Learning to let go was one of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn, but one of the most important.
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” — Herman Hesse, German novelist/poet
Subconsciously I tried to live in a static world when I knew that things were dynamic year by year, month by month, day by day, moment by moment.
I used to be the antithesis of letting go.
Growing up I was the person that had few friends… REALLY few friends.
0-1 good friends is what I would normally have and if that # ended up greater than zero I tended to dedicate as much time as I could to the 1 friend that I currently was focused on.
I guess monogamy is in my blood.
I tried to make other friends, I really did. I would have acquaintances, but until I was in college I really couldn’t balance out multiple relationships, I couldn’t share with more than 1 person — and I am talking solely about friendships as I didn’t have my first romantic relationship until I was in college.
As a kid I grew up collecting comic books, action figures, video games and the like, but looking back the one thing that I seemed to covet more than anything else was collecting relationships. With those relationships I would build up my treasure trove of life experiences, always looking to add add add, never to remove.
Why would we ever want to remove relationships that were so hard to build in the first place? Why would we need to move away from past goals, past expectations, past paths that we walked?
“When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” — Alexander Graham Bell, American inventor
The problem with human beings (at least my experiences with them in the United States) is that we enjoy looking back on happy times, but we LOVE focusing on the bad. The “what ifs” in life that stand out so much:
What if I had done this?
What if I hadn’t done that?
What if I loved this person?
What if I had chosen a different career?
What if [fill in the blank]?
Holding on to these negative memories gives us a purpose many times in our life, an identity that we feel more comfortable holding on to, like a life ring in the middle of the ocean. To let go is scary, to let go is unknown, to let go means facing your fears.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” — Laozi, 6th century BCE Chinese philosopher
The examples of this have been so numerous I could probably think of at least one for most people that I know:
- The family member who forever regretted a job opportunity that they didn’t take
- The person that was constantly envious of others for what “they had” and they didn’t
- The friend who had been harboring misery and resentment for over a decade about the suffering that was inflicted on them unintentionally
These are just three, I could list many, many more and they all share a common trait…
Holding on to the pains of life sucks any of the joy that can still be experienced in life and takes a lush forest and turns it into a desert.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell, American mythologist
I learned the simple reality that strong people are the ones that don’t hoard onto the “what ifs” and downs of life, strong people are the ones that learn to let go.
Saying “enough” to…
…old relationships that have passed their expiration date
…pain of a past experience that continues to define us to the present day
…expectations of what a life “would” have been, “should” have been, or “could” have been
…old paths in life that aren’t present any more
…past mistakes, regrets, opportunities
I learned that letting go isn’t a minor matter, it’s a MAJOR one and in order to become a better, happier individual it is an art form that has to be learned and practiced like any other craft. Letting go requires the individual to be at peace with a blank slate, with staring back at a void in space and having that void turn emotions into excitement instead of terror.
There came a point in my life when I finally said “enough” to living a life that was focused on pain and disappointment and I asked myself what I could do differently and part of the answer that I was looking for in life was letting go. Like with most of the life lessons that I share it’s not usually something I am able to achieve 100% of the time but as I advise my daughter with her education, the goal should be to strive for an A-, an achievable mark that is certainly realistic, possible, and excellent.
When my brain starts to think about people I no longer interact with any more and my emotions head toward a downward slope, I close my eyes, clear my brain and reset myself internally.
When I think of past decisions and paths taken and start to feel bad about the ones I don’t like, I remind myself that those decisions, those paths have made me the person I am today and I LOVE the person that I am today.
When I compare myself to someone else and focus on what they have and I don’t, I remind myself of the GOOD things in my life and that many, many people have things much worse off than me.
“Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.” — Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer), syndicated advice columnist
Life was never meant to be static, life never will be static, and there are few things which remain static (an example of one is I know that I will always love my daughter). Trying to live a static existence and one where we hold on to everything possible is illogical.
In this capitalistic world we are programmed at birth to know more More MOre MORe MORE but I find as I get older that LESS is MORE. That it isn’t always about holding on to whatever we have or getting more things/relationships, that many times a happier existence is achieved by simply learning to let go…