Adventures in letting go
Surviving change – let alone navigating it, or even mastering it – is an every-moment practice in letting go. Living well means letting go.
Fall Foliage – Not just for tourists
The trees are doing their yearly rainbow dance-til-they-drop, getting ready for the cold spare months of winter. They’re pulling their energy back to their core instead of scattering it to thousands of leaves who are just going to freeze anyway.
The scientists in the room just cringed. I’ve oversimplified a life process all the way back what I learned in first grade.
Leo Buscaglia takes it further and much more elegantly so in his touching tale The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. Freddie the Leaf lives and dies across the span of less than one Earth year. He grows from a bud to beautiful leaf shimmering in the summer breeze. One day, he notices his friends are falling. He asks the older leaves what’s happening, where the lost friends have gone, aren’t they coming back.
Even grown-ups reading this children’s story at bedtime tend to get a little misty as Freddie learns about the ultimate letting go.
“It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?”
~ Leo Buscaglia
I could write a book about letting go.
I have been really worrying about this post. Dreading it. Starting. Stopping. Procrastinating. I don’t know how many notable quotables I’ve found about the power of surrender and letting go, being and becoming, in the now, and all that other woo woo giddiness.
But, what can you let go of in the length of one blog post? Where’s it start? And end? Because, in real life, there is no end to the letting go.
If I wrote a book, I’d start with relatively easy things to let go.
Letting go of things is relatively easy. Things, as in objects, like leftovers that got left too long – hello, compost! Things you’ve grown out of, like skinny jeans or fat jeans, hey-o! Your kids’ clothes. Hello, hand-me-downs and thrift-store donations!
Decluttering. Being minimalism. Living light. Shrinking your footprint. There’s shelves of self-help and homemaking books that coach you on how to you de-materialize your life.
On the other hand, letting go of abstracts, as in, expectations, feelings, bad habits, fears, limiting beliefs & stories – well, that’s a horse of a different color, isn’t it?
Relatively. That’s a word that packs a wallop. Relative to what, though?
A few years after my husband and I went our separate ways, I had to have my mom come over to hold my hand and help me let go of all the things.
So many beautiful, thoughtful, and utterly unnecessary things. Wedding gifts and photos. Crystal biscuit jars, odd kitchen tools, and, oh man, the wedding photos. The professionally stored wedding dress, train, and veil, the accoutrement of white picket fences and cul-de-sacs, the dream of being wed, of being a We.
Even things Before Wedding, sundry holdovers from college. Hard copies of essays and thesis papers. Old-school floppy disks with who knows what on them because who’s got a floppy disk drive anymore? I’m not sure but that may have been the day I gave away my high school letter jacket.
I lost my, ahem, composure many times that day.
Apparently, it’s one of those things that skips a generation.
My mom’s mom was not a hoarder. Let’s just get that straight. Gramma and Grampa eloped during the Great Depression. They saved things in case they ever needed them again. I am so down with that.
This urge missed my mom completely. She’d go through Gramma’s closets, bagging things to give away. She’d say, “Mom. You haven’t worn this outfit in years. Let’s get rid of it so you can see what else is in there, okay?” Gramma enjoyed getting rid of things as much as I do.
I wonder now if Gramma ever got a piece of the same wisdom Mom gave me that day of letting go.
Mom was about to chunk some small thing in the Salvation Army pile when my chin started to quiver again. My vision got blurry over I-don’t-even-remember-what artifact, something that reminded me of what might have been but never was.
She gave me this piercing look, which she hardly ever did, and asked, so tenderly, “Hon, do you think these things are you? That they’re who you are?”
That was a really stressful, fretful, miserable day. Letting go, not just of the things, but all that they represented. Fabulous memories, love, family, dreams, hopes, expectations. It was a physical, emotional, visceral letting go.
Relatively. That’s what’ll trip you up. Relative to what?
If I could, I’d Bill Murray Groundhog That Day on repeat a thousand thousand times, if it meant I could have my mom back.
If it meant not having to let her go. Not having to give her sublingual doses of hospice meds. Benumbed and emptied, watching paralyzed, helpless – what help at the deathbed but presence? Watching her struggle to let go of her things, her earthly belongings, her family, and her tenacious warrior body.
If I wrote that book on letting go, that day would be the last chapter in it.
If she were here now, what chunk of wisdom would she drop on me this time?
I already know. She’d say, “Oh, jeez, hon, go in for drama much. I am here. I am always with you. For Pete’s sake. I raised you. I’m in you, you turkey. Now quit worrying about your post and turn it in to be published.”
“While you’re at it, here’s something you can let go of – worrying. You’re not helping anything by it. You’re just making yourself, and everybody else, by the way, crazy by it. Let that ish go!”
Okay, Ma, you’re embarrassing me. I got it, thanks. Sheeesh. I’ll try.
Suzanne Hoenig - Based in the Texas Hill Country, Suzanne is learning the lay of the land and the life upon it. When she’s not hiking, gardening and learning to restore native habitats, she’s working with amazing clients to craft compelling content and grow healthy communities.