"Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life." Epictetus
Letting go is a hard skill. It cuts against our nature to release the familiar, to admit it is time to move on, to close a chapter. When we let go, we are reminded of our own mortality and the transitory nature of many of the things and people that surround us. But there are times in our lives when letting go is both unavoidable and indeed healthy. And often, if executed properly, it can be liberating.
First, we should discuss what letting go is not. It is not quitting, because quitting is leaving a task unfinished, either because it is too difficult or because you lose faith in your ability to complete the job. Letting go is also not abandonment, because abandonment implies that you walked away at a time when others were in need of your talents and skills. Letting go is not surrendering, because it is a process that you control--you are not yielding to the demands of others, you are choosing to leave a well-trodden path and take a detour. Finally, letting go is not the end of all things, or even most things, it is an opportunity to experience new things.
However, before we let go, we need to understand one inarguable truth; namely, the concept of letting go assumes that we have control over our surroundings and our relationships--a dubious proposition indeed. We may think we are; we certainly wish that we were; we may even believe that such control is possible. But whether it is a major external event-- 9/11; Katrina; COVID-19-- or a closer to home, deeply felt personal loss- we come to realize that while we have full agency to enjoy our surroundings and interpersonal relationships, we do not have the power to stop the outside world from intruding on our environs or relationships. In my own case, after a lifetime of believing otherwise, I have come to understand that I neither own nor possess permanently material goods (they wither away), relationships (you have them, you do not own them) or titles or accomplishments (nobody cares).
But even with that understanding, I am no different than many of you--I still find it very uncomfortable and sometimes emotionally challenging to let go of relationships and things that I have enjoyed. In fact, I have from time to time taken the threat of separation as a threat to me. My cerebellum says, let go--the four chambers of my heart scream "don't leave". And I have been wondering why that is the case.
But no matter how tightly we hold on, changes will be coming. We get older, our kids move out, our friends move on, our job situations evolve, our loved ones depart from this life. Life is not a snapshot, nor are we immortal. And it is a fool's errand to try to stand in the way of these inevitable life changes. Instead, we are better served, I think, by realizing that the same gifts that we have used to create our life to date can be re-used to carve out a new, and potentially better, life experience. Letting go is not the same thing as saying goodbye. Instead, it is creating space for new things. Maybe instead of having two friends who are dear to you, you will now have four friends who are integral to your life. Most importantly, letting go may allow you to find the peace that comes through the recognition that the real freedom from fear doesn't come from trying to hold tightly to people and things that never belonged to us, but rather from the confidence that comes from knowing that it is your own talent and skills that will enable you to adapt and thrive as you move on to your next chapter.
Who knows, maybe you will even write your own blog. And, if you're lucky, find a reader or two.