21,379 days. Sunrises, sunsets, rainy days, days of bone chilling cold, hot, dry dusty days with a scorching sun. Days spent living and working. 21,379 days. That was the span of time of Greg Devlin’s life. Fifty-eight years, 6 months, and 11 days. Greg was my wife’s oldest brother. He passed away a little over a year ago. During Christmas break a month after his death, we spend several days in Texas sorting through the remnants of his life. He had spent the last 30 years of his life living and working in his shop building in a small community south of Fort Worth, where he had a local HVAC repair business. Along with my wife’s other remaining sibling, we tried to decide what to keep, what to donate, what to sell, and what to throw away. At times, it was overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. I felt like I was sharing in a type of sacred space as I watched Teri and her brother Jim uncover memories of their brother; some old birthday card or old photograph. Homemade Christmas ornaments, stacks and stacks of albums, 8 track tapes and CD’s. At one point Teri and I sat in a couple of simple old kitchen chairs and cranked up his stereo system and sat and listened to some classic rock. Teri cried and I tried to imagine all the memories flooding her mind and flowing out in her tears.
As the trash bags accumulated and the donation piles grew, I couldn’t help but think about all of my possessions I have accumulated. What will my family do with my stuff when I am gone? What will they keep? What will they throw away? What will they discard that I was sure would be important and irreplaceable? What items might they cling to that I have never considered important?
While I have spent the last 8 years trying to declutter my life and to let go of what I really don’t need and being intentional with anything I am thinking of buying, I still have too many possessions. There are still some things that I need to let go of.
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”― Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Other Writings
As we approach the end of another school year, we have a chance to celebrate this ending, and to let go of what no longer serves us. Think of it as a type of reset. Especially after what a tumultuous time the pandemic has been and continues to be. I know there is much written about the futility of setting New Year’s Resolutions. I have replaced resolutions and goals with intentions. Intentions are more about how I want to live my life each day: to be present, to be mindful rather than mind full. To nurture relationships, to explore ideas, to ground my core values with how I show up at work and with my friends and family. These intentions relate to both my professional life and my personal life. In fact, I have tried to be more integrative in my life and not be as compartmentalized. What I am doing professionally should reflect my personal values and passions just as much as my personal time. It is a question of not only what do you want to possess and accumulate, but how to you want to spend your most precious possession, your time.
It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants.— Henry David Thoreau
The question is: What are we busy about?
I think the pandemic has created the space and is giving us (and our organizations) a chance to be intentional with our activities. We can try and make space for what matters most, our relationships. As much as new beginnings offer a chance to try new things, it just as importantly offers us the space to let go of what is no longer serving us. Simplify.
Declutter your office and your business plans. Simplify. Rather than just thinking about what to do, reflect on what to stop doing. Learning to let go is not easy. We cling to our possessions, to unhealthy relationships, to unnecessary activities. What we possess ends up possessing us.
Twenty-one thousand, three hundred and seventy-nine days. Make each day matter. Make each relationship matter. Live with intention and simplicity. Have a safe weekend!