Learning to let go

Letting go is difficult for me. It always has been. I clung to childhood habits and rituals long after most kids have grown past them – still hunting for hidden eggs on Easter morning when I was 13, sleeping with a teddy bear all through college. A favorite professor and mentor intuited that “non-attachment” was one of my major life lessons and tried to give me some pointers about letting go. But like many people, I’ve had to learn the hard way.

My first “forever” relationship lasted almost 17 years. It shouldn’t have, because it wasn’t a healthy relationship, but it did… because I was afraid of letting go. We moved in together after I graduated from high school and were almost never apart for more than a night or two. When I finally found the courage to leave, I was in my mid-thirties and had never lived alone. I was terrified of the prospect, and it was only because the relationship became unendurable that I faced that fear.

There’s a Sarah McLachlan lyric that sums up my experience in leaving that relationship. “… hurt me more than I ever could have imagined and made my world stand still. And in that stillness there was a freedom I’d never felt before.” After an initial adjustment period, I found I loved living alone and treasured my newfound freedom. I promised myself that I would keep my new sense of independence when I got into my next relationship… and I did, for a while.

My relationship with Mike was significantly different from my previous relationship. Both determined to learn from past mistakes, from the outset we worked at being equal partners and keeping the lines of communication open. There was nothing we couldn’t talk about, no secret I couldn’t share. And until the last couple of years, we were both pretty independent, staunchly maintaining our personal space. He spent a couple nights a week at his workshop, and I had my regular nights out with the girls.

The balance shifted in our last two years together. We were both working from home, pursuing our creative dreams, and being together 24/7 meant we had to surrender a lot of that personal space. We got engaged, then married. We went through a couple of rough patches that brought us much closer. We fell more deeply in love than I’d ever thought possible, became so intertwined that it was sometimes hard to tell where I ended and he began.

I believed we would be together for the rest of our lives. I let myself get attached to that idea, to depend on it… until everything I’d built my new life on was ripped away from me with a single bullet.

In the initial aftermath, I clung desperately to the familiar, trying to restore any sense of normalcy to the chaos of my life. Now I find myself giving up everything, leaving the home we’d made together, starting over almost from scratch… and as scary as that can be, it feels better than clutching at hopes. Because the truth of the matter is that the future is never guaranteed, no matter what you’ve been promised or how much you hope for or work toward it. All we have is this present moment.

Joseph Campbell once said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” When I left my relationship nine years ago, this was my mantra. And because I did so, the life that was waiting for me included falling in love with Mike. I would never have been willing to ‘get rid of’ my life with Mike, but it was taken from me just the same… and no amount of kicking, screaming, crying or begging will bring it back. So the best I can do is try to accept it with whatever grace I can, and to trust that another life is waiting for me.

It feels pretty good to let go.

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~ by hourbeforedawn on June 8, 2010.

4 Responses to “Learning to let go”

  1. Sending you love and courage. Another life IS waiting for you. Nothing will ever be the same but that doesn’t mean that you won’t be ok. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to keep on keepin’ on. xoj

  2. what a courageous and honest post. And I truly believe that while the life waiting for you won’t be ‘better’ than the love you had with Mike, it will be rich and beautiful.

  3. beautiful post lira 🙂 there is so much more in store for you.

  4. (((((((Lira)))))))
    You have such a beautiful way of saying and explaining things. I admire your grace.

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