When We Can't Let Go
“When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” - Alexander Graham Bell
My newly turned 4-year-old had an absolute meltdown the other day. It was over shoes. I mean, generally speaking you could fill in the blank as to the subject matter and the tears would still fall with the same ferocity. But this time, it was over a pair of Anna (from Frozen) boots that no longer were fitting. She just could not let it go. (No pun intended here.)
She loves shoes – especially these. They were boots and they were fancy. She kept trying to get them on, crying, yanking, pushing, maneuvering, insisting they would still fit. She just didn’t get it. Why did her feet grow? Why did the boots get smaller? Why was life so unfair?
And it struck me how similar she and I were to our feelings of frustration with current life events. Granted, I’m older, and of course wiser in my aging years, so I know why my shoes don’t fit anymore and can simply buy a new pair. Yet, there are situations that evoke an equal amount of agony to which I can easily empathize.
Recently, I was in the basement, just passing through to the laundry room, when it hit me like a punch in the stomach. I briefly glanced up and in the shadows, an apparition of the past appeared. The dusty play kitchen was busy with little hands and high-pitched voices giggling and pretending. And my body felt it. As quickly as it appeared in my imaginary vision, it disappeared. It hit me hard how our days have shifted. The days of pretend play with mini kitchens and plastic food have dwindled into practically non-existence.
I had such a guttural reaction, even to the burning tears in my eyes, as I blinked back tears and nausea all at the same time. No one prepares you for the changes in life; the experiences, phases, and even people that come and go. When you are in the moment, it feels like a forever deal. And while intellectually, I fully comprehend that things do change, my heart hasn’t quite caught up.
I never knew so much happiness as I did with babies and small children. In hindsight, I see how it is such a quick blink in the scope of time. Though, admittedly there were days that felt like forever and it was not always bliss, but for me, it was a time into which I happily sank into a comfortable role. However, this sadness is not letting go easily. People tell me “every stage is great.” OK. I believe it. It just doesn't take away the grief from the realization of a time that is no more. I am just now aware of the closing door, I haven’t yet checked for the one that is open. And I know it's there. I just have to look.
I’ve worked very hard in my life of letting go of resentments and people that just are not good for me. I get that. It has been drilled into me after years of recovery, teaching yoga and the occasional self-help book. Sometimes I’m not always good at letting go of those things, but eventually it happens.
However, letting go is only one half the equation. There is also the moving forward.
And I struggle with that. I struggle with trusting life enough to bring the moments of peace again. And it’s not just the babies. People I care about are no longer with me. I have lines on my face where there used to be none, as age has crept in without so much as a gentle knock. And while I am so grateful to be out of my twenties and healthily into the next decade, appreciating my age and the accompanying wisdom, I was not prepared for the complimentary vulnerability that has come along with it.
Things are always changing, we just don’t always see it. Most change is so subtle that we take for granted the present moment, assuming everything is constant. It’s not. Remember the age-old quote by Heraclitus, “The only thing constant is change”.
I need to let go.
I am packing up the toys that are no longer used, the clothes that are too small and giving them away. (Some are staying – my heart can only do a bit at a time.) I am redirecting my attention from the 24/7 focus that a baby entails, to finding who I am and what I can contribute in this new phase.
And while it is easier to grasp the concept of letting go of the physical things, I must remember to apply the same principal to more intangible elements in my life. There are people, relationships, volunteer and non-volunteer gigs, that no longer work. They don’t bring the same energy they once did. And while it’s important to keep commitments, it’s almost equally, if not more, important to keep the commitment to ourselves that we will stay fluid. We will accept the flows in life’s river, not resisting new scenery by solely focusing on what is behind us and only what is familiar.
Letting go is a concept that we as humans must consciously practice. The trees, the animals, Mother Nature – they all just do their thing. The trees let go the leaves as the temperature drops, the birds begin their directional voyage south, and Mother Nature moves in symphony with time, resisting nothing.
Why is it we hold on so tightly when there is so little we can truly control?
We don’t want to lose what feels good or even trade the known for something unfamiliar, because that could feel bad. We often run from pain, only to dig deeper into denial of reality, causing even more pain and we miss out on the goodness that is happening in the present. Time moves on without our permission. It is an only an illusion to ourselves if we attempt to hold something back.
Giving up resistance certainly isn’t easy, but it is simple.
With a memory of valuable experiences from the past and a loose intention for the future, we can to truly experience what is in front of us – good and bad. It allows us to be open and accessible for any opportunity that comes our way. We don’t know what the future may hold. But for my 4-year-old, I think it includes something along the lines of a fancy pair of boots.