Someone said, "You may have to let go of your life as you know it , your marriage, your friends, your job, your career, your house, your self-image, the way you deal with things, your past, your dreams of the future and push forward to a new life. I don’t know what you’ll have to let go of. That’s for you to discover, but I do know that you’ll have to let go of something."
Letting go is scary. It’s a free fall, an act of surrender. It’s releasing ways of being and things I thought were important, and then being okay with the fact that they’re gone. Though it can feel like passivity, letting go is in fact a shift in consciousness that’s a critical part of how I will solve the problem. It takes courage to look at my life and say, this is a helluva pickle I’m in and I need to throw a wrench into the wheel of a runaway locomotive, — so I can deal with the reality at hand.
Just as tears are a doorway to the future, so, too, is letting go. When I let go I take an active role in shaping my life because I am taking responsibility not only for an immediate change but also for whatever comes after. When I consciously decide to let go, whatever ensues doesn’t just happen to me. I'm not just a passive pawn in the plot.
Deciding to accept the long process of years of accepting and adapting to the circumstances out of my control and a divorce, — when I chose to take these actions, I am actively letting go. I am intentionally choosing to move myself in a new direction.
I'm not used to letting go. I'm used to hanging on for dear life. I hang on for lots of reasons: because something is familiar; because the past is a known commodity and the future is a question mark; because I lack imagination and can’t conceive of a future better than the past I’ve had; because blankies (no matter how ragged and trashed they are) and relationships (no matter how complete they already are or inappropriate they have become) are a comfort to me. I hang on because I’ve been taught that persistence is good and we should never give up. Or I'm simply afraid of the free fall, afraid of coming alive as ourselves.
Having to let go — of things, of the way it was, of my notion of what the future will look like — often creates an identity crisis. I like to live according to my memories of myself, of how I were, of the way things used to be. Inside me are templates of these memories, armatures on which layer by plaster layer I have crafted my identities. I think I still am who I once thought I were, but changing circumstances forced me to reevaluate. As with the alcoholic bag lady roaming the streets who still thinks of herself as the prom queen, the college valedictorian who’s suddenly just an average student in law school, it’s hard to let go of an old identity and move on. But if I don’t let go of who and what I once were, I won’t be available to become whoever and whatever this crisis is inviting me to become. For instance, without the courage to let go, the small business owner who temporarily drove a cab, the special education teacher who was a waitress for a while, and the young accountant who had to move back in with his parents — might have missed becoming the life coach, the owner of a catering business, and the hospital administrator that they have respectively become. Of course, it’s easier to cling to the identity of who I once was than to imagine who I might now become, but, frankly, there isn’t any future in it.
Letting go, on the other hand, asks me to believe that somewhere across the Big Tent of Life there will be another trapeze bar that I can take hold of after I’ve let go of this one. It’s an act of terror and freedom, of trust and faith that when I let go, I will find something new, better, different.
But unlike the sidelined CEO, instead of letting go with grace, I'm often more like the monkey who reaches into the narrow-mouth jar to grab the coconut inside and then get can’t get my hand back out, because I just can’t bear to let go of the coconut. Often, it’s my desire for more that lies at the root of a crisis, and I have to let go of this desire. The happy shopper can’t come home with every bargain at the mall. The refugee can’t walk out of town with the kitchen stove on his back. Every form of freedom has a price. You can’t have everything you’ve already got and everything you haven’t had yet. The living room isn’t big enough for the old couch and the new couch both at once. You gotta let go; you gotta take your pick. I know that letting go frees up one's energy and one's attention. In the open field of surrender lie the seeds of new possibilities. This, in itself, can be a relief: the lightness of being you feel when you’ve finally dropped those extra fifty pounds, the silken tranquility in the house when you finally ditch your screaming husband.
Sometimes the content of the new possibility is nothing — you let go and are left with absence, a vacancy.
Letting go means not hoping “things will change,” not bargaining or making deals — I’ll let go if; I’ll let go when. It’s not storing the freeze-dried body of my relationship with David, relatives, friendship (or my marriage or being expulsed from my job with my parents' Garner Construction Company by David immediately after my mother's death/burial) in cryonic suspension. It’s acknowledging that this piece of my life, this relationship, this way of doing things since David, (my older brother and only sibling), destroyed my life as I know it before he died 20 months later after my mother died has served its purpose, there isn't any future in it and so it is time to let go of it completely.
In the less is the more. In the emptiness there is room for so much.