Let go of the story and the stuff

A few things have happened of late that really brought home the idea that stuff doesn’t matter, people do.  As I reflected more and more about the ‘things’ I hold onto I realized that not only do I need to send off some of my stuff, I need to let go of the story, attachment and emotions connected with these things.

So I looked around and thought what thing/stuff do I hold onto the most that I no longer need. What do I keep with me and justify with ludicrous stories, emotional self blackmail or other deceptive and denying tactics. 

I came up with my windsurfer.

Now if you know me or meet me in person you will quickly realize I do not have the body of a person immediately identified with the word windsurfer. More so if you visited me over the years you might have wondered why my storage area contained giant dust and cobweb covered faded bags and poles. If you are or once were a windsurfing enthusiast of course you would recognize in an instant a hobby long since shelved and superceded by less demanding pursuits.


© Jenn ShallveyWindsurfer = achievement

I have, or I should now say I had, a special windsurfer. This windsurfer was the epitome of achievement in my life. It represented goal attainment, passion, freedom, creativity, love, fun, joy, belief in self, dreams becoming reality.  All this in one board. This to me was no ordinary board. I saved up for it. I trained to a level where I could actually sail on it. I designed the colors on it. I researched and learned what was the best board at the time for what I wanted to do – go really fast across the chop on the San Francisco Bay.  

Windsurfer = dream

My dream started much earlier. I can remember in high school first seeing magazines, shows and stories about windsurfing.  Anytime I got near water and spied a person or people windsurfing I envied their freedom and pursuit. I so wanted to be out on the water flying with the salt and wind in my face.  I would go to sleep dreaming and imagining.

But for me it was not so easy. I needed transport. I needed money. I needed time.

So it wasn’t until I went to university that I got my chance. Luckily I was on the Bay in Berkeley.  I could not only see the water from my bedroom window I could be down to the marina in 10 minutes. Soon I was taking lessons. I gladly and goofily went through the endless days of learning how to balance, lift the sail out of the water, tack and gybe, fall off and get back on.  I put up with mud and questionable water quality to keep my passion alive.

Windsurfer = commitment

Soon it was time to get my first board.  I still remember this today going to the local campus credit union and asking to borrow enough money to get set up and buy a board etc.  I think all up the ordeal cost me about $490.  For a freshman at college who now had a demanding and expensive social life this was definitely a segway in another direction. Yet it was my dream.

Many many many days followed of me lugging my equipment down in the old Volare stationwagon (yes I drove one of those). I got used to it. I learned how to be not just a learner but an actual windsurfer.  As I learned and developed my skill so did I find more self confidence and belief in myself. Strange parallel, but real.

Windsurfer = upgrade

It wasn’t long before I needed to upgrade.  Windsurfing was the sport of upgrading.  The innovation cycle was on fast track as the sport took off.  Just as I got used to my heavy board, lighter ones came out. I had to have one. I still needed to stand but wanted more speed. Speed was the drug of windsurfing, well at least to me.

I upgraded the board. Then added more sails, booms, a harness and a wetsuit. Pretty soon I was truly a windsurfing gearhead. I would peruse my monthly magazines for the latest and greatest.  My skills though soon matched the board. My research then lead me to my last board.

Windsurfer = choice

Though I tried the ocean out by my old home town, I was a bit too paranoid about sharks to be out far from the beach.  I also was not comfortable with the power of the tide to go anywhere near the Golden Gate. So I stayed pretty much on either the East Bay side or near Candlestick park.  The feature of the kind of windsurfing I loved was heavy chop. It was like riding moguls in the snow without the jarring of the knees.  I loved the little take offs and jumps and bumps combined with speed.

Windsurfer = design

To really enjoy this more I of course needed to ...... upgrade.  By this time I had started working. I had a good job which meant I had a car and the epitomy of life after university, a real credit card.  Initially I was driving to work with my board on the top and then heading out at the end of the day. If I had to I would make up for time later. But I could not wait to hit the water.

I imagined myself on the board of my choice. I started to design it even. I got pens and paper out and sketched the colours and style I wanted.  I designed it before I even found it.

Windsurfer = decision

Then one day I did it. I walked into a specialist windsurfing shop. I went confidently to the salesperson and said I would like to get a Haut ChopHopper and custom finish it.  I can still remember the exhilaration of that moment. It was so not about buying something. No it was about making a dream become a reality. I worked hard at my job so I wanted to really have fun when I had time off. This was my ideal way to have fun.

Windsurfer = creation

I describe the waiting period like having a baby. Ok, I have had two kids now so I know this might demean the truth of the birthing process. But as far as things go in my life this was a creation.  When I got the board it was truly like I had a child. I took care of it like a baby.  It was precious.  

Now when I say upgrade I mean upgrade. Only this time I had to keep my wits about me.  I now was sailing on a sinker of sorts.  The only way to get up and go on this board was to water start in high winds.  So I became a weather girl. I could tell when the winds were picking up and it was time to go.  Much like a surfer would drive up and down the coast looking for good waves, I would seek out windy hotspots.

Yes this was a passion and a hobby. No one paid me to do this sport.

Then I stopped.

It is so hard to believe this but I truly just stopped like that. Why? Well I moved. I moved across the globe to Australia.  I arrived here and for the first two years lived without a car. No car meant no transport of board. No transport of board meant my board got lugged from place to place as I moved around.  Instead of sticking with the passion I ended it.  

In hindsight I now realize that something better actually came into my life. No it wasn’t the work which took up an inordinate amount of time. It was love. I came here for love and my new passion became my now husband.  He wasn’t into windsurfing. Instead we shared other interests which were more fun to pursue together.  Ironically I have only windsurfed once in the last 18 years – on my honeymoon in Fiji. It wasn’t quite the same but still was fun.

So what happened to the windsurfer, my little creation? Well it went on to gather more dust and more cobwebs.  It got moved around from storage area, to storage area, apartment to house after house.  The windsurfer stayed with me.


Well as I alluded to at the start I developed quite an attachment to this ‘thing’.  The story I built up in my mind about how I obtained it and what this meant for me took over. The story owned me. I could live off this story and recycle it for ages. Much like the one hit wonders in the music industry, this was my call to exercise fame.  Even though I gradually developed a more voluptuous body type I could still tell everyone ‘hey I used to be a windsurfer’, well at least inside me there was this really fit athletic woman.  I equated the windsurfing period with my peak fitness period. I looked after myself, took care of my body, and stayed active.  I made it a priority.

As my life has evolved my habits have too. I became a career addict, then a parent, then a parent and career addict combined, then a parent and sole business owner. In all my iterations I am still a passionate person yet my passion gets applied elsewhere.

Keeping the legacy alive

So I look now at my windsurfer legacy as a light I kept lit saying maybe, just maybe I could be that woman again.  Maybe someday I could get back into that bikini or run up the beach and not get out of breath.  Hmmmm.  As I write this with such honest disclosure, I now know I will never return to my 25 year old self.  I accept that I am a different person now. I do know that I could be fitter and healthier. Yet my pursuit of this direction does not mean going back to a lifestyle that I used to enjoy. I have different interests, passions and pursuits now.

Letting go of symbols

In this context it has taken me awhile though to let go of the board and the accompanying story. I do believe that the board is a symbol of me holding on to my past, the glory days, at the expense of appreciating and loving where I am at now – warts and all.  I look back with such fondness to that time of my life. Of course I only bring up the good stuff which is why the windsurfer has stayed so prominent in my psyche.

I also noticed that others don’t understand. There were a few attempts to sell or dispose of the board over the years. The most recent one was in a garage sale 3.5 years ago when we sold our house.  I remember meeting a lovely couple that had come around to inspect. My husband facilitated the introduction and conversation keen to finally get rid of this.  Then I proceeded to un-sell. Yes I asked questions that indicated these people were beginners. Then I said I didn’t think this would be a good board to start with. Never mind the fact that they could eventually grow into it.  That moment was a great example of where something was not ready to go despite all the efforts and processes underway.  As I was letting go of my home at the same time, uprooting our lives and shifting, the windsurfer was my anchor. Like a comfort toy it came with me. Here I was a grown woman in her 40’s folding her arms like a little child saying no.  I could even see myself doing this. As I so often coach people to do, I stood there and witnessed my own behaviour. I also consciously knew what I was doing and decided not to change.  This was all my choice.

It's just stuff, right?

I share this story because I want others to know that things and stuff really don’t matter. Yet they also sometimes do.  It is important to distinquish between what the thing is representing and meaning to you rather than whether you have a hoarding problem.  So over the years since I have worked even more on my attachment to things.  Gradually I am working on and learning that having the stuff is so less important than the experience. Yet I can fully understand our energetic and emotional ties to some-thing.

So it is in this context that I am finally 'free' now of my windsurfer.  I can still hold onto the memories and experiences yet I don’t need the thing to do that. There are other things I keep for that reason.  But this one needed to be set free.  I still have an unquenchable passion for anything and everything to do with the ocean/water. So perhaps I will seek out a new sport in due time.

Upon further reflection I now have thrown on my analytical hat. Yes I do have one of those, a legacy of many years in business.  I started to contemplate how long I have held onto this equipment. Too long.  Imagine all the fun someone else could have had with this so much sooner.  Being a fan of ‘free cycling’ items rather than keeping I realize that here is another item that needed a new home long ago.

A fond farewell

So today I said farewell. I let my board and equipment go.  I watched as it was all loaded on a car and taken away. Where to?   A local windsurfing club where hopefully some curious kid might get interested and fix it up and take it out. The irony is the kid who does this will probably be younger than the equipment!

Yes I shed a little tear. But not as much as I thought I would. I am happy to report that the work I have done already on an energetic, emotional and mental level made this almost a no brainer (pun intended). I am consciously 100% aware of the story, what this represents in my life and how I have been able to acknowledge and let go. I did not do this alone. Over the years my personal development with both coaches and teachers enabled me to gain insight and take constructive action.

People > stuff

The really exciting part about this is what’s next. I don’t think this will lead to an avalanche of letting go, but it certainly will set me free to focus on more meaningful matters. Well actually I have been letting go of lots over the years. 

Today I really do believe that no thing or any stuff matters at all compared to the people in my life.

In fact I recall once doing a university entrance essay for a major university. The essay topic was "what three things would you take with you in the event of a fire?”  I think back to my 17 year old wisdom and I dutifully answered with three things.  I now look back and realize that the question was a trick question. In any situation only the people matter.  Stuff just is not worth risking a life or losing a relationship.

Non judgment

One last thing. Even though I am now in a place where I truly believe we should let go of our attachment to stuff, I also know how easy it is to be attached.  It is important to remember that I never judged myself in a negative way for having this attachment. I stayed aware, yet delayed the willpower to change. 

Others on the outside judged though.  The number of side remarks and sarcastic words shared in jest about my ‘defunct hobby’ hurt at times and other times just acted as reminders.  Remember this when you sit in judgement of someone else, or your own self, holding on to things.

In the end this is really truly nothing compared to the bigger more important issues of our day. This is nothing compared to the loss of a person or life changing experiences. In the bigger scheme of things what I let go of really was some plastic.  I also made more space for me to be.   

And you?

It is now your turn to look at your own stuff, your attachments and the stories you tell about these.  Maybe it’s time you let go of one, or two.   Do you have the equivalent of my windsurfer somewhere in your life?



NOTE:  If you would like to see some more photos of my windsurfer please have a look.

Jenn Shallvey