Hi Friend with the Heavy Heart,
Can I speak with you for a moment? It's late here in my living room, and as a candle flickers, I want to tell you about something that has been setting me free.
When people say, "let it go," they don't really have the faintest idea what they're talking about, God bless them. 99% of the time, when some well-meaning, kind-hearted someone says "let it go", what they really, truly mean is "move on."
Don't let that get you down.
A truth about letting go hit me like a force today while my friend and I swapped updates on familiar topics; the edges of stories that we've traced time and time again over our friendship's history.
You see, here's the thing about letting something go.
You do it again. And then again. And then, again.
You let go of that person. That job. That baby. That move into a bigger house in a better school district.
And then, quietly, maybe a few weeks or months later, you realize that the you who wanted that person, job, baby, or house has changed. You've lost the lustful passion, the childish romanticism, the need to be successful or important or a mom by the time you're 30. Somewhere in the desert behind you, you dropped the part of yourself who thirsted for that one impossible thing like a drink of cold water.
And then, in that moment of realization, you find you're letting go again-this time, of the version of yourself who wanted that person, job, baby, house in the first place.
And then, you find you're letting go of many, many things that the old you was building, developing, and weaving together in intimate conversations and job applications and fertility treatments.
Let me break this one open:
It is a myth that letting go happens once.
It is a myth that letting go simultaneously will mean dropping something off and taking a step in a new direction. That pregnancy isn't happening? Okay we adopt. That job isn't happening? Okay we apply somewhere else. That friendship isn't happening? Okay we make new ones. That sounds like a business plan, not a map for the heart.
It is a myth that maybe if I just pin an inspirational quote onto my Pinterest board and avoid certain coffee shops and force myself not to look at parenting magazines or bring up that unforgettable someone's name during a conversation with our once-mutual friend, then somehow I have improved. I have grown up. I have matured.
I have been remade into a person that never needed her or him or whomever or whatever in the first place.
Can you hear the lies, my friend? Pure, pathological, snakeish lies, gosh darn it. (If you were sitting here on the couch with me in the candlelight, I'd use even harsher language.) In an effort to avoid a singular pain of loss, we end up missing our entire lives.
Letting go will take a thousand small releases.
Any other way is heartless.
No one is going to know just how often and how unexpectedly the pain bubbles up, reminding you of what you thought you'd have but what now can never be. Not even the other half of the equation-the ex-spouse, friend, career, dream-will know the secret meanings that wove into your heart's fabric while you were busy never entertaining a life without them.
I want to give you some permission right now.
I want you to know that the next time you hear someone talk about his or her past like it actually stays in some kind of locked closet in the back of their brain, that you are under no obligation to "let it go," once and for all.
The next time someone talks about closure like it's a thing you actually get in this life, you can laugh a little on the inside and know you are treating your self like a soul, not a house for sale.
The next time someone advises you to "let it go", gently ask them why, and then listen. What they say next is the part you and I should actually pay attention to.
Of course, the alternative to letting go wouldn't be pretty either, would it? Clinging. Harboring. Nursing our wounds. Counting offenses like evidence and memories like ammunition. There's no use carrying all that ammo around when you're on a trip toward a peaceable destination.
But tonight, I'm going to assume that you, like me, have been to that other extreme and saw that there was nothing for you there but bitterness and an empty cup.
What I do want to say to you is that you can go gentle on the things you haven't yet released. Oh, fellow pilgrim, the truth is, there is always more letting go to do. So go slow and gentle. Freedom is not a foot race.
My guess is that's a relief to hear. It was for me.
And, one more thing before we blow out the candle and call it a night: my greatest hope for you is that in whatever form "letting go" and "moving on" may take, you will receive the same gift I have been given: a companion who will sit with you and allow you to let "it" go, in its varied forms, for as long as it takes you to fully heal.
If you don't have that gift, then gosh darn it, be that gift.
Someone you know desperately needs it.