Memories. Do they make or take your freedom?

Lately my friends have been de-cluttering everything from closets and garages to smart phones. Good for them! I have a stockpile of flash drives storing old photos and documents that make me cringe when I think about sorting through them. Breaking FREE from our old stuff isn’t easy, but it feels like a slice of freedom when we do.

There’s an often quoted song lyric by Kris Kristofferson: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ else to lose.” It means that letting go of people and things would free us from the responsibilities they place on us. I like the freedom advice that comes from Apostle Paul, “Although we’re able to have everything, we must not become slaves to anything.” I don’t think freedom comes from having nothing. It’s won when we know what to keep in our lives and what to let go of.

Freedom asks of us, “What am I holding,  and what’s got a hold of me?” Our answer is largely about our memories of what we’ve been through, what we’ve been taught, and what we believe. We depend on our memories to arm us with things that will protect us from harm and provide for our happiness. Our belongings tell stories of our lives. Sorting through our obvious belongings is really about sorting through our memories.

Good memories show up as special photos, jewelry, concert t-shirts, and sentimental keepsakes. It’s hard to part with things that remind us of good times. But when our memories spoil, we walk away from everything that stirs up a painful reminder of a relationship, once loved, now lost.

I lived in Kalamazoo for 355 days –one of the worst years of my life. I remember tyrannical bosses, 105 days of rain and snow, a too tiny apartment. I missed my family. I’ve since thrown out every photo I took of that city. I can’t even look at celery because Kalamazoo is the celery capital of America. I switch TV channels when the MI chamber of commerce proclaims, “Say yes to Michigan.” But even when I got rid of my tangible items attached to Kalamazoo, I was still imprisoned by memories.

Most of us have bad memories (or really bad memories!) that clutter up our heads and hearts with anger, hurt or shame. Sometimes we store them deep in the basements our minds, avoiding them except when we want to recall and reinforce our vows to never be hurt again.

But I’m learning that memories can distort the truth. I’m clawing my way through painful and messy memories to uncover the proverbial “rest of the story.” (Kalamazoo is a great place if I’m just willing to remember!) Fight to find your happier, healthier memories. Reorganize what’s too painful to hold on to, but too painful to let go of. Freedom is choosing what to keep in your life, and loving what you choose. How?

1) Pay attention! The word memory comes from the 13th century Latin word, mindful. No one can make you practice mindfulness – which is really just paying attention. But I promise you, when you pay attention to the connection between your memories and your belongings, you’ll make more memories that you’ll want to keep around.

2) There will be times you ask, “What do I need?” Try following up with the question, “Where am I needed?” It feels good to be needed. Being needed isn’t a burden – it creates the kind of freedom that comes from knowing we are living out our greatest purpose. Hold on to each other, more than anything, for dear life. That’s really why we’re here: having each other, is truly having it all.