Today I am retiring my favourite jacket of all time. The fake leather is peeling all down the sleeves and at every seam, resembling a taxidermied antelope with mange. It’s just a jacket, and not even a particularly fancy one—I think it cost 70 or 80 bucks.
Why, then, is it so hard to let go?
My mom bought me this jacket when she was still alive. We got it at Macy’s on a spur of the moment shopping trip across the border to Port Huron, Michigan. I was 30-ish, far too old for my mom to be buying me clothes again, but I indulged her because I was a fledgling entrepreneur on a budget. Plus, I told myself that buying me things made her happy. It was probably one of the last outings we had together, just the two of us, and the jacket was her final gift to me before she died.
And there is of course Stacey’s candid, pixelated flip phone photo of jacketed me in Dupont subway station, long hair, looking almost exactly the way I picture my estranged dad at my age. That snapshot was my Facebook profile photo for a long while, and a kind of nostalgic nod to how young and unencumbered I was before I went and got a grown-up man’s haircut.
It still has the hole in the shoulder that was ripped to three times the size by the jealous Polish girl in Warsaw who led a group of us from the hostel on a wild goose chase to find a bar. She apologized the next morning, and I took the wounded garment to the Chinese seamstress near Finch station who patched it for something like 12 dollars.
That jacket has been a strange extension of my body these last eight or nine years—of almost my entire thirties. I want to be someone who is good at letting go, but how do you give a proper burial to a memento like that? You can’t just put it in the outside garbage bin. I can’t build a fire where I live downtown; the damn thing would stink like a burning tire factory anyway.
My coat story is of course a metaphor—a clunky koan about the weightier question: how do you escape the prison of attachment that generates so much grief & frustration? Though I’m not a card-carrying Buddhist I work daily to practice those tenets, so I am painfully aware that attachment is the two-ton anchor that keeps us stuck. In my case that has meant chasing money over passion, expecting my wife or daughter to act in certain ways, or even hoping that my frat boy neighbours won’t play loud music at non-dad-approved hours. Futile, all of it.
Still, how do you let go of a simple jacket steeped with that much past? How do you pay it homage?
Well, I guess I just did.
Find your own letting go rituals, then: practice, practice.
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