Jim Bishop: Letting go is hard and slow

I’ve known this for a long time but it’s still not easy to publicly divulge – I’m not good at “letting go, moving on.”

For example, I don’t like face-to-face goodbyes when someone leaves our congregation for another setting about the time that we really got to know and appreciate them, especially those persons who made significant contributions (in more ways than one).

Back when working full time, I seldom attended farewell fetes for fellow employees who left to accept a position in another workplace. I may have attributed this ploy in part to a feeling that some persons seemed to jump at any opportunity to take their leave, making this stay-put veteran wonder whatever happened to institutional loyalty.

Among the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life was letting go when my parents left this life for their heavenly reward, Dad Bishop in 1998 at age 76 – just 10 years older than I am now – and Mom in 2009 at age 88. Bidding farewell was difficult enough, but finding resolve to move on and coming to accept the physical absence of two of the most influential persons in my life for so many years seemed even harder. Even now, scarcely a day goes by that I don’t think about them at least once and wish for the opportunity to have just one more in-depth conversation with them. Some day, I will once again.

More recently, it was anguish to surrender my set of keys to workplace buildings upon my retirement.  I felt like I was giving up a part of myself, no longer having the privilege of entering space that I had occupied for 40 years. I can only imagine how persons feel when the time comes to turn over their car keys and license and lose their driving privileges forever.

I experienced similar feelings upon ceasing to write my local newspaper column, “Bishop’s Mantle,” which I did every week for 21 years, or my weekly 50’s music program on WEMC radio, “Friday Night Jukebox,” after spinning platters every week for 11 years. What makes it extra hard to stop doing something that one especially receives much satisfaction and energy in doing? Maybe it’s because we fear that whatever takes its place will provide much less meaning.

Several weeks ago, at our semi-annual neighborhood yard sale, I finally let go of some commodities that likely carried more sentimental than financial value – a goodly portion of my vinyl music library that I had amassed over some 50 years. What surprised me was that I sold, at bargain basement prices, more 45 rpm discs, many of them lesser-known hits, and fewer albums by more well-known artists. And who bought them? Teenagers, not oldie nostalgia buffs like me.  But it was hard to see these musical treasures go; practically every record had a story I could tell to go with the song.

How about giving up a long-cherished habit? There are good habits that need to be continually cultivated, even as one clings to certain bad habits that are seldom surrendered without a lengthy battle of wills.

Certain other accumulated items in my repertoire may also need to be examined, yet I hesitate to inquire too critically what they are because I think I know that a general housecleaning may be in order.

The writer of Ecclesiastes surely had me in mine eons ago in declaring, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven” (3:1), including a time to let go and move on.

I’m in the season of letting go of more things, albeit too reluctantly. And as I do so and move on, the important thing is to know where I’m going and Who is going with me.

Jim Bishop is a freelance writer and photographer.

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