Over the past five years I have let go of things I’ve loved. The first thing was television. I grew up on American TV from 1948, but I could not stand watching Israeli news delivered by men and women who commented on each item with squints. Moreover, TV watching demanded sitting and, as a writer, I had enough sitting.
I let go of my car, a machine I once imagined was my key to freedom. Whenever I turned on the ignition, I became a monster, fighting for space on the road, swearing at strangers. Walking, riding a bike and taking buses felt healthier. Moreover, driving demanded sitting and I had enough sitting.
Recently I stopped wearing earrings because it took me too long to find the holes that have been in my ears since 1960. I do not enjoy feeling incompetent, so I gave up earrings. No biggie.
I’ve given up all subscriptions to concerts, lectures and gyms. For classes, I only do those I can enter randomly on a ticket with ten entrances. There are always exceptions: “Songwriting” demanded a commitment of fourteen sessions. I complied and didn’t miss one. Should I ever be accepted into a modern dance troupe or rock band, I will sign up for life.
Last week I unsubscribed to thirty-five lists and newsletters that flooded my inbox daily. These mailings once made me feel popular, connected and needed. Lately, they made me feel lost. Without this clutter of upcoming events in Vancouver, Berlin and Hebron, my chances of remembering why I approach the computer in the first place are greatly increased.
I have let go of the belief that western-trained doctors know what is best for me. I go along with such doctors only for diagnostic purposes. Then I turn East. Thus, I stopped taking statins and aspirin. The stars on most of my blood tests fall within the healthy parenthesis. The rebellious, wandering stars get treated with needles, ginger and supplements, and then, only half of the recommended dosage. Naturopaths and acupuncturists have greatly improved my quality of life
Decades ago I let go of whites– sugar, flour and rice. For the fourteen years during which my mother deteriorated from Alzheimer’s, I became, in chronological order macrobiotic, vegetarian, vegan and paleo. Since her death, I have regained balance by eating vegan at least four days a week and adding eggs, fish or cheese when necessary. Once a month I eat four kebabs and one hamburger when my son invites me to a cookout at his house. I will always take at least one bite of a pistachio cake, lemon meringue pie, or anything chocolate of 70% or higher
Coffee. I am on and off, but only before ten a.m.and only black with cardamom, ground in front of my eyes by Honi at 79 Jerusalem Blvd. in Jaffa.
I have let go of travel abroad because I have everything I need right here on the corner of Be’eri and Szold. Airplane travel seems like an assault on my healthy, aging, and only body. (A month of Jewish holidays may be the exceptional trigger, though, to get me to an airport.)
After letting go of so many things, I bought something that dramatically changed my life: a standing desk. This mechanical wonder also enables me to regress to the sitting position with a gentle clasp and clench of both still-functioning hands. My VARIDESK has become my Mercedes.
In a week, I plan to buy a simple keyboard so I can take up piano lessons where I left off in sixth grade. I want to advance to seventh grade, which was too hard at thirteen. Now I am motivated, because I want to create melodies for songs I write. If I can learn to harmonize too and all that complicated theory, which is like a new language, I will become very rich. Certainly, I will buy a sitting/standing base for the keyboard, so that I will be able to move my torso every thirty to forty-five minutes. I am confident that I will succeed because now I understand the value of practice. I learned it through Jeremiah (the prophet) when I celebrated by bat mitzvah at sixty-five. (After that, I pretty much let go of religion.)
Maybe my own letting go began not five or ten years ago, but twenty years ago, when I let go of a non-nourishing relationship. At that time I also gave up living in a house I owned. There’s another belief one can give up: private property.
For those of you not yet over seventy, know that getting old can be the best part of your life. Your fingers might hurt, your back buckle, and knees fail. Certain body parts will need an oil job, but if you nap and get 6-9 hours of sleep a night to renew your naturally fading resources, you can create your outer world to suit your inner needs. Even in a world that is self-destructing, even in a democratic country turning into an autocratic one that makes you ashamed at least four days a week, well-being and renewal can be yours.
This wisdom is not new. It is only new when you discover it for yourself.
Letting go demands practice. Often I think I am preparing myself for the finish line, though I have no idea when or where that will be. When I get there, though, I know I will be ready. “…rich,” to quote Rebecca Solnit, “in loss.”