on letting go

I’ve been thinking on this idea of letting go a lot the past few weeks. With relationships, work, projects, challenges, dreams and more, when do we let go? Not everything is ours to keep, and sometimes, I think it’s tough, especially when we’re in the thick of it, to know when we’ve given it our best, need to step away, cut our losses and let go.

I suppose it doesn’t mean that we let go forever. Perhaps it’s a matter of days. Maybe a month. Maybe far longer than that. Maybe forever. I don’t know.

I was speaking with a friend months ago about this. She shared a practice of, in our minds, placing the thing that seemingly needs letting go of on a leaf in a stream and letting it float away. Rather than crumpling it up and throwing it out, we release it out into the universe — giving it the opportunity to float back around into our lives, if and when the timing is right, or to simply float on with no return. In letting go, we must relinquish all hopes and expectations for what that letting go might mean. We must let go, and leave it at that.

In No Baggage, Clara Bensen touches on this sentiment: “Follow your dreams, but let go of the outcomes. Yes, we must dream our big dreams and our secret desires, but dream them lightly. Follow them nimbly. Adapt, flow and alter course as life lobs unexpected surprises in our direction. There will be occasions that require us to set old dreams down and gather new ones up. For every flourishing period of action and realization, there may also be dry periods that push us into the desert, devoid of direction. As in nature, these cycles are natural—necessary even.”

Letting go is natural and, at times, necessary. Yet while letting go is sometimes necessary, it doesn’t mean surrendering what you learned and how it’s shaped you, how it’s made you the person you are today. There’s something to learn in everything, and when it comes to the things I struggle to let go of, I can look back and see just how much I’ve grown in the process. I can look back and see just how much I’ve gained. Letting go doesn’t mean sacrificing all of that. The experiences leading up to the letting go have built us into who we are today. No one and nothing can change that. It’s important to acknowledge and understand that.

When it comes to the things we hold onto, I think we do what we can — within our control and within reason — and then we have no choice but to let go. Nothing is ever really ours to keep.

These words from Cheryl Strayed in Tiny Beautiful Things play through my mind often: “You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else. Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”

The first time I read these words, they cut through me. There is so much truth — and, for that reason, power — packed in them. I still struggle with this truth, but oh, how I know it’s true. When it comes to certain things, I am stubborn. I am stubborn to a fault.

As hard as it is to let go, it’s mighty important. I say this for myself just as much as anyone else. If you’ve done what you can — within your control and within reason and with the best of intentions — let go. Take the thing you need to let go of. Set it on a leaf, place that leaf in a stream and let it float away. You can stand, or sit, and absorb the moment, but don’t run after the leaf with the thing you’re letting go of. Don’t try to catch it. Don’t try to pull it out of the stream. Let it float away, and have your peace with it. Let go — in your body, in your mind, in your heart and in your soul. Let go, and move on. Let go, move on and avail yourself to what’s to come, those unexpected, delightful surprises life is bound to throw your way.

4 thoughts on “on letting go

  1. Sandee Hopcian

    Letting go of what I can not control has been a lesson that I have learned and unlearned during my 69 years on this earth. As I have aged, the lessons have morphed into so many forms. For me, these lessons are part of my journey. Yes, I have plunged into the water to grasp that leaf so many times. There is no shame in that; but holding that wet leaf and knowing that there is nothing that you can do for it leads to increased pain. I am still learning. In our beautiful Fall, we learn how lovely letting go can be as taught by God’s glorious trees. I will never tire of those colorful leaves swirling down!

  2. Carol McKee

    Thought provoking … how do we realize that which should be let go, and that we still have the chance to change and learn with.

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