Letting go, again

Posted on Oct 4, 2016 in Blog

Last week, my bag was stolen at Word on the Street. I was there (wo)manning the FOLD tent, along with a few other wonderful FOLD volunteers. I’d placed my backpack underneath the table, where it had been hidden by the black tablecloth. What I didn’t realize at the time–and feel more than a little sheepish about, reflecting on it now–was that the wind kept blowing the tablecloth back under the table, putting my backpack on full display. At some point early in the afternoon, someone came by–probably when the table was crowded and everyone was talking all at once, because no one including myself noticed anything at all–and swiped the bag.

Thus began the strange little turn of events that occupied the rest of that afternoon.

We figured, at first, that maybe the bag hadn’t been stolen–maybe someone at a table next to ours had grabbed the bag by mistake, maybe someone would come back soon and sheepishly hand it over, maybe maybe. I went to security. I went to the main festival tent. My description of said bag was…awful. It’s a black bag. It has an orange–I think it’s orange–and, uh, grey patch on the top.

Isn’t it funny, the way that the everyday things around us cease to be things that we can see? I’ve carried that bag around with me almost every day for the past two years. And suddenly it was gone, both physically and mentally, suddenly I was there, trying to explain to security how different my black backpack was from every other black backpack out there. They took my name and number and promised to call if anything turned up. Nothing did, of course, so I went off and did all of the necessary things–cancelled my cards, checked the area around the tent again. Asked the girls at the table–again–if it had turned up. No one had seen anything.

I should have panicked, I guess. But I wasn’t worried at all. And I wasn’t not worried because I thought that the bag would show up, either. All I could think, as I walked around and spoke to security and re-checked the spaces and wondered about the bag, was: you’ll be okay. You have everything you need inside of you, all around you.

Worst comes to worst, you borrow money from a friend to get back to Hamilton.

Worst comes to worst, you have a long day of standing in line at Service Canada tomorrow. And you’ve dealt with far worse things than that. What, in the scheme of things, is a line-up? What’s a little time, a little inconvenience?

You’ll be okay.

You’ll be okay.

A short while after this, my phone–which had not been in the bag, thank goodness–rang. On the other end, a stranger. “Hello,” she said. “Am I speaking with Amanda Leduc?”

Yes, I said. Yes you are.

“I found your wallet,” she said. “Where are you?”

And here’s where things got funny–I was down at Harbourfront, and she was up at St. Michael’s Hospital. She’d gone into the washroom and found the wallet in the bathroom stall, had checked at the info desk, had discovered that no one had come to them about a lost wallet. And then she went through the contents–I felt so bad, she said, but I was trying to figure out how to get it wherever it needed to go–found my business card (thanks, FOLD!), and called me.

Long story short: having now confirmed that the bag had indeed been stolen, I left the FOLD table and made my way up to the hospital. There was a Jays game, ergo there were no taxis to be found, ergo my “I’ll be there in ten minutes” turned into almost half an hour. But she was there–lovely woman!–waiting for me when I arrived. With my wallet. Which, as it turned out, had everything still inside of it, and a little more besides.

The thief had taken my keys out of another compartment of the backpack, and put them in the wallet.

The thief had taken my passport, also in the bag (I know I know, who carries their passport around? What can I say, it was still in the bag from when I’d gone traveling in August and I hadn’t taken it out, I was lazy, and you can bet your bottom dollar that will never happen again), and placed it neatly in the wallet.

The thief had taken family photos, also in other compartments of the bag, and placed them in the wallet. Everything that could possibly have been construed as important/sentimentally valuable had been taken out of the bag and placed in the wallet for someone to find and give back to me. Everything that I needed was there.

Everything, that is, except for a notebook. A work-scribbler and everything-scribbler of sorts, filled with work ideas and random journal entries. My sister gave me this notebook two Christmases ago. It’s the same notebook that I used to write out my 2015/16 New Year’s reflections. If you were following this blog back then, you’ll know that that period of reflection was so important to me. And maybe you’ll understand that that’s the first–and only–real thing I grieved about losing the bag. All of my slow, painstaking realizations about 2015 and the year to come, suddenly gone. My month-by-month breakdown of 2015, the bits of joy that I searched for and found even in the darkest of moments. The record of all of that. Gone.

But then I started to make my way back down to Harbourfront (still no taxis, still walking, three cheers for spontaneous exercise), and as I walked I thought about that too: the realization of accomplishments, the putting down of dreams. The way that you set out to do some things in a year and maybe don’t get all the way, or maybe you set out to do one thing and end up doing something else. The way that, sometimes, the paths that go astray–the things that happen to us when we veer from The Plan, when we let go of any kind of Plan at all–are the best and brightest ones.

The way that, sometimes, it is good to let go even of the things that have helped you. The things you hold onto that maybe you don’t need to hold onto anymore. Maybe it’s okay to let go of the goals that you make to bring yourself up out of dark when other things come to lift you up instead.

Maybe, in fact, it’s okay to let go of even those sacred moments when you pulled yourself out. Other sacred moments will come. Other New Year’s reflections, other goals. You don’t need to hold on to them all forever.

And as I kept walking, the little voice that had been so calm through all of this just kept saying: You can let go of those now. You carry all of that inside of you too.

Once again, I’m here ruminating on how magical this year has been. And of course it’s not perfect, of course the year hasn’t been easy from beginning to end. But how funny, isn’t it, to see these things play themselves out. Some things click into place and others don’t, and there is grief and ordinary sadness along with a host of ordinary joys and it’s okay, all of it, there is so much room to carry all of this at once. There is not enough time and there is more than enough time.

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

And sometimes, if you are lucky, acceptance leads out into an even bigger space.

Things that my Conscientious Thief made away with: a most excellent black backpack; a notebook filled with scribbles; a FOLD t-shirt, my lovely new copy of The High Mountains of Portgualand Esmé Weijun Wang’s Light Gets In. The author of the latter has already kindly offered to send me another copy. The rest of the stuff? It’s just stuff. It’s all replaceable. Even the dreams in that notebook are replaceable.

I almost love that thief, I think.

Maybe, for 2017, I’ll dream even bigger. Maybe in the end that’s what life is all about.


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