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December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

(Author: Alice Bradley)

Letting go is something of a dichotomy for me. 

On the one hand, it is not hard for me to let go of people.  I don’t make friends quickly, and those that I do have, I keep for a long time.  Others come & go from my life and it can be several years before I think, “Hmm…I wonder what happened to so & so.”  I don’t know if it’s laziness, or just a short attention span.  I find that when I am still friends with someone after a while, I am pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, it’s very hard for me to let myself go.  Over the past year, I changed career paths…in a rather stunning way, I had a major surgery, I made a new friend and I lost my grandmother.  All of these things forced me to let go of myself in some way or another.

I am normally the type of person that keeps my emotions bottled up.  You would think that 25 years of stress-induced migraines would have taught me the concept of “better out than in.”

With my job change, I went from working in corporate America to working for a woman that was starting over from scratch…she was letting go, too.  We left behind security, status and strength.  We’ve gained a small foothold in our industry, and have emerged stronger, more relaxed, and we smile more.

After my surgery, during that last day in the hospital, I was exhausted, sore, scared and READY to go home.  When a nurse casually mentioned that I could be there another few days, I completely fell apart.  It was five in the morning, and my cousin called the hospital to check on me.  She was treated to me at my most hysterical.  I had come totally unglued.  Afterwards, she made a point to tell me how much SHE appreciated being on the receiving end.  She knows exactly how much trust I had placed in her, to have opened up like that.

Through my son’s football team, I met a woman that is becoming a friend.  Sitting together, practice after practice, we find ourselves talking about very personal experiences and feelings.  It’s not that I think that I’m unlikeable…I’m just flattered to find that someone trusts me enough to open up to me, and to allow me to open up to them.

Finally, losing my grandmother has been the biggest lesson in letting go.  My grandmother was one of my best friends.  She was part of my life through every phase, and was someone that knew me at my best and my worst.  As a young mother, I had the great good fortune to live within walking distance of my grandparents.  My husband & I worked staggered schedules, so I would pack the kids into their stroller on Sundays, and we’d spend the day at Grandma’s house.  We would sit in her kitchen, talking, laughing, cooking, reading magazines…sharing. 

After my grandfather died, my grandmother started to decline.  For the past several years, she was in ever-increasing levels of care homes, and she became less “herself.”  She suffered from vascular dementia, and through a series of small strokes, pieces of her personality disappeared.  During one of my visits, it became clear that she was not as present any more, and I sat in my car afterwards and cried my heart out. 

On Friday, as I stood in front of the family that adored my grandmother, I tried to express how important my grandmother had been to me.  I had prepared notes, but as I started through them, I looked up at the faces of my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my children.  All of the sudden, I found that I was stuck.  The lump in my throat was as big as a fist, and the tears would not stop.

Afterwards, I apologized.  I speak in front of people for a living, and I hadn’t even been particularly nervous.  This was a topic I knew well, after all, and could go on about for days.  Imagine my surprise & dismay to have lost it so spectacularly.  I could not finish my notes, and instead spoke from the heart…something that makes me cringe, even now.  I have no idea what I actually said, but to a person, I was told that it was beautiful.

Letting go, to me, is more about letting go of the control over myself, than about any one thing.  It is about trusting that in a normal day, most people are more concerned about themselves and what others think of them, than of what comes out of my mouth.

In the next year, I hope to let myself go more with my family and my friends.  I am learning that by giving of myself, I gain so very much in return.