Letting Go

On New Year’s Eve I took a hike at sunset to say goodbye to the old year. At first I said, ” good riddance” as I said farewell. It has been a long and challenging year. As I walked down the trail, I watched the clouds lose their color and the light fade from the sky. I stopped at a bend in the path where I could look out over the canyon. It is hard to feel anything but gratitude looking out over such simple perfect beauty. I was aware that I had been too hasty in my goodbye to this year. I am ready to begin another year, but I am also grateful, as hard as it has been at times, for the year that has ended.

As one year ends and a new one begins I spend some time purging my home and inner world and saying goodbye to possessions and ways of being that I do not need to hold onto any longer. Letting go is not easy for me. Sometimes, after I have sorted through my things and set some of them to one side, I do not complete the final step of actually moving them out of my house.  A pile might sit in the corner untouched for weeks before I take it out and finally let it go.

It is difficult not to be critical of the part of myself that does not finish things completely.  My tendency for self-criticism is strong. I have worked on quieting that voice all year. I am trying to be curious about what I am doing rather than critical. I am learning to trust that behaviors and attitudes, which once seemed wrong or different, are in fact right and honoring of myself. One of my teachers often reminds me that events usually happen at the right time. I have felt the ease and joy that is part of embracing self-acceptance and trust in that way. I have experienced trusting, letting go, and flowing with the currents. Yet there are still moments when I find myself trying to push the river, redirect the current, and question and control where it is going.

For the past few years I have kept a basket of letters next to my desk with the intention of finding time to go through them. As part of my end of the year purge I pulled out the basket and began going through dozens and dozens of letters that had been written to our family during the illness, and after the death, of my son. I was surprised to find that many of the letters had never been opened. The well brought up part of me was appalled by this, but the part that is able to surrender is aware of how much the unopened letters are telling me about how I was feeling when they arrived. Each sealed envelope is a reminder of how impossible it was to take in anything, even supportive and loving words, two and a half years ago. As I open them now I release and feel all of the love and support they contain. On the day I started opening the letters we also began going through my son’s things and clearing out his room for the first time. I am freeing the feelings the envelopes have held at the perfect moment. Still, it is difficult to accept the perfect timing. I am self critical that both tasks have taken me so long. My feelings are fueled by a culture that encourages “getting off the pity pot”, “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps”, and “getting over it”. We do not place value in or respect taking time to recover from emotional trauma. Last night I shared my experience with a close friend who has also lived through traumatic loss. She told me that she had waited seven years before she sat and read the letters that she had received. Her story helped me recognize the pressure that is put on me and that I put on myself with my belief that there is a right way to do everything. Obviously the timing is less important than the experience of taking in the love and support that was waiting patiently in a basket under my desk.

It is difficult to let go of the struggle and accept the flow and rhythm of life. It is difficult to let go of control, and trust my instincts and impulses instead of my thoughts. I have been thinking about school and the minimum 12 years that we all spend doing work to meet the expectations of others. When we have finished our formal education, we spend the rest of our lives, as I am now, trying to find our way back to our inherent trust of self. As one year ends and another begins, I am purging and clearing the unwanted things I have accumulated in my home and in my self. I am throwing out my critical voice, my need to please others, my desire for control, my sense of obligation, and any relationships that take me away from myself. I am making room for joy, self-acceptance, appreciation, love and surrender. As I release each object and attitude I take a moment to be grateful for what it brought into my life and how it served me when I used it and needed it. I find that the expression of gratitude makes it easier to let things go completely so that I don’t find them months later still taking up space in a dark corner of my closet.

1 comment to Letting Go

  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing these thoughts. When my mother passed away, I was having difficulty letting go of all of her things. I found it easier to let go of simple things, like clothing, but treasure all the personal family items. A wise woman told me “death ends a life, not a relationship.” I have thought of this many times and it has helped me hold on to what is necessary, while letting go of that which is not.

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