I am a purported expert in change and personal growth; that’s the work I do with patients, and what I lecture and write about. I say that growth has nothing to do with adding on; it’s always about letting go. Alas, it’s always easier to tell others how to welcome shedding their skins than it is for me to do it myself. Letting go of the old and familiar is a necessary prerequisite for growth, but it’s hard to do because no matter how much we may know we have to move on, it always makes us feel vulnerable, which can inspire fear.
I want to make some lifestyle changes, because racing through airports with such frequency is getting tedious. I want to be doing more of the things I really want to do: play more, join my fly-fishing brothers on the Pere Marquette during the salmon spawn, finish my next book, and organize a community mental health program that will serve as an antidote to today’s anorexia of the soul. I want to accompany my friend Brad Keeney to Botswana and dance with the Kalahari Bushman, clown with Patch Adams in the jungles of Ecuador, and teach smaller, retreat-based groups of healthcare professionals how to expand their healing power.
This could all be done if I changed my lifestyle and downsized my palatial home of 36 years. It’s too big for the two of us and is getting more burdensome to maintain; the thought of leaving, however, is not easy for me. Our home has been the ceremonial center for three generations. Every tree and bush is rooted in soil in which the afterbirths of my grandchildren have been buried. The sweat lodge has been continuously used for decades. This home has been the scene I imagine when I go to my meditative place of peace.
Although I know this decision will free me up to move proactively into my future, there are times I wake up weeping. At those times, I tell myself that we are only leaving the place, not the heart and soul of what we have celebrated here. And I remember what my Native relatives have taught me: that nothing really belongs to us except us, we come with nothing and whatever we accumulate we will leave behind. What we keep forever is the love which gives our life meaning, the discovery of joy in each other, the joy of challenge and of growth.
I keep telling myself I’m shedding my skin to accommodate new growth, and it seems to me good practice for the shedding still to come. I know it’s all about letting go and taking with us only the certainty that we have loved well, but Friday they planted the For Sale sign out front, and Saturday I woke up with tears.