Let go … again, still, more

let go

I adore this piece about 15 Things You Should Give Up to be Happy.  Loved.  And it made me think of how often I write about letting go.  I write about it a lot.  A search for “let go” in my archives yielded 26 pages of results.  I could do a favorite-posts-post JUST of “let go” posts.  But I won’t.  Right now, at least.  I do wear a necklace that says “let go” which probably tells you a lot about how much this phrase means to me.

Maybe that’s actually what this life is all, and essentially, about.  Is that possible?  Just letting go of things, releasing, letting ourselves float through life as lightly as the spring petals fluttering to the ground, dying as they go, but beautiful?

So much of this modern life seems about holding on and grabbing.  It is true when it comes to material things, and I already know I have an aversion to this, to the the piling-up of possessions.  That letting-go I have already done: the illusion that there is any deep, true contentment to be found in things.

But this orientation towards acquisition also applies to more abstract things, and there I’m as guilty as anyone.  I spent the first 30 years of my life madly racking up degrees and achievements and accolades.  In fact my first, rejected memoir was all about that: about the realization that that way of navigating the world is fundamentally broken.  When there is no next obvious brass ring to grab for, what do we do?  Well, fly into the abyss is one thing.  But as we fall, we need to figure out another map to follow, one less defined by external validation and achievement and more delineated by the internal voice of our soulThat letting go I am working on, though I think I’m moving towards it.

But there’s a third way I – and we – lean towards holding on, and that is the trickiest one for me.  It’s the letting go of what we thought our life was going to be.  That is inextricably correlated, for me, with letting go of my grief about the passage of time.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully release that, but I know that right now I’m bound in its net, tangled in the cords of sorrow that tighten around me every time I kick.  My life is exactly as I planned it and nothing like I expected.  That sentence, which I use over and over again is fundamental, painful, and true.  What I have is here.  Now.  And to really live it, I have to let go of my white-knuckle grip on both yesterday and tomorrow.  That letting go: still a long, long way to go.

As firmly as I know I need to let go, as fiercely as I’m convinced that that is the lesson I was put on earth to learn, I know I am also, simultaneously, incredibly attached.  I am attached to people, to places, to outcomes.  In fact I’ve often questioned the whole notion of hope, because it is very hard for me to feel hope in the abstract.  It always comes wound around a specific future or thing that I want to be true.

I have said before and still believe that almost all suffering comes from our attachment to how we thought it was going to be.  But I don’t want – and I don’t think I could, anyway – to be less attached to those I love.

Maybe I can parse attachment, and divide it carefully into two groups, the way Grace painstakingly divides her Perler beads by color.  Let go of what I thought life would be like?  Absolutely.  Yes.  I must.  Let go of those I love?  I don’t think so.

What are you letting go of right now?  Do you think it’s possible that learning to let go is life’s basic and most important task?


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19 Comments

  1. Posted June 3, 2013 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    I’m learning to let go of the guilt I feel over not working outside the home. I have two college degrees, but have been home for many years now. It works for our family and alleviates a lot of stress for all of us, but I still sometimes feel like I have wasted my education and talents. I am happy, at the times that I allow myself to be. I am learning to let it go.

    admin Reply:

    Glad to hear it … seems to be something that many of us have to learn and re-learn, this letting go … and your comment reminds me that the things we particularly need to release vary over time, too. xox

  2. sue putnam
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    She let it go:

    She let go.

    She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

    She let go of the fear.

    She let go of the judgments.

    She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

    She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

    She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

    Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

    She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

    She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

    She didn’t search the scriptures.

    She just let go.

    She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

    She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

    She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

    She didn’t promise to let go.

    She didn’t journal about it.

    She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

    She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

    She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

    She just let go.

    She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

    She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

    She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

    She didn’t call the prayer line.

    She didn’t utter one word.

    She just let go.

    No one was around when it happened.

    There was no applause or congratulations.

    No one thanked her or praised her.

    No one noticed a thing.

    Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

    There was no effort.

    There was no struggle.

    It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

    It was what it was, and it is just that.

    In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

    A small smile came over her face.

    A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

    – Ernest Holmes

    admin Reply:

    Wow. This is so wonderful, so powerful. Thank you! xox

  3. Posted June 3, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    This is a beautiful piece of writing. And it’s both humble and wise. This example isn’t quite so philosophical, but it has its own brand of wisdom at the core. My wife is in real estate. When she’s working on a deal, she says (aloud, often), “Do your best and let go of the outcome.” And when deals fail, she says, “Next!”

    I’ve tried to adopt the attitude for my writing career, but I can’t quite get there. And now, over nine years in, I sometimes wonder where I’d be if I’d been disciplined enough to fully embrace it. When my work has been rejected, I have not let go of the outcome, nor moved on to the next one. I’ve continued to pour myself into my first novel-length work–something I often hear a writer should not do.

    And I have been blessed time and again for my dogged revising and stubborn attitude. I have learned so much about myself and the world, through themes which are now more fully developed than I would’ve dreamed after the first draft–many of which I had no awareness. I’ve met so many wonderful people, and been presented with so many opportunities. Over the years, I have often laid in bed and berated myself for my inability to: “Just let go of the damn thing, already.” But my gut would not allow it. And now that I’ve resigned myself, for better or worse, to a course of persistence, I wonder if I should be grateful for this very human folly.

    Great post, Lindsey! May you find the perfect grip and slip when it comes to letting go.

    admin Reply:

    I love “grip and slip” – that’s so right. And your wife sounds like an inspiration!!

  4. Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    First, I just wanted to say thanks for keeping your Monday posts despite your recent decision to write/blog a little less (though I am secretly hoping this means a book is in the works!). This is the day I most look forward to reading your words, when the house is quiet and still after a full weekend. As for letting go, I have come to accept that I cannot be everything to everyone. At least not if I want to remain true to myself and do what’s best for the three of us under this roof. If that means that some people (including extended family) become more distant because they cannot accept the “real” me, then so be it. Hard for sure, but worth it in the long run.

    admin Reply:

    I plan to keep writing on Mondays! :). And yes, I think what you describe is something I need to let go of, too – realizing we can’t please everyone, and accepting that some will then slip away. This is hard for me. xox

  5. Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Love this piece, Lindsey. My family is in the midst of a health crisis, and my summer is turning out 180 degrees in the other direction of how I anticipated it would unfold. It will mean lots of altered plans in the months and, I suspect, years ahead, but I am trying so hard to LET GO of that plan and hem myself to the new one. When I do, there is so much less struggle and unhappiness.

    admin Reply:

    I am so sorry to hear about the crisis, and wish you some modicum of peace during what sounds like a turbulent time. I’m thinking of you all. xox

  6. Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I, too, have focused on letting go what I (we) thought our lives were going to be. The process is not linear, of course. But if it were, first I fought it. Then I accepted it. Then I became at peace with it. Then I became excited by it. Feeling younger and wondering what surprises and blessings lay ahead that I had never dreamed of…..

    admin Reply:

    What an inspiring way to think about this … xoxo

  7. Bruce Kneuer
    Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    In reading your post I was immediately reminded of a favorite quote from Thoreau’s Walden. From Chapter Two (“Where I Lived and What I Lived For”):

    “…for a man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

    admin Reply:

    What a marvelous quote. I hadn’t heard it before, and it’s just perfect. Thank you! xo

  8. Posted June 3, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I needed this post this morning, Lindsey. Thank you.

    Actually, I need all your posts whenever I receive them!

    I am letting go of a manuscript I wrote for 12 years, during my mother’s struggle with Alzheimers. I love the Ernest Holmes poem posted by Sue (thank you Sue!)

    When I am up in the middle of the night, trying to figure out how to let go of my long-suffering longing for a healthy, happy loving, perfect mother (!) I will try to let go with as much grace as I can summon. Quietly. Without fanfare. And without a published manuscript 🙂

    I’d say hang in there to everyone, but that’s hard to do when you’re letting go!

    admin Reply:

    Yes, there is letting go and there is doing so with grace. Those are not always the same thing, are they? xoxo

  9. Posted June 3, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    You make a great distinction, Lindsey, between letting go of expectations and/or perfection or whatever it is, and not letting go of those you cherish, keeping those you love close.

    As for “attached,” I can’t help but think of Winnie the Pooh, the chapter how Eeyore loses a tail and Pooh finds one. Of course, Owl found it and posted it on his tree as a bell-pull and commented to Pooh how useful it was since nobody seemed to want it. “Owl,” said Pooh, “somebody did want it.” and explained that it was Eeyore’s, “he was fond of it.” “Fond of it?” “Attached to it.” 🙂

    admin Reply:

    Oh, so good. I’m smiling. I’d forgotten that anecdote, and it’s perfect. xox

  10. Posted June 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, this is a humbling post. I am working on letting go ALL THE TIME. Especially since moving to this Marine base. I am always having to face that this is NOT the way my life was supposed to go. Literally right now I am also letting go of a friendship and that has been difficult and scary and I am doubting myself at the same time I see that in the past, I have surrounded myself with people who weren’t all that nice. Onward!

    I think what I am really letting go of – or trying to let go of – is the idea that because something is hard, it means I am doing it wrong. Sometimes things are just hard and it’s no one’s fault. This is a scary concept for me, that I can’t control this.

    Thank you for this beautiful thought-provoking post. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Oh, yes – and how about that even though they’re hard, they aren’t always good, productive, or in service of some goal? That’s the part that is hard for me. It’s one thing to grit my teeth and get through something, knowing that it will be “worth it” or that something good will result. But I’m learning that is not always true.

  11. Posted June 3, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Love, love this post and that article (hadn’t read it but I just did). I struggle with this SO much. Constantly. I find it hard to reconcile letting go of expectations while still going after certain dreams persistently. I don’t want “letting go” to ever be a cop out. I don’t want to accept NOT fulfilling certain dreams because I told myself I could be fine without them. (Does this even make sense? 🙂

    I totally agree that letting go of *things* has been very healthy for me. I often imagine my whole house burning down and just shrug my shoulders (as long as no one was in it of COURSE!) The things I truly love are the people and my life and other intangibles. That’s a nice feeling. xox

    admin Reply:

    That IS a nice feeling – I’m inspired. I go around and throw things away like crazy but still, everything feels cluttered and sometimes like it’s closing in on me. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Oh and yes, absolutely – to acknowledge that you haven’t met a “goal” or something is to admit that that goal had meaning in the first place, right?

  12. Posted June 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, Lindsey. Letting go is the great human struggle. Grasping and controlling is so much easier and more natural. It’s an everyday struggle for me, with everything, really. But it’s when I let go that I can feel the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and enjoy the moment.

    admin Reply:

    Me too. And in those moments I think: oh, I can do this! But it remains so, so hard … xox

  13. Posted June 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Oh boy. Letting go is major part of my life, especially of the expectations of the life I thought I would have (even though it’s pretty much the same life I do have, and that I love dearly). I’m pretty cool now with letting go of posessions, but expectations is a different matter.

    admin Reply:

    Oh yes, it is. That’s the hardest part, for me, at least. xoxo

  14. Posted June 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I am learning how to hold onto the ones I love, while letting go of what I thought their life should be like. This is especially difficult with my children. But the more I work at it, the better I get at it, the better things are for all of us.

    Thanks for a lovely piece of writing.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. I can tell that releasing our children from the boxes of how we thought they were going to be is a mighty challenge. I do sense my own constant re-calibration of expectations for them, and that is useful, but I’m sure there are bigger shifts ahead. xox

  15. Posted June 3, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The biggest thing I need to let go of is the need to be in control {which is just not going to happen all the time as a parent!} and the need to be right {which also won’t happen as a parent!}. I also struggle, too, with the cautions regarding ‘attachment’ – how can we not be attached to the ones we love? I think it’s more a warning about loving, instead of clinging or craving. We can love our children and families but without being attached to how they are right now {“I want them to be this way forever!”} ~ we should love them as they are right now, and not cling to some idea/version of them – then we can love them fully without “attachment”, knowing they, and we, will always be letting go and changing.

  16. Jill
    Posted June 4, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    This post left me with so much to think about. Letting go of how I wish things to be is where I am at…being able to identify the holding on as it appears in the moment and then letting go of it intentionally. About the attachment to people- for me, the practice is the letting go of someone’s someTHING (a way of being, action or attitude of theirs that I wish would be different) without letting go of the someONE. I think I have trouble taking this apart sometimes so I let go of the person. Or I struggle with my attachment towards the person, rather than letting go of what is actually my attachment to changing something about the person.
    Currently, my son is in a super difficult stage and I’ve been struggling so much with his behavior and its impact on our family. Yet I never stop having a deep attachment to him. I think we are in this place together so that I can have this practice in letting go…
    This post really helped me begin to take all of this apart in my head. Thank you for the prompting!

  17. Posted June 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this, I found your post at the right time today. I have been struggling with letting go lately. My father passed away and I have anger about our relationship and his lifetime decisions – LET GO. Anger at how his legacy is perceived – LET GO. I just started writing a blog and I struggle so much with how my writing is perceived by those around me (always that nagging feeling of not being good enough) – AGAIN LET GO. Wow, a super personal response to your essay, but such an important personal message for me to remember.

  18. Posted June 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Letting go. It is something I definitely think about. I’m not good at letting go though. I hang on to things. Grudges. Judgments. First impressions. I hang on to the good and the bad. I hang on to strands of time. I hang on to expectations. But I also hang on to ideas. The pessimist in me hangs on to back up plans as a way to try to anticipate the fall. I hang on to those I love. I hang on to things I love. I’m not good at letting go.

    But reading this post has made me think of letting go a little more differently. I definitely have room in my life for letting go. There are definitely some things I need to let go of. But knowing what you need to do and actually getting that thing done can be two very different things. I think I’ve known I need to let some baggage go for a while now, I’m just struggling to get the place where that can happen.

  19. Posted June 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    wow, this really made me think. Let go…I learned a few years ago to be ok with grieving that which I thought would be and now isn’t. It’s hard, though, to feel adrift in wherever the spirit thinks I should be going in life. Or maybe that’s not what you were getting at…I need to do some thinking on this post. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Being with grieving is a lesson for sure. I heard someone talk about “leaning into” sadness once, which struck some deep chord though I still struggle with HOW to do that when everything in my intellectual and rational self of course wants to run away. Maybe letting go is somehow releasing the hold that that rational part of my mind has on my spirit … I don’t know. xo

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