My relatives like to give gifts. I come from a gift-giving family.
What this has meant over my life is that I’ve received a LOT of gifts which I’ve felt pressured by my family to keep and look after. I’ve done so meticulously. As the only daughter in the family I’ve also been the recipient of anything designated an heirloom.
I’ve received everything from dinnersets to diamond rings. While it’s all beautiful stuff, and much of it quite valuable I suppose, it has become an albatross around my neck.
Yes, I keep coming back to that albatross, don’t I?
Because I never asked for any of this stuff to come to me. I didn’t ask for any of it. Worse still, because it was all heirlooms and belonged to people who are important to me and meant something special to them, I felt like I couldn’t sell it. Often I felt like I couldn’t even use it.
What if I broke a cake plate of Aunty Grace’s fifty year old afternoon tea set? What if I wore Grandma’s diamond ring and the stone came loose and was lost?
I’d never forgive myself.
I had not only my own lifetime’s worth of stuff piled upon me, but everyone else’s stuff piled on me too. It weighed me down. It felt heavy. Maybe right now you’re thinking how fortunate I am to have inherited and been given beautiful things, and how ungrateful I am to not appreciate them. I do appreciate them, really I do. Or I tried to.
But everywhere I went, the stuff had to go with me. I had to insure it. I had to transport it. I had to worry over it. I had to store it. I had to buy furniture for it to house it. It stopped being gifts and started being a curse a long, long time ago.
“I’ve realised the only person who could free me from my family’s expectations was myself.”
So this year, after a long time reflecting on it all, I decided that it was time for my family’s mathoms and I to part ways.
If you love someone, let them go
It has been hard to let all these things, this stuff, go. I felt guilt the first time I sold a teapot at a Trash and Treasure that my mother gave me. I didn’t want it, I’d never wanted it, but she’d given it to me anyway. When she found out it was gone she was very hurt, and the guilt I felt was awful. I felt like I’d failed her – over a teapot!
I’ve been working through all these emotions and guilt associated with all this stuff and I’ve come to understand that whether my family dump guilt on me for getting rid of all this stuff or not, it’s not fair or reasonable for them to do so. It was all given to me, I’ve offered it all back and it’s been refused, so as far as I’m concerned it’s going out the door.
If you love someone, you can’t love them with strings attached. You can’t make them guilty over teapots.
Everyone makes decisions we don’t agree with. That’s what people do. Deal with it.
Finding my own freedom
I feel better now these heirlooms and gifts have started to move on to new homes. The only things I’m keeping are items of use and items I find personally beautiful and meaningful. I’m simplifying my life and the amount of possessions I own, and I feel like I’m opening the doors and windows to a very musty, dark old room for the first time in a long, long while.
I feel like a weight has lifted from my shoulders. I’ve realised that the only person who could free myself from my family’s expectations was myself. They couldn’t free me. I had to do it.
Letting go can be difficult, but the freedom and sense of lightness is so worth it.