The Bittersweet Process of Giving Up Possessions I'll No Longer Use Due to Chronic Pain


Once chronic pain set in and settled in about five years ago, I had no choice but to give up many activities. But to give up the possessions that support or represent those activities has been another process, one so very bittersweet. It has meant acknowledging that I am not going to recover and pick right up where I left off – certainly not anytime soon, and perhaps not ever. This hurts. But the sliver of sweetness is the sense of freedom in letting go of old attachments and stale hopes, and perhaps clearing the way for something new.

My physical activity has been reduced to short walks around the block. So my bicycle was one of the first things to go, donated to our local bike library.

My chronic hip pain prevents me from sitting for any length of time, so my social life, too, has been greatly curtailed. About two years ago, I threw out my remaining disposable contacts. I don’t need to impress the close friends whom I see on occasion, and I’m never at a public event. I am also no longer willing to incur the small risk of eye infection from contact wear. I don’t need any more grief with my health!

Next went most of my makeup – eye makeup, foundation, powder. I appreciate that many with chronic illness enjoy the sense of normalcy and beauty that makeup provides. But I simply no longer have the desire to fuss with it. This may in part reflect my low energy and depression, but I like to think it also arises from new values of transparency and simplicity. My close friends know I’m not well; with them, I feel no need to present an adorned face. An eyebrow pencil and two lip colors are enough for me to feel polished on occasion.

The eight or so bottles of nail color – out! That actually felt good – no more manicure hassles. But giving away a good portion of my jewelry, all that was too formal or dressy, was harder.

Clearing out my wardrobe has been a more gradual process. I haven’t worn anything but leggings and comfortable pullovers for the past few years. I’m still hanging onto a few pairs of jeans. But skirts, cute or fashionable tops and uncomfortable footwear have all been donated to thrift stores. Until last week, I had kept two favorite tops. It was hard to finally place them in the donation bag, but it also had pained me a little each day to see them hanging in the closet, unworn for so long. Better that someone else enjoy them.

Nearer and dearer to my heart has been the paraphernalia of my creative
endeavors. About a year ago, I gave up my collection of beading supplies. It seemed unlikely I’d ever be well enough to sit at a table and bead necklaces, bracelets and earrings again. A man responded to my Craigslist notice and picked them up as a gift for his wife. This was hard, but again, I felt relief that someone would be able to use and enjoy them. And those beads deserved the chance to fulfill their destiny as jewelry.

I recently tossed my coloring books. It requires too much sitting. I tried coloring while lying on my stomach, but that caused pain in my lower back and elbows.

I have also purged my kitchen of gadgets and equipment that I will no
longer use. I have always loved to cook, but with chronic pain, I’m now limited to making simple dishes or baked goods that do not require much labor or time on my feet. No need for an egg beater, certainly.

So my home is emptier, which leaves me feeling a little bereft. I sure
used to have a lot of fun! But it’s good not to have all those reminders of things I can no longer do. My life has narrowed down to being at home most of the time, with online activities: reading, writing, movies, talks, etc.

For me, this process has been about letting go of denial. This is where
I am. It is a simple life, a rather ascetic existence. I do fewer things, so I own fewer things. But I can still be creative, expressing myself through writing. I can still be social, connecting with others online. I find as my outward life has contracted, my inner landscape expands. I spend a lot of time exploring spirituality through reading, meditation and prayer. There is more time to contemplate, relax and simply be.

Perhaps this life will expand outwardly again some day. None of my
surrendered possessions was irreplaceable or of great value. Should my health take an unexpected turn for the better, I can always get another waffle maker. And shopping for new clothes would be fun.

But for now, I am happy to have cleared away the artifacts of my past. Nature abhors a vacuum, and I trust that this new space created will attract something new. So I rest serenely in this open space, and welcome what will come.

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Thinkstock photo via Serenethos.


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