I always have weird energy around Labor Day. Even the name implies that some real work should be getting done and the end of summer always adds some layer of expectation and pressure that stirs me into action. So this holiday weekend, I labored and set out with the urge to purge. The garage was the scene of the crime on this particular day.

My garage is… well… a garage. It’s filled with stuff I don’t really need or use but stuff that feel I shouldn’t get rid of – just in case. I don’t even know what most of it is or where it came from but I felt the need to keep it, until the laboring pressure of this holiday weekend kicked in.

I worked my away around the garage and finally set my sights on a shelf I’d over-looked for at least 10+ years. Suddenly with fresh eyes and a spirit of readiness, I recognized the bubbles, a lot of bubbles! And then sidewalk chalk – boxes, bags, and containers filled with sidewalk chalk. WTH?!? My daughter just turned 21. It’s been a very, very long time since anyone in my house has played with sidewalk chalk or bubbles. That stuff needed to GOOOO!

I brushed off layers of dust and grime as I carefully placed each item into a small box. My hands were filthy and dust trailed though the air as most of things had settled on those shelves for over 15 years. I stepped back to take a breath of air and was suddenly flooded with thoughts. Wait a minute… no one in my house uses this stuff anymore… my daughter is now a grown woman… my role as a mom will never include bubbles or side walk chalk ever again… Oh man… My laboring took an unexpected turn.

How can I possibly get rid of this stuff with all that it represents – her childhood, her innocence, her playfulness, me having daily purpose, joy, and satisfaction… Holy crap… how can I possibly get rid of it?!? This stuff has blindly taken up space for so many years, giving me an odd sense of comfort and familiarity based on my role as a mom and my love for her. How could I get rid of it?!?! And yet… why would I keep it?

The emptiness of those shelves paralleled the emptiness I sometimes feel in her room or in her empty closet now that she doesn’t live there anymore. The empty space on the shelf was an odd representation of what my life feels like sometimes now that my daughter is grown. I felt paralyzed and socked in the gut by the odd sight. I had no choice but to feel the loss.

It took quite some time for the tears to subside. The reality is, those days have come and gone in my home. The stuff was taking up space and of no use to anyone. It was simply a reflection of times gone by. It was time to let it go. I delivered the box of goodies to a neighbor who has a house full of kids. It was well received and I’m sure it will be used happily. Though I was glad to be of service, the experience was bitter-sweet.

So much emotion came out of me that day (not too unusual for me but pretty unexpected when looking at the simple task at hand). I have new roles now. I have new stuff and new purpose. None quite like being a mom but still important and still part of my journey. Keeping the stuff / purging the stuff – either way it really didn’t matter. None of it changes reality. It’s just that keeping the stuff sometimes gives us the illusion that everything is the same.

The seasons of our laboring change drastically over the course of life. If we’re not careful those season can slip right through our fingers in the blink of an eye. The stuff we hold onto is often a deeper reflection of what was or who we used to be. Letting go of that and coming to terms with new seasons in life can be painful, especially if so much of our identity is wrapped up with those roles and that stuff.

Here are a few pieces of wisdom I learned from my laboring this weekend:

1 – Know your purpose and have several of them. We are all here to wear many hats and play numerous roles through the course of our lives. Embrace them.

2 – Appreciate the season you’re in, even the ones you don’t like too much. They each have lessons, purpose, and meaning.

3 – Know the power of stuff and why you’re holding on to things. Do they serve you? Are they functional? What’s the purpose of clinging to your stuff?

4 – And finally, always take the time to blow the bubbles and draw with chalk. That is the real stuff life is made of.