The Gravity of Not Letting Go

Gravity movie poster

The Gravity of Not Letting Go

“The key to be able to let go of all the stuff you are holding on to is knowing that you’ll be okay if you don’t have it.”

– John C. Parkin

I watched the movie, “Gravity,” over the weekend. Love it! I saw it when it first came out in 2013. In fact, I intended to write a blog about it then but never got around to it. But an awful lot has changed in my life – and the world – in those seven years.

When I first saw the movie (I remember watching it in the cute little movie theatre in Sidney, BC where I used to live), the message that jumped out at me then was the reminder to never give up.

If you’ve seen the film, you may recall the scene where the Sandra Bullock character, Dr. Ryan Stone, has just turned down the oxygen levels in her little space capsule in an effort to speed up the process of her clearly imminent death. She has given up on trying to get back to earth. Though she has managed to overcome every other challenge up to that point, the next step she faces seems impossible. Not only has she seemingly run out of options, she has now lost hope.

But then, as she starts to lose consciousness because of the lack of oxygen, her colleague in space, Matt, played by George Clooney – who supposedly died after saving her – suddenly appears outside her window…and then proceeds to open the door! No, don’t! Sandra isn’t wearing a space suit! She’ll die!

But wait…how can this be?! Did George somehow survive, floating around in space for hours with no oxygen?

No!

It is his soul who has come for a visit in Sandra’s imagination, to save her yet again – this time with some sage advice on a different way of getting herself back to earth.

For there is always more than one way to achieve a goal. The key is to never give up trying. Click To Tweet

But I digress…

That was the message I got when I watched the movie seven years ago. Which, I might add, I did apply to my own life – both in terms of my writing AND finally getting the heck out of my rat-infested, ridiculously noisy home in Sidney.

However, the message I took from “Gravity” this time around was the importance of letting go.

If you have seen the movie, you may also recall the earlier heartbreaking scene where Sandra is holding on to George for dear life. She is dangling in space by one foot, precariously still attached to the space station by a single tether. He is attached to her by a harness that has a clasp. He tells her she HAS to let him go. They can’t both survive. But if she lets go of him, she has a slim chance of surviving. Yet she refuses to let go.

To which he says, “You are going to have to learn how to let go.”

But of course, he is not just referring to the physical predicament they currently find themselves in. He is also referring to the fact that since her 4-year-old daughter died years before, she hasn’t lived. Rather, she has simply existed: gone to work, drove around for hours after work, gone home to bed, then woke up the next day and did it all over again.

Still, Sandra refuses to let George go. So he makes the decision for her and undoes the clasp…then floats off into space to die a peaceful death, watching his beloved sunrise.

And Sandra is left to save herself…in more ways than one.

Of course, if you are a reader who is somewhat familiar with my personal story, you may see a parallel or two to my experience of losing my husband, John, and having to learn to stand on my own two feet and, eventually, create a happy new life without him.

For the time comes when, regardless of the loss we experience, we must choose to truly live again…not merely exist. Click To Tweet

But that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about letting go…of STUFF. For after watching the movie on Friday night, I proceeded to spend the majority of yet another precious weekend working my way through the mountain of boxes in my garage.

How do we accumulate so much stuff? Why do we? Why is it so damn difficult to let things go? And how can it be that even after giving away dozens and dozens of boxes to the thrift store, I STILL have piles of boxes filled with stuff that I just can’t seem to let go of?

Well, this past weekend I think I may have found my answer.

When I relaxed enough to slow down and start paying attention to the process, I began to realize that a good chunk of the “stuff” I was still holding on to was, in fact, treasures: favourite photos in frames, photo albums, scrapbooks, letters, memorabilia.

I began to pay attention to what made me smile. What made me sad? What prompted no emotion at all, other than confusion – as in: “What IS this?” (in which case, it was easy to toss)

When our material possessions weigh us down, we need to let them go. Click To Tweet

The gravity of holding on to things we no longer need or want (or perhaps never did need or want) but are hanging on to out of some sort of weird sense of guilt or obligation to the person who gave us the item, the person we were when we bought it ourselves, or the person (or pet) the item reminds us of, can be detrimental to our well-being.

As such, I am letting go of many things. But some items I have no interest of letting go of. Every time I see it, I smile. But if I unwrap the item and roll my eyes at seeing it AGAIN, then it is time to let it go. And I do.

I would love to hear your experience of letting go of stuff.

What is in your boxes of keepsakes? Do you have boxes of items that you know you need to go through and get rid of? Or is the stuff you wish to keep nicely organized in an out-of-the-way place…but easily accessible should you wish to take a peek, on a rainy Saturday afternoon?

Because here’s what else I’m noticing: the happy memories that surface when I look at some of the old photos and mementos are reminding me of what an incredible life I have lived…still am living. Truth be told, I should probably have taken a page from Sandra Bullock’s character and worked more! There’s been no shortage of FUN for this cowgirl in the past 52 years 😊

This pandemic has given me the gift of time to go through many of the boxes and get rid of more things I don’t want, as well as better organize the boxes of items I do wish to keep. So when a future rainy Saturday afternoon calls for a short trip down memory lane, I look forward to pouring myself a cup of tea and doing just that.

In the meantime, here are a few fun photos of what was unearthed (briefly) in this past weekend’s treasure hunt:

 

My brownie uniform!

 

L to R: Kristin, Colleen & MA as The Three Amigos

 

MA at the Taj Mahal, India, 2003

Thanks for reading, take care & have a great week!

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To receive her weekly blog, Weekly Words of Wisdom, please sign up here.

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15 thoughts on “The Gravity of Not Letting Go”

  1. Oh Maryanne I am so proud of you. I know your garage and the boxes.
    I have some groceries in that garage.
    But….I have a whole two bedroom storage unit filled to the brim…filled with all the furniture, piano, etc. etc. and pay $320.00 per month. My kids think I should get rid of it but I keep thinking I’ll find a place in which to live and will use it all again. Do you have advice? The STUFF is all stuck together with the chesterfields hanging sideways… So do you have suggestions? I don’t know how to sell the stuff on my own. Hugs, Louise

  2. My issue is with the myriad of books I am ready to let go of but nobody will want. The thought of throwing them away is very painful to me, even though I know I will probably not ever crack the cover of them again. Another group of stuff is furniture. Believe it or not, a lot of the furniture I possess has memories and stories attached to them. It is amazing how each person has different attachments for different reasons. Lots of stories with this subject of learning to let go.

  3. This subject really resonated with me. After moving many times over the years, we have seemed to carry a lot of extra boxes of stuff around with us. It seems we hadn’t marked in our calendar, time to spend going through the boxes that we’d been carting around. This article is a great reminder for those of us, that have the same issue. Thanks for sharing and the challenge that came along with the article.

  4. Loved this blog post! I have downsized my living space and therefore my possessions, over the last number of years. Limited storage space means I don’t have the luxury to hold onto ‘things’ anymore. I repeat the following to myself during purge sessions and then it becomes so much easier to let go: The most important things in life aren’t things.

  5. That is a very good mantra, Shan! It’s hilarious because I have some of the stuff YOU purged years ago…but I love it & find it very handy!!

    Living in a smaller space is definitely helpful in getting rid of stuff. My office in my new place is small so it was the perfect time to get rid of all the old files that I no longer needed.

    Take care & see ya…someday!
    MA

  6. Hi Deborah! Glad this article resonated with you. I had been feeling very overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of going through the boxes (but just on weekends) but the more I get done, the lighter I feel. Not that I am getting rid of everything…rather: I am very aware of what I am choosing to keep AND storing it in a way that feels right. I want to feel peaceful when I look in my garage…not have a panic attack and close the door again as fast as possible!

    Take care and I hope you guys are doing well. I think of you often 🙂
    ma

  7. Regarding the books, can you take them to a used book store? They will probably take them. Since our book stores are still closed due to the pandemic, I have been taking a book a day to my little local lending library box in my neighbourhood. It is quite the busy little lending library…books are coming & going from that every day! Some duds sit there, unloved, for a few weeks. But more often than not I will drop in a book one day and the next day it is gone.

    As for furniture, I totally understand the memories & stories that are attached to them. SO true!

    Hugs to you, my friend 🙂
    love ma

  8. Yes…I DO have a box or two of your groceries in my garage. But don’t worry…they are just fine where they are. And I know I will never starve to death 🙂

    Yikes…$320 a month to hold on to stuff you may never use again! Wow…that’s tough. I guess the big question you have to ask yourself is: do you think you will ever have your own place again? If you honestly think you will and plan on making that happen in the next 1 to 2 years, then perhaps stay the course…but start making plans as to HOW you are going to make that happen. But if you don’t think you’ll have your own place again, then you might be wise to make plans to get some friends & family together, go to that storage locker and go through it. Toss, recycle, give away to the thrift store.Just keep a few boxes of your absolute favourite treasures.

    The answer will come 🙂
    love ma
    PS You could sell some stuff on-line such as furniture…but that might be more trouble than it’s worth. Some people are very good at selling stuff on-line. But not me!

  9. Well…now that you have WON the Makeover Challenge (YAY!!!) you may have some time again to start going through & getting rid of some of your stuff. Maybe try a box a day to start…you may find you are able to do more once you get going 🙂
    ma

  10. This comment came in via e-mail:

    I have stuff, crap, I need to recycle and purge. But we often have to let go of what we thought we’d be doing at certain ages. Or
    perceptions we have that no longer are accurate. Goals that no longer serve us. We need to let go of the expectations, resentments, plans, etc that no longer serve, accept THAT, and make new plans!

  11. As I’ve gotten older the importance of possessions has definitely diminished and I no longer buy very many things and no longer want to own very many things. The guy I’d recommend to people who are having difficulties knowing what to keep and what to get rid of would be Peter Walsh who is a professional organizer and one of the original team members from a television show called Clean Sweep. Every week the show would help someone deal with the clutter and chaos they were experiencing in their lives because their stuff had literally taken over their home. His book, “It’s All Too Much” is a great guide for helping you deal with the clutter in your own life. Or you can check out his website where you can see what other resources, he has available.

    The other thing I really admire about Peter is that he’s all about keeping the stuff that really means something important to you and making it a part of your living space. So for example if you had the World War II medals your dad had worn you could create a memory box with a photograph of your dad when he was in the war and his medals and hang them on your wall to honour your father and keep his memory alive.

    So, in our lives and in our limited time here on earth to me it’s all about how you want to spend your time and I don’t want to spend my time dealing with stuff. I grew up with a father who grew up during the depression and he lived by the philosophy of you never throw anything out because you never know when you’ll need it. The only thing is you have to keep it and store it before you need it and good luck finding it when you need it because it’s under a thousand other things that you didn’t throw out because you never know when you’ll need them. Is that really saving you time and energy? Probably not. Instead of getting rid of things my father simply filled up a huge greenhouse with stuff and then when that was full built more sheds to hold more stuff and in the end he spent years of his life storing a bunch of stuff he never did need.

    And my dad was a good guy he just had a problem throwing stuff out. The unfortunate thing is we are in many ways a product of our parents and our childhood and even though I don’t buy much now I still find it a mental challenge to figure out what and how to get rid of stuff because I always have that idea in the back of my mind that you don’t throw things out because you never know when you’ll need them. But the older I get the easier it is to purge because the time to the grave is much shorter than it once was and I think when we face our own mortality it gives us greater clarity about what we want to keep and what we want to do with our time.

    And I totally get the emotional attachment to things from our past. Particularly things that were given to us by a loved one or things that we might have purchased during a particular time in our lives. Those things can be more of a challenge to know what to do with. I think for me it’s deciding on how much space in my life both physical and mental I want to give that stuff.

    One of the things I remember from an episode of Clean Sweep was when Peter had a bookshelf built and the shelf could hold fifty books let’s say and the person they were helping had a lot more books than fifty books but they had to give up all but fifty of the books. And they did. And the lesson was when you get more than fifty books then you have to get rid of one. You don’t build another shelf. You don’t create a pile of books on your bedside table. You don’t put the books in a drawer. In a box. In the garage. Because if you do that you’ll find yourself with a hundred books or two hundred books and it will just grow and grow and grow. I’m using books as an example and I know some people say things like – it’s not clutter if it’s books but books are no different than any other object in your life. They can give you joy or they can overwhelm you. The thing is if you want a hundred books then create the space for one hundred books but once you get one hundred and one books – one of the books has to go.

    Anyway, I am far from being where I want to be as far as getting rid of all the clutter goes so I understand what a challenge it can be. And I get the fun of digging into the past and remembering bits of our lives. Maybe a memory chest would be a great idea. You know a big cedar chest we fill with things from our past that on a rainy day in April we can open up and with our cup of tea dive into and remember the people and places we’ve been. And then every so often we can add a new item to our memory chest and sometimes maybe we take one out and give it away.

  12. LOVE the idea of the memory chest!!! Thank you so much for your great feedback & suggestions & ideas, James. Judging by the feedback on this blog, I suspect clutter & too much STUFF is a real issue for people over the age of 50 🙂

    I really liked your comment about you thinking about how much time & space you want to give the things in your life. So true…very good question. The way I have my home now I absolutely love…it is pretty minimal. The odd bookshelf here & there with some books, etc. But I am really happy with how pretty it looks and how spacious it feels. It is just the boxes in the garage I am still struggling with. But that, too, is slowly starting to become a better space…boxes and all.

    But as you say, the emotional attachment to things & the memories that objects & photographs bring to the surface is pretty wild. However…I am finding this decluttering process to be really helpful to my writing! All the memories getting stirred up seem to be conducive to creativity.

    Take care,
    MA

  13. MA, I have an entire basement full of 60 years of memorabilia, including over 10,000 slides. The process is slow, but I’m doing a little bit each weekend when I get time. Now that I know empty Amazon boxes can be repurposed to send useful items to the Salvation Army at Amazon’s expense, my sorting and purging has even more meaning.

    As always, thank you for the inspiration, my friend.

    TR

  14. Hi Tim! Oh – that is very good to know about Amazon and the Salvation Army. I am going to look into that. That’s great that you are getting through all the memorabilia in your basement, just a bit at a time on weekends.

    That seems to be the key…just chip away at it on the weekend. When I head back into my garage this weekend, I am going to limit the time I spend sorting & purging so I don’t exhaust myself. I keep wanting to get it DONE! But if I can do 2-3 hours on Sat & Sun’s for the next few weekends, I will be in really good shape. I am not going to tackle photographs (sorting & putting in albums) until the fall/winter.

    All the best with getting your 10,000 slides organized. Yikes! That makes me feel better 🙂
    Take care,
    MA

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