"The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it." ~ Diana Vreeland
Today my mom began the slow and sometimes painful process of emptying. My mom is an extremely skilled collector, meaning that she never, ever gets rid of anything or anyone. She likes to be surrounded, with things, with people. It gives her comfort and she's always had in mind that eventually someday she'd get to that magazine, or that book, or that craft project or conversation she was meaning to have. And someday she'll get to some of them, but truthfully, she won't ever get through all of it. There is 35 years of stuff in her house and today it was time for a good chunk of that stuff to go.
I've been thinking about this process of emptying, wiping the slate clean, and beginning again. It's a task best done often and thoroughly. It's amazing what piles up in our homes, lives, and minds. Even in our writing. I've tried to approach my own process of emptying with an attitude of elegance. Consider modern design, of anything really. Clean lines, simplicity, removing the unnecessary so the necessary can speak. I'm trying not to think of it as throwing out, but making room to breath and to move.
While on the surface all this emptying sounds like it would be a great relief, as if a huge weight has been lifted from us, I must confess that in some ways it is a bitter sweet relief. My mom had to let go of a lot of memories in order to make that room in her home. She had to recognize that certain parts of her life are gone. It's a brave thing she did - to let go. There are so many people who never do that, who can never face up to the fact that life is moving by at a very quick pace, and that sometimes there are some things that must be let go of. We can't possibly hang on to it all.
My mom is an elegant woman - she has handled far more than her fair share of obstacles and disappointments. She's suffered huge losses of many things and people, losing some after many hard fought struggles, and through it all she worked hard to keep a face of elegance and grace. She got through it by putting her mind in order and saying that right now she just needs to get from A to B, and tomorrow she'll consider getting to C. We were her first priority always, no matter what, so I guess that made some decisions easier to make. She was never going to do anything that wasn't good for her kids. She is by every definition an elegant mother.
So now as she enters the autumn of her life with a less full home in every sense, she has the room and space to decide how to place what remains. And though now it may look like there are unnatural holes and pockets, my guess is that she will find a way to make it all fit together. By removing what was no longer needed, she uncovered and rediscovered lost treasures and memories and ideas, things that will enrich her life going forward. It will just take some time to get used to.