I need to address something right off the bat, because it’ll be bugging me this whole time if we don’t talk it over.
I’m something of a word nerd. A word nerd, a spelling aficionado, and an editor. And in this modern age, my fellow word nerd brethren and I (if I can speak for us all) are increasingly concerned about the ongoing decline of written English language usage. On their behalf, please allow me to briefly tilt at one small windmill:
While “loosing” is technically a word, it’s almost definitely not the word you mean. You mean “losing”. I totally get why you might be thinking it’s “loosing”, but it’s not. That sounds like “loose-ing”, and if you say that out loud, you’ll agree with me that it’s not what you meant. You meant “losing”, which sounds like “looz-ing”.
So no more “loosing”. Alright? Alright.
Now that we’ve clarified that, let’s talk about the liberating loosening of losing loose ends.
Loosely speaking, losing loose ends can really lighten your load, and lead to a rather lovely liberating loosening. If you’re feeling lost in life, it may be that you’re losing yourself in loose ends, and what you really need to be doing is losing those loose ends, so you can loosen up.
Did I lose you?
While loose ends themselves are not the same thing as worrying (an evil which I dealt with last year), the effect that they have is practically equivalent. They don’t necessarily have to equate to worrying, because worrying is imagining false or invented negative stuff. But loose ends do require concern, and attention, and those two factors together provide a nice healthy breeding ground for an infestation of worry.
Because after all, the distance between concern and worry, and between attention and worry, is not that far. And those two things are automatically demanded by loose ends, by definition. That’s what makes them loose ends—that they’re still out there, still wanting the thing—whatever it is that keeps the loose end from being finished, that keeps it from not being loose any more.
Loose ends want completion—closure. And until they have closure, they’re still on your list. Whether that list is on paper, or in your mind, or whether it’s simply measured in voicemails from bill collectors, or stacks of boxes. All those things are little mini-burdens that you carry around all the time, until they are no longer loose ends—until they’re closed up, solved.
Even if you bury a loose end—if you stop thinking about a thing—it doesn’t go away. It will just sneak down in and find a place to hide and fester, and then will come back later, probably with increased power. I don’t want to say your worry might be warranted, but in some cases, there is a genuine danger to the loose end not being tied up. There’s a genuine threat. When the threat is real, it’s concern, not worry…but they both can drag you down and add furrows to your brow.
Bottom line: loose ends—especially ones from the past—have little to no redeeming value. Trust me, I understand the perverse pride that one can get from having an overwhelming burden of backlog and loose ends. I mean, at some point, if you’re living the “Professor With The Crazily Stacked Office” lifestyle, pride becomes one of the only remaining options. And the other option is probably shame, which makes pride not such an odd choice, really.
But beyond those two options is a third path: tying up the loose ends, and ridding them from your life forever.
If you’ve got stacks of boxes in your attic or basement, or a not-quite-forgotten storage unit somewhere, you may have gotten a little chill from that thought. If not, go back and try again, and really picture it—all that stuff, dealt with once and for all. Don’t picture the yucky work part, which is probably what you usually picture (and which is most likely overinflated in your head anyway). Picture the end result: the empty storage unit, the recovered basement room, the little spot in your brain that is finally able to breathe after all these years….
In my case just recently, I had to wrap up a longstanding loose end: I finally got rid of two “leftover” vehicles in my yard.
One was a truck that I kept because it was a potential work truck for hauling things around the large woodsy property that I live on. (I kept it for that purpose, but never moved on that purpose, because it required sawing off the rear bumper, which had been smushed down in an accident, and I didn’t have the tools for that.)
The other was my previous car, which I had replaced but which had the possibility of future life under a new owner (with some repairs and work, and smogging, and dealing with paperwork complications).
Aside from those fairly-flimsy reasons for keeping the vehicles around, they were also both being used as my last remaining “storage units”.
Circumstance (in the form of an insurance inspection) recently forced me to bite the bullet on both cars, and to cleanse my life of those two sizeable, visible loose ends. They hadn’t even been explicit to-do items on my list, because I considered them such a low priority. No one was complaining about them, and as someone who has lived with a lot of clutter in my past, glazing over a couple of potentially-useful, not-totally-disgusting cars in the yard was not that bad. So I just lived with it, and it was no big deal.
Until I shed them from my life. Until I no longer had to think about the end-game for those vehicles. Because that was implied, by their presence in my yard—that one of these days I was going to have to deal with getting them junked, or find someone to give them to, and deal with that outstanding stupid paperwork on the old car, and so on. I’d have to get all the stuff out of them, and do a final cleaning of them, and…
While I didn’t enunciate all that stuff to myself every time I walked past those cars (and I passed them several times a day), it was definitely there in my mind. My mind is a lot of things, but it’s not stupid. And it implicitly understood all the little burdens that came with those things. Just like it understands all the little burdens that come with all my wish-to-do projects, as well as all my still-remaining-to-do boxes of papers.
Speaking of those boxes of papers…the car evacuation episode forced my hand in terms of that stuff too. Not only did I have to face the boxes and items from inside my cars, but in getting rid of those vehicles, I had to find the titles and paperwork for them. That turned out to be one of those deals where something was put somewhere for safekeeping, and it was hidden away so safely that it’s impossible to find.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from trying, and in doing so, I was brought face-to-face with several boxes and crates of unfinished business which I had stashed away in my little attic. And in all those papers and boxes from my past lies the rest of the lesson behind lessening your load so you can laughingly luxuriate in the liberating loosening of losing loose ends.
I’ll lead you through the last of that lightening loosening lesson in my next column. In the meantime…if you’ve got a big ol’ eyesore sitting around in your life somewhere, and you don’t need it there anymore, take my advice and set yourself free. Get rid of it, like this week. Tie up those relatively easy loose ends. You’ll gain new open space in your life—and just as importantly, in your mind.