The other night I sorted books I own into two piles: books to keep (10%) and books not to keep (90%). It’s one step in the process of giving away nearly everything I own.
To a certain extent, I’m doing it to “wipe the slate clean.” Letting go of physical objects that have been with me for several years, like books, symbolically represents the process of moving into a new phase of my life.
Over the years I’ve highlighted and underlined quotes in books that left an impression. I also wrote notes in the margins. Some books have changed me from start to finish, and in that way they’re part of me. But what’s interesting is now when I look through quotes I underlined or notes I wrote, I don’t remember doing so. If I hadn’t underlined them, I’d read them now as if I never had before. Yet still I’m a different person because of them. I have and will continue to carry the impact with me even though I’m losing the physical container that initially delivered that impact.
It’s the same idea that has helped me overcome the pain that often comes with letting go in general.
You see, wiping the slate clean is a deceptive phrase because a slate is never truly blank.
Along my journey I have let go time and time again, like we all have, of relationships, jobs, pieces of myself, dreams, friendships, and more. Life is a constant process of moving on.
Something physical initially impacts our lives. New relationships or new jobs are tangible influences, for example. People, jobs, identities, dreams, and physical objects filter in and out of our lives, but we're not completely without them when they leave. Even though they’re no longer physically present, we continue to carry their lasting, invisible impact because they become part of our sacred stories.
Our lives are like painted canvases. We can’t remove colors or brush strokes from the piece of art we’re creating. We can only continue to add to it. It is an ever-evolving masterpiece that is permanently changed by the experiences of the past.