Over fifteen years ago I was given three beaded necklaces by a woman I worked with in hospice. She was older, wiser, more spiritual, and more in-tune with life rhythms than I was. She told me the necklaces were prayers necklaces (African maybe?) and they had positive energy. The necklaces were different lengths and made of hundreds of delicate little colored beads on threads.
She told me the necklaces would eventually break and that is why they were already slightly different lengths (although to be honest I forgot about this until recently). When a necklace did break I was to collect as many beads as I could find, string them back on, then tie off the necklace.
The breaking of the necklace was a sign, she said. It was a sign that things needed to be let go. It was a sign that there were things in my life I should not be carrying any more. But I forgot about this until recently, because the necklaces, they did not break.
I have worn these necklaces frequently over the past fifteen years. They bring me joy. They feel protective in a strange way. They feel like light and love and strength. That’s a lot to put into a necklace, I know, but that’s what I feel when I wear them.
And then, last weekend, one broke.
I was pulling carrots and celery and kale out of the refrigerator. One strand got caught or tangled or wrapped up. The next thing I knew I was holding multiple vegetables and beads were spilling onto the floor and into the refrigerator and down my sweater and into my slippers. Ping. Ping-ping-ping-ping. Ping.
Oh. Sadness. Grief. Anger. Frustration. It broke. It broke. It broke…
And then, relief.
It broke. Release. Her words came back to me. When the necklace breaks it is a sign that things need to be let go. Be released. Ah. Oh.
I was holding on so very tightly to so many things. And then, something broke.
If I were my own best friend I would sit with all those emotions that come with the release and the breaking and the loss of things. Those are big, hard, scary emotions. It might be easier to ignore them. Bottle them up. Eat them away. Exercise them away. Busy them away. But instead, it might be time to try something revolutionary and sit with the things that are uncomfortable and need to be released. Say thank you for what I have learned. Then say goodbye.
Move on with three necklaces, still delicate, still covered in colorful beads. But now even more different in length. A visual reminder that life goes on. Things come and go. And it is alright.