“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.” – Tao Te Ching

This is one of my favorite red-letter days of the year: January 6th, the Feast of Epiphany. Could there be a better holiday for writers? If we’re not in the business of celebrating epiphany and revelation, I don’t know who is.

It’s rare that I actually have an epiphany on Epiphany, of course. But I think I may have had one today, in the wee hours of the morning.

I was up because my computer crashed yesterday. And by crashed I mean imploded — horribly, randomly, catastrophically. Most of the day I was okay with this because (a) I thought it would come back and (b) I thought I had saved all my files.

But as evening set in it, became clear that (a) my computer was dead as a dodo and (b) I had not saved everything. I have my writing files, thank goodness, and my pictures. But eight years of email is gone, gone, gone. And when I realized that, I was not okay.

In the middle of the night, my mind tallied the losses: the treasured letters from friends, the first photos of their babies, the silly jokes and the fan letters and the notes of consolation. Worst of all, letters from friends who have passed on, so that their words were all I had left.

All of them gone.

But then, lying there in the dark, it occurred to me that maybe what’s most important about all those letters is actually still here. Those words of encouragement and comfort and silliness have helped shaped me, and the friendships behind them remain. Maybe it was time I let go of the letters themselves, knowing the best of them are already deep inside me, even if I can’t remember the shape of the sentences.

And — this being the feast of epiphanies — it crossed my mind that this is what I need to do with the manuscript I’m reading now, and maybe in the rest of my life, too: Be ready to let go in order to move forward, and in order to understand better what is really worth holding onto.

ETA: Forgot to add that this is typed on my husband’s machine. It’s possible my computer can be reconstructed from the ground up (sans data), but I’m not holding my breath. I may be scarce for a while. But for what it’s worth, I’m trying to make the most of this computer-less time by plunging into the reading and planning stages of revision. (That is, when I’m not trying to recall lost email addresses. Oy.)