You Can Only Keep What You Throw Away

A few years ago, I entered into a very difficult period of my life, where everything that could go wrong, did.

I got sick, I got broke, two cars died in rapid succession, I lost friends, everything. I worked harder than I’d ever worked in my life, but it felt like I was only treading water; nothing I did seemed to move me forward, and it was only with tremendous effort that I kept from falling further behind.

One strange thing I noticed during this period was that almost everything I tried to accomplish in the world of stuff just…didn’t work. In addition to the aforementioned car fiascos, my small, modest attempts at making acquisitions backfired a lot. I would unpack a new item from its box, only to see that it was broken and needed to be returned. New clothes often needed to be returned as well. Once, I decided that if I wasn’t going to be able to drive a car, the least I could do was repair my boots. I took two long bus rides to get them repaired — and then the repair ended up being botched.

“I can’t seem to keep anything,” I thought. “All my efforts get undone.”

And that’s when it hit me. What if I throw stuff away? If all of my efforts to acquire stuff got undone, maybe I could finally see some results — and get to “keep” my effort — if I put it towards getting rid of stuff. (Especially paper. Oh Paper, My Crinkly Nemesis.)

So, I tried this new approach, although I admit I was nervous at first. I was so used to having my efforts thwarted that I half-expected whatever I put in the recycle bin to show up on my doorstep the next morning.

But the gone stayed gone. Everything I let go of, stayed let go of. I finally got to keep it.

You can only keep what you throw away.

After a while, I started thinking that this maxim must be true for life, as well.

Every good moment in my life has been good, largely because of what I had cleared away.

Every bad moment in my life has been bad, largely because of what I was still holding onto.

The “clearer” I am, the more happiness and joy I get to keep.

You can only keep what you throw away.

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