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Letting Go: How Do You Know When It's Time?

Is sunset the end of something or the beginning of something else?

A few weeks ago comments left on the post, Saying Goodbye to The RV Lifestyle, prompted me to write this one. The questions centered on knowing when it is time to let go of something in one's life, when an attachment to something should be severed. When do we know it is time to let go of whatever it is that may be holding us back? I thought those were very important queries to think about and worthy of some discussion.

We are creatures of habit. Most of us are happy when our world is settled, and predictable. This doesn't mean we aren't active and involved, rather we have some anchors in our existence that are comforting. I would suggest that even those who travel a lot each year still need the security of a home base, a familiar place where they can refresh and recoup. 

But, when is it time to let go of a part of our life that has been dependable up to now? How do we know when it is time to cut the cord and move part of our life in a different direction? See if you agree with some of my conclusions.

*Relationship problems: Though letting go of a bad marriage or problem-plagued engagement would qualify, today I am thinking more along the lines of friendships and acquaintances. All of us have had situations where we dread meeting with someone we know, or we always seem to leave their presence feeling worse than when we arrived. Certain folks have a dark cloud over their head that follows them wherever the go. If you are near them, that dark cloud covers you too. Negativity, projectile complaining, gossiping to harm others....being with these people drains you.

It may be tough, but you know it is time to let go of this relationship when you dread the time spent together. Cut the cord, for your own sake.

* Living situation: There has been a lot written on Satisfying Retirement about downsizing, aging in place or moving to a retirement community. Honestly, I think one of the tougher "Letting Go" questions involves this topic. Most of us have an attachment to our home. It could be based on longevity, a sense of community, a place for all your stuff, a mark of your independence, or the house where your kids were raised. Whatever the reason, knowing when it is time to move because of health or family issues is not easy. 

My personal marker will be when I feel staying where I am risks my life, or forces a responsibility on my kids that I do not want them to endure. Would they take care of Betty or me? In a heartbeat. But, we have made the firm decision that we don't want that to happen. Letting go of our current lifestyle will be tough, but we are committed to that choice. 

* Vacation and travel decisions: Making the decision to sell our RV was really triggered by two factors: the expenses of keeping the motorhome, and the desire to explore more of the world while we can. We have decided to abandon one way of traveling, and take up another. We have loved the freedom the motorhome has given us. But, once we discussed a change, we decided within just a few days to make the change. 

Betty and I are lucky. We have been able to go to Europe twice, taken cruises, and fallen in love with Hawaii after at least a dozen trips to the islands. So, we have experiences with something other than auto or RV trips. That's what we want to experience again. In this case, letting go was easy. 

* Driving: I have left the hardest example of letting go until now. In the car-based culture of most of the western world, the ability to take yourself from one place to another, when you choose, is considered a basic right, not a privilege. The independence signified by that vehicle in the carport or street is almost impossible to quantify. Even if it is rarely driven, the point is it can be driven, by you.

Yet, we all know there will come a time when the car keys must be taken away. The unacceptable risk, not only to yourself, but to other drivers and pedestrians, demands action. I am sure there are all sorts of studies that show we believe we are much better drivers, at any age, than we really are. Reality has a different measurement scale. Letting go of the car keys, even voluntarily, is very hard. 

Don't make it tougher than it must be. Don't force a family member to be the one to take away the keys. That is your job. (Click here for a web site that has an excellent overview of this problem). 

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