White Knuckle Open Palm
Essays on Letting Go
Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.
The great Sufi poet, Rumi. His words have helped heal my heart, give me hope, lead me to clarity, and better understand some of my greatest joy and deepest suffering. Like most of us, when I look back over the last twenty years of my life, I’ve experienced my share of both. I like to focus on the joyful times: my wedding day, finding out I was pregnant with my son and then my daughter, watching them grow into the beautiful human beings they are today. But mixed in with all those happy times, there’s heartache and loss. A crumbling marriage that ended in divorce, the death of my only, very dear brother, and a couple very painful break-ups.
Reading back the essays I have written over the years, clearly the thing I struggle with most is letting go. My readers will know this to be true; it’s a common theme. Basically, I keep writing the same essay over and over a little differently. I’ve written about it so much because I am always trying to figure out how to do it better.
That toxic marriage of mine. Truth is, it wasn’t always toxic. It was happy for a lot of years, until it wasn’t. And I know I was unhappy way before it occurred to him to be. He was just existing. When I finally did let go, it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done – and I had to do it for both of us. He wasn’t ready to let go either. And he didn’t really let go for a number of years.
So, this being bad at letting go thing? I’m thinking I’m not alone. That’s my point with this particular letting go essay.
I think people hang on to things that have run their course, expired, are toxic, quit serving them, no longer make them happy or even make sense anymore because letting go is, in a word, excruciating. The irony is every time you do actually let go, you feel so much better (eventually) I don’t know why we aren’t a lot more quick to release.
I wish we could all just learn to put effort into people who actually deserve it. Don’t waste time on assholes. You’ll be much happier. And at the end of the day you’re only responsible for your own happiness. Forget about the impossible to please people. Let them find their own happiness and leave you out of it.
Usually, not being able – no, not wanting to – let go is borne of fear, plain and simple. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing what you think you have. Fear of loneliness, loss, pain, jealousy, anger…it all comes down to being afraid. We white knuckle it – holding on so damn tight because we can’t seem to recognize that when we let go we open up to so much more. We get so comfortable in what is we can’t imagine what might be.
Letting go with grace is something I’ll always have to work to overcome. I need to say, though, that this is the cost that comes with a trait I happen to like about myself: I attach to people. If I love you-love you, I love you for real. I don’t go tossing that shit around to just any old Jack or Joe. I also feel things deeply, so I risk getting hurt deeply by letting someone in, and letting someone go.
But, when I look back at all the ways my life has blossomed over the last several years I know I will keep loving the way I love, keep creating the life I want, and keep making room for all that is next. Because there is always so much more ahead than what we leave behind. Open palms.
In the words of another great (modern day) poet, #Atticus:
“Don’t give up now. Chances are, your best kiss, your hardest laugh, and your greatest day are still yet to come.”