with me for as long as I can remember. It's why I like to save things.  It's why I like to keep in touch with friends for years after our relationships stopped being very meaningful. I don't like to lose things. I mistakenly think that if I let something go, nothing will fill the void.

But something always fills the void.  Something always comes in and fills my life with newness when I let go of the old.  I have to be willing to release things or say no to them from the start.

Lately, too much has been swooping in, and I've been accepting far too much of it. I have to unpack my life.  Much like when I stuff my body with food, if I stuff my life with commitments and activities, I feel sick, tired, and sad.

At first, being incredibly busy feels great, especially when everything I'm doing are things I love. It's hard to say no when the opportunities are all so great. Nevertheless, too much of anything does not equal happiness.  Too much is usually, well, too much.

Why am I becoming more aware of this tendency to stuff?  Meditation. During meditation, I get an acute sense of what it feels like to exist without worry, to not have to do anything. In those moments, I know down deep that I will be okay, even if I achieve nothing or win nothing. Most of the time, I am not worry-free throughout my entire meditation, but in those pockets of serenity, I understand what it means to let go.

Only now, at age 30, am I can beginning to understand letting go at a deeper level.  I barely got to know it as a concrete thing in my 20s.  Before age 26, it was a mythical idea.  Now, I see the deeper necessity of letting go. 

After living on earth long enough (I guess 30 is long enough), we accumulate things and we start choosing what to save. People like me want to hold onto everything, to go back, to keep the old for the future. Everything seems equally meaningful. But in actuality, it's healthiest to release it all and to move forward afresh. It's also healthy to know when my life has hit capacity and to say no to new commitments and things at those times.

Today, I commit to choosing things for my calendar based on my values, not on my fear of not having or being or doing enough. I can make choices that align with what I want to be and what truly matters—not other people, not the world's standards, but instead, my values.

Will you clear you calendar with me?