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Letting Go

18 March 2011

Letting Go seems to be the single hardest thing so many of us struggle with – and it can take a variety of forms: Letting go of winning an argument, of a first love, of past guilt, of regret, of the slight that person gave you a day/a week/a month/a year/years ago, that boyfriend/girlfriend that really did love you but had to leave, letting go of a loved one, of a child, of a cherished pet, of belongings, of the past.

We cling on to things that used to matter, that moved us, hurt us, broke us or built us and seem to get time warped into that moment for better or worse. When it is a good moment we hang on to – we try to replicate it and when that doesnt seem to work, we pass over opporunities because they aren’t so intense, passionate or just don’t come up to scratch. this can often leave us isolated, unhappy and lonely.

When it is a trauma we hold on to, we relive it over and over again as if somehow we might wear away the shock and the horror of it will diminish. We think how we could or should have acted, what we might have said but didn’t and how we might have behaved differently to effect a different kind of outcome. Even with trauma that was out of our control, we still blame ourselves for not having done enough or having allowed the trauma to happen.

When it is something we dont understand, such as why someone has left us/cheated us/lied to us; it’s as if we can’t let go until we have put it right or understood it even if understanding another’s perspective is no longer possible as they have moved away or passed on.

When we can’t let go of an argument or a slight, the actual thing that was said or done pales into insignificance in the face of the monster that the argument or slight evolves into. It becomes the obstacle to peace, the barrier to love and the obstruction to happiness and we appear unable to stand up to it – it holds us to ransom, rules our thoughts, our feelings and our capacity to love.

If we watch the seasons change, see the leaves fall from the trees and the plants lose their blossoms, if we wait through the frozen ground for the first shoots to appear and see the leaves once again appear on the trees and if we watch the sun rise and set to be followed by the moon rising and setting and the tides of the seas moving inland and slipping away again – if we watch, listen and observe, we can see that change is all we have that is permanent! Nothing stands still; fruit left alone decomposes, water becomes stagnant, mountains grow and the earth moves about. And in between all this change we live and die and we know that happens. So why do we try to hold on so much to a moment, a person, a thing or a feeling? Are we trying to exert some control over things that are outside of our control? Or can we just not accept that we cannot have our own way/that life has simply not gone the way we would have preferred it?

One thing is for sure, in our own way, each and every one of us faces these kinds of challenges many times in our lives. But how can we face up to these moments so that we are not left regretting our actions or left longing for some kind of reprieve or re-run so that there could be a different outcome? How can we stop ourselves from blaming others, desiring revenge and ending up bitter and angry?

There are five hurdles we have to cross to enable us to let go. The first challenge to face is Truth. We have to be brave enough to face the truth of the situation however unpleasant or difficult that may be. The truth of something we have done or what others have done or said, the truth of the situation; that someone no longers wants to be with us, no longer is living, that we no longer have the status or riches that we once had. We can write it down in black and white – in all its horror and fear – one sentence to say the truth of what we have lost, what has gone wrong, what has happened. And then read those words back and absorb them. I said this, she said that, he made that happen, she has gone. That is the truth of it.

And then we need to accept it. Just accept it as part of the life/death process of change that is our life on this planet. People come and go, sometimes they are in our lives for a short while and sometimes, for much longer. People, pets and things can be a part of our lives or they can leave our lives – with or without our agreement. We need to accept a person’s free choice of choosing whether or not to be with us, to accept that death is part of life and to accept that sometimes we as much as others, do not always act in the most noblest of ways.

Forgiveness is the next hurdle. This is a biggie! Whatever the situation, when it happens to you, it’s harder to understand, harder to forgive and then it follows naturally, harder to let go. Some consider forgiveness a weakness, that to forgive is to say that what happens didnt matter and didnt count. That if you forgive, you are saying that it is ok for someone to hurt you and steal from you. But what is it we actually need to forgive and why? Whatever happened belongs to the past and holding anger and bitterness only hurts one person – you! Sometimes we just dont know why things didnt work out or may never get to the bottom of why someone has behaved the way they did – and when that happens we just need to accept that is the truth of the situation and let it be what it was. Forgiveness applies to us too, we need to forgive ourselves for not doing the right thing, for not getting there in time to say goodbye, for not being there for them – whatever it was, forgive the part of you that didnt mean to hurt, that didnt know any better, that didnt understand. And forgive that part of the other person that didnt know either. We only see life from our own personal perspective and that is not always the whole story.

Love comes with forgiveness; a love of our life and ourselves – if we can forgive ourselves and let go of guilt and regret, we can allow love into our lives again and feel worthy of another’s affection. When we forgive others, we can love them for the best of what they are rather than the worst – we may never forget, nor should we if we wish to turn our challenges into learning curves, but in forgiving, we allow others and ourselves the opportunity to get it wrong, to choose a different path and free will to do what we think is best. Forgiving ourselves and others when death takes away any opportunity to ‘put it right’ allows the love that we have or once had to flow again despite mistakes or misdeeds. To allow love for what might have been, could have been but simply didnt make it.

And with love comes understanding. As we allow love to enter our hearts, we understand that everyone is different, that people and things come and go just like the seasons and that all we can do in a world of change is to face each day with an open heart and mind, free of guilt, regret and pain and embrace the season for what it is; spring, summer, autumn or winter; whether we are young or old, rich or poor, in favourable or unlucky circumstances, if we live in the moment and are grateful for all we have and with love, are able to let go of all things in our lives that have held us back or hurt us – every day becomes a new beginning and a new possibility.