Sometimes the right thing is letting go. There are times in our lives when the illusions we have created of how it all should be no longer serve us. They are patterned ideas of who we should be, where we should be, whom we should share our lives with. But the course of life has different plans for us.
When we are confronted with these crossroads it is easy to fall into the trap of holding on. We feel the need to maintain the image we have created of what life should be at all costs. We whiteknuckle it. Our grasp of the vision we had tightens as we resist the unknown future that begins to unfold before our eyes.
This rings true for all things: relationships, careers, possessions. Our society has taught us to seek permanence, to find continuity in the things that bring us comfort. And yet, these things also have a life trajectory of their own. Sometimes their trajectory diverges from ours and we have to decide if we will cling to them and attempt to cage them so we can maintain some form of control. But a caged bird is only a shadow of its free self.
At the moment, this rings true for me more than ever in the realm of relationships. Recently, I have seen many people in my life going through massive relationship transitions. Marriages are dissolving. Partnerships are breaking apart. Children are leaving the home. And in the empty space left in their wake there is a sorrow and fear that takes up residence in our hearts.
But what if these empty spaces are an invitation to grow into a more complete understanding of who we are? What if the departure of a loved one is a calling to become who we must be so that we are open to new and exciting forms of love?
These are big questions. They ask a commitment of us. They ask us to have the willingness to step into the unpredictable flux of creation that is Life. While this is frightening, as uncertainty must be, it doesn’t have to be destructive. It can be in these moments that we begin to see the parts of ourselves that have been left by the wayside as we devoted ourselves to another person. I have found this to be true in my own life.
In every relationship that I have had, I have been guilty of neglecting some very important parts of myself in order to accommodate the person I am with. The tricky part is that this was rarely, if ever, asked of me. And yet I felt the need to walk away from parts of me that I assumed to be intimidating or inconvenient to my partner. But is much beauty in the reclaiming of who we are as complete beings.
In this massive shift that is the transition of a relationship, we come to a point where we can reclaim the aspects of ourselves that make us whole. We can start courting the things that made us smile and feel excited about the constant unfolding of life. In some ways, these are the very things about us that attracted the person we were with from the start. And yet, as the luster of relationship fades into the dance of daily routine we forget to experience each moment as an exciting expression of life unfolding into its new and varied forms.
While attempting to hold on to what we perceive as security or certainty in our relationship we forget that there is no such thing. The only certainty is the ongoing flux in this dance of life. And so we shut down the beautiful, true and free parts of who we are to accommodate an illusion of concrete stability. If only we were able to let go and experience the profound epiphanies of each moment then perhaps we would not feel as much sorrow when it comes time to walk a different path.
Stephen Jenkinson says, "In order to love something, you have to love its end." Without understanding that each thing we experience in life will come to an end we take life, and those we share our life with, for granted. We often assume that they will always be there until one day, they aren't. Learning to let go is a skill. It as deeply entwined with love as it is with grief. It teaches us to honor the wild beauty of loving, in ourselves and in the people we share precious moments of our journey with.
Letting go is an act of love. It is an acknowledgement of the rare beauty in the person we have loved. It is the ability to see that, regardless of our attachment, the brilliant soul of the person we are with is on its own journey. The old cliché goes “If you love someone, set them free.” Well, part of that is right. The part that isn’t is the assumption that we control their freedom. I would suggest that we revise it: If you love someone love their freedom. None of us wants to be a caged soul, for in that cage what we have been born to be begins to dim, fade, and is forced to fight for its life. Possession is the absence of love. And in the end, it is only an illusion.
If you are going through a difficult relationship transition right now here are a few suggestions:
· Go for long walks in silence – there is medicine in movement. When we take the physical action of moving forward it starts to move what has lied still and in many cases become stagnant: the sorrow, the anger, the frustration and helplessness. Our bodies are physical expressions of our inner world, when they move what is stuck inside of us moves. Trust me, you will find moments of insight and release as you let your body move. It also helps you connect with the world around you. It invites you to reconnect with the greater community of Life that you are an essential part of, a community of rocks, trees, birds and animals that is always there waiting for you to remember it. So watch, listen, and share your sorrows when you must.
· Remember you – I mean this is the true sense of the word remember, to put back together. What did you like to do before your relationship that you haven’t done recently? What habits, hobbies or interests did you leave by the wayside to tend the relationship you were creating? How can you bring some of those things back into your life? In this case it doesn’t have to be the exact action, but something that brings the same emotion up for you. Reconnect with that part of you that finds solace and joy in the things you used to love doing.
· Find a community that can witness you –Isolation is the mother of soul-wrenching devastation. It can lead people to the brink of suicide, and sometimes beyond. We need to temper our need for solitude (and make no mistake, it is a need), with our connection to a community. Gather your friends close to you, find those that can listen without judgment. In some cases this is a tall order, so seek out help from people that can be witnesses to what you are going through. If you don’t know where to start, you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can help.
*Originally published as Inlak'ech Transpersonal Coaching