Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Letting Go

Since it's officially Letting Go day, I'm wondering if I'm the only one who struggles with "letting go". Logically, I know I'm not, but there are times I think I've had too many things and situations, people and memories, mistakes and missed opportunities... to try to let go of. My logical, objective, rational left brain seems to be in a constant struggle with my emotional, intuitive, subjective right brain most days... and whether I'm trying to help someone else through a situation or myself usually determines which half wins.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been through my share of very necessary and very helpful counseling sessions. I grew up in the stereotypical dysfunctional family - an alcoholic, abusive father, a passive-aggressive overprotective mother, the extended collection of half-siblings, and the myriad outside influences that filled my life with guilt and the need to over-achieve. All contributed to what I have since come to realize was a desire to control myself and my environment (including those around me) in a way that I realized a long while back just isn't healthy. Changing the way I handled my life wasn't (and still isn't) easy... and it meant a LOT of letting go along the way.

I'd like to share some of the things I learned about letting go with you here... for those of you who truly have nothing to worry about letting go of, I commend you for being wise enough to make such excellent life decisions. For those of you who are in denial, I hope you will find the strength to look at your life and make the changes that will help you make your life the best it can be. For those of you who realize that there are things that you need to let go of, I pray that you find the answers you need and the strength within yourself (because it really IS there) to let go. These are merely my opinions - take from them what you can, discard what is useless to you, come back to the things that are useful as you need them.

Letting go isn't easy - often we have to acknowledge our powerlessness, surrender to things that we cannot control, and find the strength to just "go on". Letting go does not mean giving up - in fact it means the exact opposite. Giving up is a sign of apathy, of not caring about the outcome. Letting go is acceptance that you simply do not have the power, or perhaps even the right, to change what you perceive needs changing... and that is ok. It allows you the freedom of living the life ahead of you, experiencing new ways of doing things - it is an engine for forward motion, nudging you on to achieve new things, dream new dreams, open doors that had in the past been closed.

Letting go of habitual behaviors can be the hardest, most frightening, disconcerting, positive and helpful thing you can do for yourself and those around you. Over the years, many people have come to me with discussions of how they're always fighting with their spouses, children, coworkers, ...and there was a time when I was one of them. Then I realized two things, thanks to a wonderful psychologist I was seeing at the time. The first was to not let my ego get in the way of allowing others to be themselves - good or bad, right or wrong. Meaning that even tho in my mind, my solutions were the best (and who doesn't believe that!), in reality my infinitely perfect Ego was infringing on others' rights be themselves. The second was even simpler... if you keep doing the same old things, giving in to the same old behaviors, reacting the same old way, how can you expect anything but the same old results? I'm going to add a corollary here - changes don't have to happen overnight, but if you've decided that things really need to change, begin to let go...move forward at your own pace, but move forward. In serious situations, sometimes the situation requires a slow paced action for safety's sake, other times rapid action is necessary. In such instances, trust in yourself to do the right thing at the right time, but do what you need to, at the pace you need to, once the decision has been made. Doing the Dance of Indecision only evolves into doing the Dance of Anger, and that can only bring disastrous results. This is something that I see so much, especially in relationships - be it friends, spouses, parents and children, or any ongoing interaction between people.

We all learn how to push buttons, yet few of us are willing to install a new set of buttons in order to produce different actions. You may not necessarily be able to change how the other person behaves, but you can change the way you respond to it... and you'd be amazed how, with some consistent new behaviors on your part, there will be new behaviors on the part of others as well. (Another caveat here - in some cases, the others' behaviors will not be what you expect or want - but again, you should let go, and let the other person own them!) It's best to be willing to let go of negative habits and sometimes even the comfort (albeit ill-begotten comfort) of downright unpleasant reactions. I know it sounds insane, but having lived in a toxic marriage for almost 17 years before moving forward with a difficult divorce, there was a certain misplaced sense of security in knowing what was going to inevitably happen next that came with all the drama. And it is, after all, fear of the unknown that often keeps us tied to behaviors and situations, instead of letting go.

After allowing yourself to go thru the stages of grieving that accompany any "letting go" you hopefully will not have feelings of anguish, jealousy, or regret. It's not about winning or losing or even being right or wrong. Letting go is a process, not a knee jerk or immediate reaction. Speaking from experience, there are times you will question yourself, and your decisions. Search your soul to decide what it most important to you. Find strength in whatever source you can, be it prayer, counseling, support groups, or any other healthy, safe option. In my case, whether it was a major decision like my divorce, being faced with having to make the decision to allow a loved one to die with dignity instead of prolonging the painful inevitable, watching a child find themselves and the angst that went with it, or even leaving a long time career, I have learned that ignoring the situation, blocking memories or being hopelessly forlorn or indecisive can keep you from moving on.

It may sound weird to read that I still cherish memories of the many experiences that required my "letting go". They are a part of all that I am, and while a time in life had come where and when I needed to let go, it didn't necessarily mean I had to forget or to never think about that particular thing or person. Making peace with the situation is about remembering what you have learned and experienced, what made you laugh, what made you cry, what made you grow as a person. There comes a time when you need to let go, to set yourself and your heart free again, to allow yourself to live the life you were born to live, to be you - the unique you that only you can be! So breathe...let go of the things that hold you to the negative energies of the past, move forward at your own pace to the happy, hopeful, fulfilling place that can be your life!

I'd like to extend a huge "THANK YOU" to all of these wonderful Etsy shops for allowing me to display their works of art and creativity to illustrate my blog article today. Be sure to visit them to view the items shown as well as the rest of their amazing selections!

Dont Wont Print - MLeighDurgin
Motivate Print - deborahmori
Just feel and let go - itsybitsyspill
If You Want To Move Forward Quit Looking Back Wood Sign - Nesedecor
Let Go Let God - Scrabble Tile Pendant - TilePendants
Letting Go -RLDesign


Baroness Bijoutery said...

I loved what you wrote today..I have had a life in my youth and first marriage I wouldn't wish on anyone..My childhood was similar to your except for the over protective mother...she was anything but. I tried so hard to please but never managed to do it..When my mother died I could not go to her crypt when we came back to this State..I was not until my Father died and had been gone two years before I could make this journey..Standing in front of the crypts I realized I really didn't hate them and I didn't love them..I felt pity for them..They could have had what I have enjoyed with my daughter and they chose not too..They are the ones that missed out..Yes the memories crop up every once in awhile but I let go of all the bitterness and hurt of years gone by...You can grow and live if you hang on to all that junk...Thank you for that post..

Valerie said...

simply wow...lots to think about there. I can't let go of a gut instinct that I'm missing something in life, and need to something more---when I'm already living life to the fullest. I think I just need to refocus priorities, but I'm not sure how.

amazoncat said...

Thank you so much for writing this. It is obviously very personal and I admire you for that. I think there is a lot there for anybody and everybody to take away and learn from.

TiffanyJane said...

Wow...."Letting Go" is the best thing I have read lately {in a looong time actually}. Not wanting to be in dramatic/devil running/fake/bad for you situations....I've tried to find the paths less travelled to a peaceful & healthy life {that can be hard when you have people around you trying to drag you down}.
I read some things here that I needed to be reminded of, so I thank you.

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