Letting Go in the New Year

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Dear Kristin,

Last week we talked about some things we’d like to accomplish in 2023 and how we’re going to accomplish them. This week I thought we could talk about the things we’re not going to accomplish. What are some dreams, obligations and weights we’re going to let go of this year?

Here’s my list (so far):

One: I’m letting go of my big garden dreams. This is not to say I’m not going to have a garden. A summer without tomatoes is a summer without … summer. Without tomato sandwiches and tomato pie and tomatoes sliced up fresh off the vine and eaten as I stand at the kitchen counter. There will always be tomatoes growing in my backyard from May until September, and there will be basil as well, because I love pesto and tomato and basil pizza. There will always be blueberries, too, since we have 12 blueberry bushes, and in a month or two, we’ll be planting six blackberry bushes. So, yes, I will have a garden.

But it won’t be a garden that feeds the family. It won’t be a garden that will save us should supply lines shut down. It won’t be the garden of a self-sufficient farmer, although every year, I dream of such a garden. Nearly ten years ago, I attempted to grow such a garden. It was beautiful, and I loved it. I even grew winter wheat (not much, and it only yielded a couple of cups of wheat). 

Please note the corn stalks–which were blown over by a big wind just as the corn was getting ripe. Such a heartbreak!

The problem is, growing your own food takes time. Lots of time. And preserving food takes even more time. Plus, you have to be comfortable with a pressure cooker, and I’m barely comfortable with a Cuisnart. All this to say, I’ve given up on the urban farmer life. But every year, I think: Maybe this year I’ll try again. I should try again! I order seed catalogs. I make plans. And then … I just don’t have the time or the energy for it. So this year, I’m going to keep my garden ambitions small. Along with the blackberries, I want to plant strawberries. And of course, tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes and lots and lots of basil. But that’s it. And that’s okay. I can let the dream of the big garden go, at least for 2023.

Two: I am going to give up my search for a church home. I’ve been a part of several congregations over the years, and I enjoyed having a church life. But politics became a problem. One church I attended veered sharply to the right after Obama was elected (it was somewhat conservative to begin with, certainly more conservative than I, but Obama seemed to really throw the pastorate into a tizzy). The next church lost it over Trump and each week there were new messages about the evil of white men. Eventually, I’d had enough and stopped going. 

I wasn’t the only one who left these churches. A lot of people did. And like me, a lot of the church leavers I know never found a new place to land. Frankly, I’ve kind of lost the heart for church. Every time I think, maybe I’ll give St. So & So a try, I’m filled with a sense of dread at getting involved with a new church community–what if it doesn’t work out? So this year, I’m going to give up. I’ll do my morning prayers and my evening prayers, and maybe from time to time I’ll go to the Lutheran church up the road and take communion. But I need to let the search for a new home church go for a while. 

Three: I’m going to let go of my dream of a new couch. I can’t think of the last time we bought new furniture. Clifton and I are great at shopping for art, and we have no problem in investing in our extracurricular activities (quilting for me, photography for him), but when it comes to furniture? That’s a whole ‘nother level of retail. First you have to figure out what you want and how it would fit in, and then you have to find a place to buy it and make plans for it to be delivered and arrange for the old stuff taken away … It’s not that we’ve never done it; we have picked up pieces here and there. But there are a couple of rooms in our house that could use complete overhauls, furniture-wise, and you know what? I don’t really feel like doing it–not right now as we’re starting a big, new project (the Quilt Fiction Story Guild), and I’ve got lots of other absorbing work on my plate. Still, I’ll often look at the old leather couch in the front room and think, ‘We ought to get a new couch. This one is past its prime.’ It’s a thought that leads to a hundred more thoughts about what else needs updating and upgrading, and ultimately it stresses me out.

Then the other day, I thought, ‘What if I just let the idea of a new couch go? What if we never get a new couch, or any new furniture, ever again? Would our lives be the worse for it?’ I immediately felt so much better. I’m not saying we’ll never buy new furniture; I’m sure we will. But for this year, I don’t want to think about it, so I’m letting my dreams of getting a new couch go.

How about you, Kristin? What are you going to give up for 2023?

xo, Frances

P.S I just pulled out a ratty, tatty (but clean) dish towel from under the sink and thought a good corollary topic to this one could be “Things I Should Let Go Of But Never Will, Such As This Pathetic-Looking Dish Towel.”

Dear Frances,

What an interesting topic to think about! It’s a hard one for me because I want to do all the things! Let something go? Never! But you’re right, January is a great time to think about pruning since it’s so easy to just keep adding and adding things to our ever-growing list.

I love your list, and I’m going to borrow from it.

First up: The backyard. Not only am I letting go of my big garden dreams, but I’m also letting go of trying to figure out what to do with the backyard now that California is basically in a permanent drought. Twenty-three years ago, we relandscaped the backyard to have big, cottage garden style borders in addition to our lawn. We had quite an ambitious vegetable garden as well (our best years were built on the Square Foot Garden method). It may not have been Better Homes and Gardens worthy, but I loved our backyard and spent a lot of time there with the kids when they were little, picking sugar snap peas and blackberries (you are going to love having blackberries in your garden!). Since we have nice weather for most of the year here, I spend many hours reading, sewing, and knitting in my favorite swing chair. It’s my favorite place to be. Having a backyard retreat was an absolute lifesaver during lockdown.

We loved growing bean teepees back when the kids were little.

Every spring we take stock of the plants we need to replace, and what we want to add to improve the space. Until last year. It was announced that we basically had to back off watering to one day a week. After a couple months of that, we made the decision to let the lawn die and save the water for the borders. The reality is that this style of landscaping really isn’t sustainable anymore, and we need to rethink the whole situation. There are big decisions to be made about ripping up the lawn (what about the dogs?), irrigation, whether or not to keep a vegetable garden, and so many other things! I am letting go of even worrying about that this year. Maybe it’s something to tackle in 2024, but maybe I’ll kick it down the road even further.

I miss the mix of veggies and flowers in our garden. I also miss our cat, Tiger.

Two: Finding a job that has “meaning”. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Besides being a mother, I never really figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. After college, worked for ten years in marketing for a software company, and it was fine, but I didn’t love it. Then I quit to be a stay-at-home mom and that is really where I place my identity (which could be a problem now that the kids are grown). Once it was time to go back to work, for financial reasons, I ended up back at the same company, doing the same job. I was very grateful for that job, because between the years of 1998 and 2011, let’s just say the world of marketing looked a lot different! I was lucky to slide back into the workforce and spend some time catching up to how technology and social media changed the industry. I figured that I still had many working years ahead of me and spent a lot of time trying to find a career that I not only loved, but I felt was contributing to society. (As an Enneagram 2, I really should have looked for a “helper” career like a teacher, counselor, or something in the medical field.)

I’m over ten years back in the workforce, and I eventually launched my own little marketing company (still in the same industry as I started out in), and I enjoy it. It’s not a deep and meaningful job. But you know what? I help small businesses with something that used to frustrate them, I get to be creative and learn new skills. I get the opportunity to write and brainstorm big ideas. It’s not saving the world, and it’s not leaving a lasting impression on anyone, but I make a decent living from it. I’m letting go of the idea that a job needs to be my identity. It provides the money I need to live the life I want and afford my expensive hobbies (like quilting!). Honestly, it’s a relief to let that go!

I don’t want to steal all your ideas, but I sure hear you on finding a new church home. Lockdown broke my “going to church” habit for me, and I need to address that at some point as well. Enough said.

Thanks for making me think about this, I feel lighter already!

xo, Kristin

P.S. I challenge you to a rattiest dishcloth contest! I have some that I embroidered many years ago and they will never be thrown away–no matter how many holes!

  • Robin Leftwich

    I think I’m going to give up on being able to just go somewhere, just me, to do whatever I want and whatever I can dream up. I realize I am a caretaker and nurturer and I will always be a caregiver and nurturer, and that that’s not a bad thing.
    I am NOT going to give up the impossible dream of quilting all my pieced tops, but I a, going to give up the concept of hand quilting them all. I found a place near me that teaches and rents long arm time, and am excited about learning that. It counts as finishing your own quilt, right?
    Love your topics, they really make me think!

  • Vicki Holloway

    I love this!! I have given up in several things that don’t work for me

    1. Eating every meal in the dining room. It’s a special occasion place
    2. Keeping a picture perfect home and overcleaning it
    3. Going to church, same reasons as Frances , however we have found a church that I attend virtually mostly to listen to our son lead worship.
    4. I won’t be able to pay off all of my and our kids student loans
    5. Letting go of being productive
    6. Letting go of doing a dear jane quilt and just finish with what I have
    7. The idea that laundry and dishes will be completely done
    8. Having to be up, dressed and chores being done before 9 am. It’s noon now

    It’s so liberating to let these ideas go!

  • Tracie

    Just this week I touched up the paint in our two guest rooms and declared the job done. We moved into this house over two years ago, filled all the nail holes, and stopped. I couldn’t decide on a new color and I dislike painting. It feels so liberating to say the SW French Moire is just fine.

    Have you heard of Swedish death cleaning? “Once you reach the end of middle age (or sooner if you feel like it, or later if you’re late to the exercise), you get rid of all the stuff you’ve accumulated that you don’t need anymore — so that no one else has to do it for you after you pass.” I‘ve been in the process since 2020, and I’ve been able to bless families of refugees with my surplus. This week I’m parting with small pieces of furniture that don’t fit in this house. After losing parents and grandparents, I don’t want to overwhelm my own children with over-stuffed closets.

    I worked in church communications before we moved, so I saw and heard a lot from people in our congregation: the good, bad, and surprisingly ugly. Thankfully our pastors remained steady and focused on loving our people and community. After moving, my husband and I agreed to take our time finding a church home. We visited online and then in person. We didn’t go back for a second visit right away, and we visited some churches simply to meet our neighbors. We heard a helpful sermon about churches: People need to feel a certain level of trust before there are expectations. Expectations before trust isn’t healthy. Think how long it takes to develop trust … it made us realize that taking time to find the right fit is worthwhile.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on an interesting topic!

  • Audrey

    Such a thought provoking subject this week.

    Even though this is something I gave up late last year, I’ll include it. I gave up the thought that we need to have a guest room. We don’t have children/grandchildren that visit, nor do we often have guests, so why in the world would I save an entire room in our home for the “just in case” visitor? Our solution is to rent a house or hotel room when we do have company. (Our treat) We live in a touristy area and this makes it fairly easy to do.

    Another thing I’m hoping to work on is the need to find the next “in craft” to attempt. I love knitting and quilting and I’m going to concentrate on pursuing those hobbies. Something I’m letting go of this year is making quilts larger than lap size. I’ve given all the quilts I want to give at this point and will try to make some wallhangings and seasonal things to hang on our front door. It will be satisfying and enough.

    Thanks for another interesting blog post.

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