My parents are moving. Right now they’re packing everything down, cleaning out after four generations of lived life. My great-grandfather built the place, dug up every stone by hand alongside my then very young grandfather. More than 100 years of family history is being sorted, while all the stuff gets distributed among the closest relatives and their families. Last night my mum told me she could just not throw away my grandfather’s first typewriter. She also told me she found my old baby teeth.
It’s been 14 years since I moved away from home. 14 years and 12 new homes. Compared to the seemingly static life on a farm in Northern Norway, I guess you could call mine more nomadic. The place where I currently live with my family, the red house a small ferry ride from Oslo, has been our home for what feels like eons, but in fact it’s only been two and a half years. Time is a tricky friend.
The work my parents are doing at the moment feels so releasing. It feels like they’re healing not only their own and my generation, but many to come. They’re looking at all the stuff, every item and book and typewriter, and taking conscious choices whether to keep or get rid of each and everyone of them.
How often do we stop to take a good look at the content of our lives?
Not just the stuff, but all of it, why we do what we do?
Letting go is ultimately a question of living or dying, or perhaps rather living and dying. Death might be impossible to fully comprehend while we’re still alive, but it is inevitably there, regardless of our thoughts about it. Scary and depressing to some, to me it feels more like a joyful invitation to live.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
I told my mum I didn’t need my old baby teeth, although other things do feel good to keep. A camera from my grandfather. Old books. A set of crystal wine glasses and some lovely red dotted coffee cups. Stuff that makes me happy and feel good. Unless they don’t anymore. And if they don’t, there is no hesitation. Baby teeth, books and cups with dots — the most important gift I want to give my children is a life lived by heart. Naked, and by heart.
(Photo: Ivar Seip, from the family farm)